Elian Gonzalez has been caught in an international custody fight since Thanksgiving, when he was found clinging to an inner tube at sea after his mother, stepfather and nine others died while trying to reach Florida on a boat that capsized. He has been staying with relatives in Miami.
A cousin of Elian told the “Today” show that Elian doesn’t want to go back, and said the boy’s family is afraid to tell him about the decision. The family’s attorney said Elian would be subject to “horrifying psychological torture” in his communist homeland, and said he has new evidence to present in an appeal to Attorney General Janet Reno. Reno said Thursday, however, that she saw no reason to reverse the decision.
Lawyers for Elian’s Miami relatives said they would begin their legal battle to keep the boy in the United States today. Elian’s great-uncle Lazaro has filed for custody.
Meanwhile, Cuban exiles are disrupting Miami traffic to protest the decision.
In some spots, protesters who moved past police lines sat in normally busy downtown streets, forcing arrests. Among those arrested were two prominent Cuban exile leaders.
The Gonzalez family said they appreciate protests on Elian’s behalf, but that violence must be avoided.
Elian’s father, a hotel worker in Cuba, has been
demanding the boy’s return since Thanksgiving. Fidel Castro’s government joined the custody battle, calling on thousands of demonstrators throughout the island nation to march on the father’s behalf. The protests lasted for several days and nights.
When asked if Castro’s government had influenced Elian’s father in pushing for the boy’s return, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner replied:
“The recommendations of the father’s true wishes came to me from our interviewing staff officers. I have reviewed all the material myself. I am convinced that the father expressed to us his true wishes for his son. We are talking about the most important relationship that exists in our human experience, and we are also asking that people respect the laws that are involved.”