April 24, 2000


Articles taken from Elia's Saga from the Miami Herald. Published Sunday, April 24, 2000.

Reno says she has 'no regrets' over raid

By Herald Staff And Wire Services.

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said this morning on NBC that despite the controversy swirling around the weekend raid that returned Elian Gonzalez to his father, she had ''no regrets'' about giving the go-ahead for the operation.

''We tried our best to make sure that it was done peacefully,'' she told the NBC television network. ''I have no regrets whatsoever.''

Also on NBC today, a psychiatrist who accompanied Elian on the plane taking the boy to be reunited with his father said Elian cried and asked to see his Miami relatives during the flight, but he later brightened up when he saw his father.

''He started asking about his relatives in Miami, he started asking about his cousin, about his uncle -- asking when he was going to be able to see them,'' said psychiatrist Gustavo Cadavid in an NBC interview, providing the first detailed account of what transpired during the flight. ''Basically what I told him was that it was going to be up to him and his father as to when he was going to be seeing them.''

With that, the child began to stare out the window and quietly cried, the psychiatrist said.

But Elian's face lit up when the plane landed and he saw his father out the window, Cadavid said.

When the boy was reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the two of them hugged and Gonzalez told his son he thought he would never see him again, according to Cadavid.

Reno told NBC in the early-morning interview, ''I tried my level best to make sure that we avoided this situation.'' She was referring to up-to-the-last-minute talks on the eve of the raid that ultimately faltered.

''The safety of Elian was the paramount issue,'' in the operation Reno added. US officials ordered a raid Saturday on the home of the Miami relatives who were his caretakers for the past five months. Elian was later reunited with his father on a US Air Force base in suburban Washington.

uthorities seized the 6-year-old boy after the relatives refused to turn custody of the child over to his Cuban father,

Republican leaders called Sunday for congressional hearings after what they described as a ''police-state'' raid to seize Elian.

And Florida Sen. Bob Graham, a Miami Lakes Democrat, chided President Clinton for ''violating'' a promise to avoid a nighttime invasion by federal agents.

Much of the political fallout Sunday centered on a news photograph of a federal agent with an assault weapon pointed toward the fisherman who rescued Elian from the sea -- in the words of newsman Sam Donaldson on ABC's This Week: ''The picture that is being shown around the world.''

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said in a statement: ''The use of this type of force clearly was not justified. This could only happen in Castro's Cuba.''

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said on NBC's Meet the Press: ''You bet there will be congressional hearings.''

Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, promised the panel would investigate.

''The Senate Judiciary Committee should take a close look at the propriety of the federal government breaking into a child's house,'' Specter said Sunday on ABC's This Week. ''When you have governmental action as forceful as this, you put a judicial magistrate between the individual and the government.''


DeLay said on NBC: ''I was ashamed that the United States government, for the first time I know of, has raided a private home without a court order. This is a frightening event, that American citizens now can expect that the executive branch on their own can decide to raid a home.''

However, the Immigration and Naturalization Service said Sunday that it obtained a warrant from a federal magistrate before entering the Little Havana home of Elian's great uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez.

Eric Holder, deputy attorney general, said: ''If there are congressional hearings. . . , I will proudly talk about what was done.''

Calling riticism by Lott and DeLay ''Monday quarterbacking at its worst,'' Holder said on ABC, ''The picture I think America should focus on is the picture that shows Elian reunited with his father and apparently very happy.''

Referring to the raid, Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami said: ''It was a monstrous crime. Clinton and [Attorney General Janet] Reno took Elian by force so that Castro's psychiatrists will have time to brainwash the child before the appellate court orders Reno to grant Elian a political asylum hearing.

''Have you listened to Castro's speeches today? He says the U.S. was sending him encrypted faxes. Castro knew more about what was going to happen than the American citizens who were negotiating on behalf of Elian.''

Graham said the predawn raid ''was a clear commitment which was violated.''

Seated outside the Gonzalez relatives' home in Little Havana for an interview on This Week, Graham recalled a meeting three weeks ago:

''I stood in the Oval Office with the president of the United States and I said, 'Mr. President, this is a very sensitive situation. . . . There needs to be some commitment by the U.S. government that there would be no taking of this child at night. . . . ' The president made that commitment to me.''

A White House spokesman Sunday could not confirm any such discussion but noted that Reno decided to conduct the operation just before dawn in an effort to minimize the possibility of confrontation.


A weekend poll taken by CNN-Gallup showed that Americans are divided over the level of force used in the operation. Forty percent said agents used too much force and 36 percent said it was ''just about right.'' A larger majority, 57 percent, approved of the decision to reunite Elian with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, in Washington, while 37 percent opposed the action.

Ironically, the lasting image of the raid -- a helmeted agent with his weapon facing Elian -- may exist because Reno insisted during the planning of the operation that the photographer not be obstructed, according to a participant in the planning who requested anonymity.

Top officials knew the Gonzalez family had an arrangement with photographer Alan Diaz to let him in the house. Some federal officials wanted him shoved aside so he could not snap pictures. Reno vetoed it.

''We have nothing to hide,'' she said, according to that participant.

Amid the calls for hearings and investigations of the raid, one former associate decried the ''strident propaganda'' that has been voiced about it.

''If four unarmed marshals in blazers and penny loafers had walked up to the house in daylight, do you think the family and that crowd would have let them leave with the boy?'' asked Carl Stern, a former newsman and Reno's first spokesman. ''Would any responsible supervisor send in an agent that way?''

But, Graham said, ''There was an insensitivity and crudeness to this. It was a gross and excessive use of force.''


''It was an abuse of power and it was a violent abuse of power,'' added New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith, a Republican who has filed legislation -- supported by Graham, Republican Florida Sen. Connie Mack and even Vice President Al Gore -- to grant Elian permanent residency in the United States.

Past controversies, from Waco to campaign-financing scandals to possible spying at nuclear weapons labs, have brought criticism on Reno. The raid in Little Havana sparked a fresh round of critiques that focused on her decision-making.

''Theres a strong perception that she should have gotten a court order first to try to get the family to turn the boy over,'' said Paul Rothstein, a Georgetown University law professor and commentator who has supported the administration on many issues.

''Getting a court order is the American way, not raiding a home at night,'' Rothstein said. ''This will damage her legacy and reputation.''

Harvey Kushner, a consultant on terrorism who has worked with the FBI, said ''the amount of force used, the weapons, the ski masks -- that was a mistake.

''It was very heavy-handed and just fuels the fears of people in the political center who worry about government actions like this,'' said Kushner, a Long Island University professor.

Officials involved in the decision insisted the move to take the boy was necessitated by the Miami familys inability to agree to turn over the boy.

''I was in those meetings -- Janet Reno did everything she could to resolve this peacefully,'' an exasperated Doris Meissner, the INS commissioner, said in an interview with The Herald.

Some of the criticism of the force used in the raid was simplistic, missed the point or was politically motivated, said Stern, a George Washington University journalism professor.

''Yes, the agents look frightening. Thats the whole point -- to frighten you into giving up the child so you can get the job done and get out of there.''

Herald staff writers Mark Silva and Frank Davies and Herald news services contributed to this report.

Miami relatives demand to see boy, request inquiry

By Frances Robles .

WASHINGTON -- The tables have turned on the Gonzalez family.

These days it's Marisleysis, her father, Lazaro, and uncle Delfin who are fighting to see Elian, the boy they nurtured, fell in love with and didn't want to give back. So far, Juan Miguel Gonzalez is refusing to budge.

''We always said Juan Miguel could come to our house to see him,'' Lazaro said Sunday in Washington. ''And now we can't see Elian.''

Marisleysis, her father, uncle and cousins held a news conference Easter morning at the Capitol, where they bashed the government for bashing down their door and whisking Elian away under the cloak of darkness.


Flanked by Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., attorney Roger Bernstein and representatives from the Cuban American National Foundation, they called for visitation rights and a congressional investigation into Saturday's raid.

''I demand to see Elian. I will not leave until I see this boy,'' said Marisleysis Gonzalez, the 21-year-old cousin described as his surrogate mother. ''With my truth, I'm going to get somewhere. With the truth, I'm going to get into every heart and every mind.''

She and her father asked Americans to wonder: Why is Juan Miguel Gonzalez in seclusion? Why hasn't Elian been shown to the press?

''I need to see Elian,'' Marisleysis Gonzalez said during a 20-minute speech before reporters. ''I know he's not OK.''


The Miami Gonzalezes were turned away again Sunday from the Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where Elian is hunkered down with his father, step-mother and baby brother. Smith said a colonel refused them entry, despite Smith's rank on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

''That's the way this family was treated by an air base, basically under my control,'' Smith said. ''If you can believe that.''

The family later attended services at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where its presence created a bizarre spectacle: seven photographers, three pews up, on their knees taking the family's pictures.

At her news conference, Marisleysis was holding on to an Easter basket she had prepared for the boy. She took it to Andrews Air Force Base, but declined to leave it because she was afraid it would not be delivered to Elian.


Much of the entourage's news conference was devoted to the armed raid on the Little Havana home. A weeping Marisleysis Gonzalez, looking tired, told how she begged the agents not to use weapons as they trashed the house and roughed up the family while looking for Elian.

''We didn't know who they were,'' she said. ''God forbid -- we thought it was the Cuban government. There wasn't any bloodshed because my family decided to stand back and let justice be done like this.''

She directly blamed Attorney General Janet Reno and President Clinton -- Reno for her lack of maternal instinct and Clinton for his hypocrisy as a father. The pair, she said, put the child's life at risk in an unnecessarily risky three-minute ''illegal'' attack.

''You know what, Janet Reno?'' she said. ''Whether it was three minutes or 30 seconds, you still don't know what a mother is.''

Gonzalez's fatigue was obvious. She spoke for about 20 minutes, bouncing from subject to subject and back again. At one point, perhaps noticing that she was losing her audience, she directly addressed the reporters: ''Whoever doesn't want to listen to this, or is tired of listening to this: this could be your child.''

Raid Returns Elian To Father

Street protests end; strike called for Tuesday

By Manny Garcia, Carolyn Salazar And Andres Viglucci.

The city of Miami has opened a rumor control hotline to deal with concerns and questions about the seizure of Elian Gonzalez. The number is 305-579-1800.

It took five months for the custody battle over Elian Gonzalez to build to a tense standoff. It took federal agents less than three minutes to end it.

In a cleanly executed predawn raid that caught Elian's Miami relatives off guard, armed and helmeted U.S. Border Patrol officers pushed aside a handful of demonstrators to batter in the door of their Little Havana home. At gunpoint, they took the boy from the grip of his Thanksgiving Day rescuer, fisherman Donato Dalrymple.

``We're taking you to see your papa,'' a Spanish-speaking female agent, Betty Mills, told the terrified boy as she carried him out of the house to a government van.

Before most of Miami awoke Saturday to what had occurred, Elian had been reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C.

Gonzalez, who asked U.S. officials for five minutes alone with his son, boarded the airplane that brought Elian from Homestead Air Reserve Base. He emerged carrying the boy, who held his father in a bear hug, arms and legs wrapped tightly around him, Immigration and Naturalization Service officials said.

The government said Elian, his father, stepmother and half-brother would spend ``a couple of days'' at base housing to allow them time together in private.

As stunning images from the raid were almost instantly and repeatedly broadcast on TV here and across the world, angry protesters began roaming Miami's Flagler Street corridor, upsetting trash bins in the street and setting tires and debris afire at scores of locations.

Riot-clad police showed little tolerance for the disruptions, gassing those who defied orders to clear out, and arresting more than 300 people by sunrise Sunday. Three officers were injured when a demonstrator attacked them with a bat.

By late afternoon, the protests had dwindled to sporadic outbursts. At an evening news conference, Miami Mayor Joe Carollo and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas urged calm. Cuban exile leaders called for a general strike on Tuesday.


In Washington, President Clinton expressed firm support for U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno's decision to send the agents into the house.

``I believed that it was the right thing to do,'' the president told reporters outside the White House. ``I hope that with time and support, Elian and his father will have the opportunity to be a strong family again.''

In Cuba, President Fidel Castro vowed not to use Elian as ``a trophy'' and pledged ``no celebrations, nothing'' when he returns to Cuba.

The reunion, however, does not put an end to the Miami relatives' efforts to keep Elian in the United States. A federal appeals court in Atlanta has set a hearing for May 11 and ordered the boy to stay in the country until it rules on a pending appeal by the relatives.

The relatives want to force the government to give Elian an asylum hearing, but the chances of that occurring would seem in doubt with the child back in his father's custody.

Elian's relatives, looking shellshocked and exhausted hours after the 5:15 a.m. raid, boarded a midday flight to Washington, where they hoped to be allowed to see Elian. The family showed up at the military base gate at 6:45 p.m. in two vans. They were turned away. Elian's father said ``no, for now,'' an INS official said.


However, the official said, an adjacent house at the base is ready if the father agrees to a visit from his relatives.

The attorney general ordered the boy's removal by force after all-night negotiations mediated by local civic leaders failed to resolve the central issue in the impasse -- how the Miami relatives would turn over Elian to his father, who two weeks ago flew to Washington from Cuba to await a promised reunification.

The raid was a scenario federal officials had for weeks gone to great lengths to avoid, a posture that brought Reno criticism for perceived inaction.

But it was the end that seemed more likely once Elian's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez defied a direct government order to surrender the boy.

Two indelible and sharply contrasting images will forever define the morning's dramatic and dizzying events:

An Associated Press photo of a helmeted Border Patrol officer leveling a submachine gun while a frightened-looking Elian and Dalrymple attempt to squeeze into a bedroom closet.

And -- about six hours later -- another photo of a smiling Elian in the arms of his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. The amateur photo was released by Gonzalez's attorney, Gregory Craig, who said Elian showed little sign of trauma and acted happy to see his dad and family.

An INS official said Mills, the agent who escorted Elian from Miami to Andrews, described Elian as "happily playing on the floor of the house with the toys that we provided.''


About 50 protesters were gathered at the gates of the base with Cuban and American flags. Only two supported the government's action.

The raid and the images from it now seem likely to be dissected and debated for months to come.

Many Americans sighed with relief that the long siege, which dominated the news for weeks, was finally over. Others, even some who supported the boy's reunification with his father, expressed shock at the government's show of force.

In Miami-Dade County, the raid prompted cries of outrage among Cuban Americans, the relatives and supporters, who called the use of force excessive.

As soon as demonstrators outside the relatives' house realized that Elian had been carried away they began throwing rocks, bottles and debris at the retreating government caravan. Federal agents tear-gassed them. Some huddled together sobbing, while others shouted insults at police, Reno and Clinton.

Throughout the morning, Elian's cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, who regarded herself as the boy's surrogate mother, wept through interview after interview, denouncing government officials as ``dogs'' in a hoarse voice.


The relatives and a group of mediators who tried to forge a last-minute compromise for a peaceful hand-over, including University of Miami President Edward T. Foote II, said they felt betrayed by Reno. They said they believed they were close to an agreement, with prominent Miami lawyer Aaron Podhurst on the phone with Reno when the raid occurred.

``As those conversations were ongoing, the raid took place,'' said Rene Murai, a lawyer and member of the Mesa Redonda group, two of whose members were acting as mediators in the negotiations. ``Our members were operating in good faith and all of a sudden the raid took place in the midst of these negotiations.''

Reno, however, was unequivocal: The relatives kept ``moving the goal posts'' each time an agreement seemed near, and she and her advisors reluctantly concluded around 4 a.m. that further negotiation would be fruitless.

``This has been a very emotional case for everyone involved,'' Reno said. ``The most important thing is that Elian is safe and that no one was seriously hurt.''

It was expected that Juan Miguel Gonzalez, his wife and 6-month-old baby would move out of the home of a Cuban diplomat where they have been living since arriving in Washington. One possible location is the Wye Plantation in Maryland.

``Let us give him and his father the space, the calm, the moral support they need to reconnect and reaffirm their bond between father and son,'' Reno said.


Federal officials had initially promised no surprise assaults on the Little Havana family if they had to pick up Elian.

But Reno said the covert operation, and the use of heavy arms in the raid, became necessary given Lazaro Gonzalez's defiant attitude, and intelligence reports of weapons in the Miami relatives' house and in nearby homes.

On Thursday night, Marisleysis, according to a Justice Department official, told a member of the agency's Community Relations Service: ``You think we just have cameras in the house? If people try to come in, they could be hurt.''

Though relatives and supporters of the family complained that agents were rough and used abusive language, Reno cited the fact that no one was hurt as evidence the raid was appropriately carried out.

She indicated that the agent photographed confronting Dalrymple in the closet with Elian had his gun ``pointed to the side'' and his ``finger was not on the trigger.''

Experts who analyzed the photo confirmed Reno's description, and said the rifle's safety was engaged, meaning the weapon could not have been fired.

Herald staff writers Sandra Marquez Garcia and Carol Rosenberg, Herald writers Jasmine Kripalani, Mireidy Fernandez and Diana Marrero, and Herald wire services contributed to this report.

U.S.: At least one gun had been seen at house


At least one person at the house of Elian Gonzalez's Miami family during Saturday's predawn raid -- a Cuban American National Foundation security chief with a concealed weapons permit -- had been seen frequently at the home with a handgun strapped to his ankle.

Federal authorities point to Mario Blas Miranda, 48, a licensed private investigator and president of Wellington and Knight Security, and fellow members of the family's security team as partial justification for their armed entry.

Miranda, a former Miami police officer who left the force in 1992, has been a constant fixture in and around the house since the controversy began.

Federal officials confirmed Sunday that their ''credible reports of weapons inside that house'' centered on the comings and goings of Miranda and his team -- not on information that any family members or other visitors had weapons.

As it turned out -- authorities concede -- there were probably no guns inside the house.

The family and its supporters are outraged that the government used guns during the incident.

''We were not armed,'' Marisleysis Gonzalez said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., Sunday morning. ''All we had was God on our side.''

The task force outside the home early Saturday focused attention on Miranda, knocking him to the ground, forcing him to spread eagle, and dousing him with pepper spray while pushing a shotgun in his ear.

''I could not think,'' Miranda said later. ''I could not move.''

Federal agents did not search Miranda for his weapon Saturday morning. Miranda declined to comment on Sunday.


Miami Police Chief William O'Brien said Miranda weeks earlier ''had reached out to our personnel to let us know he was carrying a weapon and that he had a concealed weapons permit.''

O'Brien also said other Miami officers who had visited the home reported ''no weapons had been seen in the house. But with the number of people going in and out of the house, there was no guarantee.

''It's better from a law enforcement standpoint to err on the side of caution,'' he said.

Federal authorities say the weapons coming in and out of the house with the private security force were enough to raise doubts about the safety of the operation.

''We had credible intelligence reports that led us to believe there could have been guns inside that house,'' said Maria Cardona, Immigration and Naturalization Service spokeswoman in Washington. ''If you have that information -- even if it doesn't end up being true -- you have to act accordingly.


Law enforcement experts agree. They say whether or not guns were in the house -- or who in the house might have them -- is of little consequence, compared to whether police had even a small reason to be concerned.

Cardona confirmed reports from other federal and local law enforcement authorities who said the only reports of weapons inside the house were those weapons carried by security guards on the payroll of the Cuban American National Foundation.

''I can tell you that I have heard those reports from our people in Miami,'' Cardona said.

Those reports, in addition to at least two other unconfirmed reports of weapons in the neighborhood in the days preceding the raid, helped sway federal agents away from a ''soft approach'' and toward a use of force that shocked many.


One such report came from a television reporter who said a woman showed her a gun in her purse. Pressed by police, the reporter declined to identify the woman.

The second report centered on a nearby house where police had unspecified and as yet unconfirmed ''intelligence reports'' that weapons were being stockpiled. No police ever saw weapons coming or going from the home, and no warrant was ever obtained to search the house.

The day before the raid, immigration officers arrested two residents of that home on unrelated immigration warrants. No one was at the house Sunday afternoon to comment.

Cardona also confirmed reports from other unnamed Justice Department sources that Marisleysis Gonzalez made this troubling comment to members of the INS Community Relations Service on Thursday: ''You think we just have cameras in the house? If people try to come in, they could be hurt.''

Said Cardona: ''I didn't hear the comment so I cannot confirm it personally, but I can tell you that our people in Miami have reported that comment was made, yes.''

Armando Gutierrez, the family's spokesman, said Marisleysis ''would never say such a thing. I doubt that very much.''

Herald staff writer Frances Robles contributed to this report.

INS releases warrant for home raid


The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service late Sunday released a copy of the search warrant it obtained from a federal magistrate in Miami authorizing the predawn raid in which federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez.

U.S. Magistrate Robert Dube signed the warrant Friday evening after INS special agent Mary A. Rodriguez submitted an affidavit outlining the need for the search warrant.

The INS released the copy of the search warrant and copies of the agency's application and affidavit for the search warrant after Kendall Coffey, one of the attorneys for the Miami family, raised questions about the legality of the raid, saying no warrant had been presented at the house.

Maria Cardona, an INS spokesman, said a warrant was obtained at 7:20 p.m. Friday from Dube and that the document legally enabled federal officers to enter the home.

''It was absolutely a legal operation,'' Cardona said.

Meanwhile, Coffey released copies of a letter in which Elian's Miami relatives asked Attorney General Janet Reno for guarantees the boy will not be turned over to Cuban diplomats before an appeals court rules on whether he has the right to a political asylum hearing.

Reno did not respond to the relatives' plea, but the INS released copies of a departure control order that requires Elian and his father to remain in the United States.

Robert Wallis, the INS District Director in Miami signed the order, which instructs Elian's father -- Juan Miguel Gonzalez -- to stay in the United States with his son.

''I order you not to depart or attempt to depart with your son from the United States, or to aid or assist or attempt to aid or assist in your son's departure from the United States, until the injunction entered by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in that case is no longer in effect,'' the order said.

Feds declined to exhaust all options

Liz Balmaseda.

"When all efforts failed.''

That was the official disclaimer.

That was President Clinton's shrug for the violent pre-dawn raid and ransack of the house where Elian Gonzalez has lived with his Miami relatives since his November rescue at sea.

``The law has been upheld,'' Clinton said, adding he believed removing the child by force was the right thing to do.

If the president believes the thug display by armed federal agents against a horrified 6-year-old child constitutes the right thing to do, then we must ask him this:

What country do you govern, sir? Is it the United States or is it Cuba?

In pursuit of Elian, submachine gun-pointing border agents stormed the Gonzalez family house, smashing through a door, blasting pepper spray, even wrecking the child's bed frame.

The peaceful, orderly transfer Attorney General Janet Reno had promised the American people played like a home invasion, with death threats hurled and guns pointed to heads.

``Give me the f---ing boy or I'll shoot,'' an agent thundered at Elian's relatives, who pleaded with the armed officials not to harm the child.

Let's freeze this frame, as did Associated Press photographer Alan Diaz, who captured the image that exposes the morning's brutality: a federal agent pointing a gun toward a terrified Elian as the boy cried in the arms of one of his sea rescuers, Donato Dalrymple.

Let's freeze this image and examine who is holding the gun near the child's chest. It is not Elian's cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, or any of his other relatives. It is not any of the exiles who have rallied and prayed outside his home.

Later in the day there would be references to protests in the streets of Miami. But the most violent images were the ones reserved for Elian's eyes, as he screamed ``I don't want to go!''

What has Janet Reno done in the name of reunification? What was the point in her visiting Miami to work out an acceptable transfer?

Are we to believe that ripping the boy out of his house at 5 a.m. was the only course of action, or even that ``all efforts failed?''

Family attorneys and community leaders worked deep into the night, brokering an agreement to take Elian, in the company of his closest relatives, to a neutral place where he could reunite with his father. They believed they had reached an accord with Reno, when, after a tense lull, the agents stormed the house.

``What is this, Berkeley 1968?'' demanded Pedro Freyre, the chairman of the anti-defamation group Facts About Cuban Exiles and one of the community figures involved in working out the futile accord.

``The administration never had any intention of reuniting this family. Never,'' concluded the Cuban American National Foundation's Jorge Mas Santos, who arrived at the house minutes after Elian was snatched. As he surveyed the room where Elian slept, he was struck by a poignant detail: The boy had hung his Easter clothes, a tiny guayabera and shorts, on the bedpost.

Indeed it seems as if the administration had no intention of exhausting ``all efforts.''

From the beginning, Reno and the Immigration and Naturalization Service dismissed the most logical scenario -- to compel Juan Miguel Gonzalez to ditch his Cuban government shadows and travel to the side of his son. Instead, the burden of travel was placed upon Elian, the boy who lost his mother during the voyage from Cuba.

Even when it became clear that the father was a virtual ward of the Castro government, the INS did not budge. It took a 16-page ruling from a federal appeals court in Atlanta on Wednesday to ensure that Elian, the refugee boy rescued on Thanksgiving Day, would not be delivered to the hands of the Cuban government without his day in court.

As Miami took in the shock of Saturday's raid, we contemplated the first photographs of the boy and his father. The pictures depict a smiling Elian. We can only hope they reflect the love he feels for his father and his baby brother.

Back in Miami, the community that weeps for Elian should be comforted by that smile. Despite every effort made to portray us as rabid family-wreckers, many of us still hold firm what we have always wished for Elian -- that he may be surrounded by the love of his family, not the maneuvers of any government.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez stayed away and his son paid for it on Saturday morning.

We can only pray that their reunification will erase the trauma of the brutal force Elian witnessed as he was dragged from his home, as if he were a fugitive.

Journalists swept up by raid storm

By Carolyn Salazar And Marika Lynch.

For months, dozens of news photographers and reporters blended into a peacefully convivial scene outside the Gonzalez home in Little Havana, but early Saturday morning a long, tediously mundane assignment abruptly turned dicey.

Soon after Elian was whisked away by federal agents, they became targets -- of both frustrated demonstrators and law enforcement. By the end of the day, five journalists were arrested on charges including disobeying law enforcement and battery on a police officer.

Also late in the day, a large group of riot police moved into the street in front of Elian's house to protect the scores of reporters and camera people there after teenagers tore down and stomped on the white canopy sheltering CNN's crew. The teens were apparently angered by the fact that CNN -- which has a bureau in Havana -- was airing a live speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

After the sweep and some tussles, police ordered the press to remove their booths and clear out.

Problems for the media began immediately after Elian was seized. ``[Protesters] were cursing at photographers and pushing them,'' said El Nuevo Herald photographer Roberto Koltun, who was punched in the forehead, then discovered his camera bag containing $15,000 worth of lenses and cameras was stolen.


During the raid on the home, federal agents intercepted two freelancers for NBC News -- soundman Gustavo Moller and cameraman Tony Zumbado -- in the yard.

An agent yanked their cables and struck Moller near his left eye with a gun.

``A goon all dressed in black put a shotgun [to my head], and he hit me with the point of the rifle and ordered me to sit down while holding the gun,'' Moller said.

``My legs started shaking,'' Moller said. ``I was in a complete daze. There were pieces of my boom microphone all over the place.''

Zumbado managed to make it inside the Gonzalez house, where he saw family members pinned against the wall by agents.

He said he was kicked in the chest by an officer. No one could breathe because of pepper spray, he said.

Photographers and reporters are routinely jostled while covering emotional street protests. No serious injuries were reported Saturday.

But many had trying moments.


Pedro Rodriguez, a CBS network audio technician laden with audio gear and clutching a microphone as he dashed after two agents running from the house, was accosted by the protesters.

Two protesters shouted: ``F---ing media, get out of here; you have nothing to do here.'' They tried to snatch his equipment, then punched his hand when he refused to give it up.

``It's mine and it's a lot of money, so there was no way I was letting go,'' Rodriguez said.

The protester cracked his bone below his pinkie on his left hand. Rodriguez was fitted with a cast by paramedics, then continued his job at the scene.

``All I wanted was to get back to work,'' he said.


Three journalists -- an NBC News cameraman, a freelance cameraman for ABC News and Herald photographer Raul Rubiera -- were taken into custody at about 11 a.m. while covering protests at Flagler Street and Northwest 27th Avenue. They spent the afternoon driving around Miami in the back of a patrol wagon with plastic ties around their wrists.

Rubiera was heading to the western side of the sidewalk on Northwest 27th Avenue when an officer told him to step back. He did, but then continued on. The officer again told Rubiera to step back. In response, Rubiera lifted his camera and snapped a picture of the officer, who then arrested him. In the scuffle, Rubiera temporarily lost his glasses and a lens was knocked out.

Rubiera was charged with disorderly conduct.

Alberto Durruthy, working for ABC, was arrested for trying to block an officer who was attempting to take another person to a patrol wagon, according to a police report. He was detained but not charged. NBC's Bruce Bernstein, however, was charged with battery on a police officer, a felony, and resisting arrest with violence. An arrest form did not provide more details.

Herald staff writer Ana Acle contributed to this report.

Boy will cope with scare, experts say

Psychologists: Healing harder for Miami kin

By Paul Brinkley-Rogers.

Two images, one day. Photos showing a terrified Elian Gonzalez torn from the arms of his Miami relatives in the dark, and less than four hours later photos of a happy-looking Elian hugging his dad on an air base near Washington, D.C.

Can a child easily make such an adjustment from fear to joy, and cope with being wrenched from a loving family screaming out his name?

Surprisingly, mental health professionals who have been intimately involved in the Elian saga say that most children handle trauma that horrifies adults much more easily than their elders do. They say it will be Elian's Miami relatives who have the most difficulty healing.

Dr. Marvin Dunn, chairman of the psychology department at Florida International University, said that Elian ''will probably do very well in the long run. He's with his dad. Six-year-olds do not linger on this kind of thing. . . . In fact, I think he'll be fine in a matter of hours.''

Dunn, a defender of Attorney General Janet Reno, said the sudden appearance of paramilitary agents ''was a traumatic experience for the boy.

''But children are very resilient,'' he said. ''They cope with death and terrible accidents. Children are different.''


A dissenting voice among the experts was Dr. Antonio Gordon, of the Nova Southeastern University faculty. He was one of several members of Miami's Finlay Institute -- a group that counsels Caribbean people -- who met Elian at the invitation of his Miami relatives.

Gordon said that he was so disturbed by the police action that he telephoned Florida's child abuse hot line.

''They were unable to channel the report of the abuse,'' he said, ''because they said the abuse was committed by law enforcement officers.''

Dr. Jerry Wiener, professor emeritus in psychiatry at George Washington University, was one of three experts chosen by the government to advise on how to reunite father and son.

''Nobody who sees this picture can help but be disturbed,'' he said of the photo with the officer with the gun. ''Elian is obviously very frightened.''


But ''Elian calmed down very quickly,'' Wiener said, after being briefed by officials. ''He behaved well, had an easy trip, and had a positive reunion with his father.''

''What happened this morning alone would not have a long-term upsetting affect on him,'' Wiener said. ''He'll spend a few days with his father at the Air Force base, and then longer time in a more stable setting.''

Dr. Lourdes Rigual-Lynch, director of mental health at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, was in Miami last week to try to get Elian's relatives to turn over the child.

''We have to distinguish between what is traumatic, and what is frightening,'' she said of the experience Elian underwent. ''More traumatic was losing his mother. More frightening was what happened this morning.''


Rigual-Lynch said she helped write the ''script'' used by the Spanish-speaking woman agent who carried Elian out of the house. ''Yes, it was very scary for a few minutes, but soon he is going to feel very good that he is with his father.''

Dr. Janice Perlman, a New York City pediatric psychiatrist, said that even if Elian bounces back from Saturday's experience, he still must come to terms with all that has happened since he was found in the ocean in November.

''He has to make peace with all of that,'' Perlman said. ''The death of his mother. His intense effort to bond with and please his Miami relatives. The weeks of fame. The sudden separation from Marisleysis.''

Dr. Jon Shaw, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami, said the Miami family will probably have a much harder time than Elian in the coming weeks.

''They are outraged,'' he said. ''They invested so much religiosity in the child, and now that this child is taken away from them you can imagine this family's suffering. It is a kind of combat exhaustion.''

Shaw said that being with his father again is best for Elian. ''You have to put this brief moment [the raid] in context,'' he said. ''Elian has been an emotional hostage for complex propaganda.''

He said he is not surprised by photos showing Elian hugging his father. The boy's smiles during his Miami stay were only ''a Band-Aid'' for the loss of his mother, he said. STRESSFUL

Dr. Alan Delameter, a pediatric psychologist at the University of Miami, said that being snatched out of the Little Havana house was stressful for Elian. ''But did it cause irreparable harm? No.''

More damaging, Delameter said, was the growing siege mentality of the final weeks, and the often noisy round-the-clock protests.

Father and son have a special duty now, Delameter said.

''Elian's task, and his father's task, is to reestablish their relationship. Elian will want to be with his father. This is the caregiver he has had since he was a very young child. This is what is good for him''

Herald staff writer Frances Robles contributed to this report.

INS agent's role simple, but crucial

'We're taking you to papa'

By Mimi Whitefield.

Immigration and Naturalization Service Special Agent Betty A. Mills, who cradled Elian Gonzalez in her arms as they left his relatives' Little Havana home, played one of the most critical roles in the pre-dawn seizure of the scared little boy.

Her instructions: Locate Elian, get him safely into a waiting van, and stay with him and allay his fears until federal agents reunited him with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

After Elian was found in a closet, Mills told him in Spanish: ``I know this seems frightening to you now, but it will all be over very soon,'' said Russ Bergeron, director of media relations for the INS. ``She told him: `We're not going to take you to Cuba. We're not going to put you on a raft. We're taking you to see your papa.' ''

During the flight to Maryland, aboard a U.S. Marshals Service plane, Mills, 33, repeated that message, which psychological experts consulted by the INS said would ``help overcome [Elian's] anxiety and assuage any fears,'' Bergeron said.

Once they were aboard the plane, he never left Mills' lap, INS officials said. It was his first airplane trip.

``Elian is very interactive with his adult caregiver. He was calm on the flight and he bonded with her immediately,'' said Karen Kraushaar, an INS spokeswoman who spoke with Mills after the plane landed at the base.


Mills, an eight-year veteran of the INS, had been specifically chosen for the role because experts advised the INS that a Spanish-speaking, female agent would be the least intimidating for the delicate role of extracting Elian from the Miami home.

``We determined very early on that she would be the appropriate person for this operation. She had all the pieces we were looking for,'' Kraushaar said. ``As a law enforcement officer she was wedded to a very scary situation and she performed admirably.''

Mills, who is based in Miami, has a broad range of INS experience, is a veteran of tactical operations, and is fluent in Spanish. Her mother is Puerto Rican and her father was born in Virginia. Mills grew up in Pennsylvania, speaking both English and Spanish.

After a stint in the army where she was a member of the military police, Mills joined the INS as a border patrol agent in El Paso. Her next assignments were as an immigration agent in Phoenix and as an INS inspector in Pittsburgh.


During the operation, Mills and another agent were specifically assigned to Elian. The second agent was a backup for Mills. Once the child was in the van, a key part of Mills' role was to put him at ease.

For the flight, the INS prepared food and a package of toys for Elian that agents had been told would help relieve stress and anxiety. They included a Pokemon game, crayons, an airplane and Play-Doh.

``The experts told us Play-Doh would be good to use when someone has been in a stressful situation, because you can squeeze it and it helps work out anxiety,'' Bergeron said.

Elian and Mills colored and played Pokemon together on the flight; he changed his clothes and he talked with his father on the phone. He was excited to be on an airplane and wasn't very interested in either food or drinks, according to Kraushaar.

Mills' mission was completed, said Bergeron, when she turned the boy over to his father at the Air Force base.

``Right now she's just trying to get some rest,'' Kraushaar said Saturday evening. ``She and the other agents were on call for 72 hours.''

Raid leaves family dazed and in shock

`No words to describe this'


The Gonzalezes looked emotionally beaten, like survivors of a hurricane.

Hours after federal agents stormed the Little Havana house, their patriarch, Lazaro, often seemed dazed and in shock, unresponsive to friends touching his arm. Other times, he raged against the raiders with deep, heaving sobs.

His shy wife, Angela, roamed the house, not speaking, tears welling in her eyes as she surveyed the raid's aftermath -- a shattered statue of the Virgin Mary on the foyer floor, a bedroom door cut in half, a closet door on the floor, Elian's broken Corvette bed.

Six miniature statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and religious figures lay knocked over on a living room coffee table. A burgundy lamp lay on the floor.

``There are no words to describe this,'' Angela said in Spanish, asking strangers roaming the house to leave, to respect the family's privacy.

Marisleysis Gonzalez, 21, often clutched her stomach and retreated to the bathroom, hoarse from her frequent bitterly angry appearances on television. Friends begged her to ``stay strong'' and ``continue the fight.''

``What happened today was what I had been begging them for five months not to do, come here with guns and traumatize this kid more than what he's already seen, the death of his mother,'' she said.

Moments before the raid, Elian had been awakened by telephone conversations, and had come into the living room to sit with Lazaro on the leather love seat, next to a five-foot canvas painting of Jesus Christ and the Sacred Heart.

Shortly after, the agents burst in the door and pinned Lazaro against the living room wall. He screamed at them: ``Is this what you're trained for? To take a kid by force?''

Donato Dalrymple, one of the two fishermen who rescued the boy from the ocean, had moments earlier scooped him from the love seat and taken him to a bedroom closet, but the agents took the boy.

Lazaro could barely speak immediately afterward. But about an hour after the raid, he emerged in his front yard and with a megaphone: ``To everyone who is here, if we would have had weapons, this would not have happened. But we are simple people, free Cubans, living in a free country. I still believe in justice, and there will be. Whoever does not feel the same is an agent of Castro.''

The Rev. Francisco Santana, the family pastor who celebrated private daily Masses in the home, tried to comfort them, telling them he could still see Elian playing on the backyard swing and slide set named ``Elian's Park.''

``I remember seeing him yesterday, happy, smiling and playing,'' Santana said. ``We all knew that he would reunite with his father, but he had bonded with Marisleysis after his tragedy, something no one expected. I never thought something like this could happen in this country. May God have mercy on us.''

But they were beyond solace. Before the family left for Washington on Saturday afternoon, the usually jocular great-uncle Delfin ``Cangrejo'' Gonzalez, had no smile. ``All I want to say is this: Tear down the statue of Liberty and put one in honor of Fidel,'' he said morosely.

Back in the house, a photograph of Elian and his mother remained upright, undisturbed on the coffee table, as did a ceramic dolphin leaping out of the ocean.

Copyright 2000 Miami Herald



...Prensa Independiente
...Prensa Internacional
...Prensa Gubernamental


...Cooperativas Agrícolas
...Movimiento Sindical


...News Archive
...News Search

...Photos of Cuba
...Cigar Labels

...About Us
...Informe 1998

CubaNet News, Inc.
145 Madeira Ave,
Suite 207
Coral Gables, FL 33134
(305) 774-1887