By Sue Pleming. Fox News. 10.08 a.m. ET (1515 GMT) March
WASHINGTON Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the center of an
international custody war, drew a picture of the traumatic shipwreck that
claimed his mother's life during his first television interview aired Monday.
Saying at one point in the ABC interview that he thought his mother was "lost
in Miami somewhere'', the six-year-old shipwreck survivor said he was protected
in the shark-infested waters by dolphins before being rescued on Thanksgiving
Day last November floating on an inner tube off Florida's coast.
Reliving the tragedy in which his mother drowned, Elian drew huge waves and
a lone stick-figure boy floating in an inner tube to the side of the boat.
"Me, I was sinking,'' he said in a small voice in Spanish and then put
his head down.
ABC's "Good Morning America'' anchor Diane Sawyer spent two days with
Elian in Miami, where the boy's relatives say he should stay instead of being
returned to his father, who lives in Cuba.
The airing of the interview coincides with a deadline by the Justice
Department of noon Monday for the family to agree to file all appeals documents
by April 3 or be ready to give up the boy as early as this week.
Deflecting criticism for interviewing the boy, Sawyer conceded his Miami
family had "their own agenda'' by giving ABC access to the child, hoping it
would put public pressure to allow him to stay in America.
"We are not trying to answer the future of Elian and where he should
go,'' said Sawyer.
The boy's cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, 21, said Elian told her the motor
had broken on the boat and its passengers had tried in vain to bale out the
water with nylon bags but that a storm overtook their efforts.
Elian told her he tried to help get the water out and that his mother's
boyfriend placed him in an inner tube for safety.
"He said afterwards that he fell asleep and that when he woke up he
never saw his mother again. He said I think she drowned too because she didn't
know how to swim,'' said Marisleysis.
SCHOOL OF DOLPHINS PROTECT BOY
At one point in the interview, Elian said he did not think his mother was in
heaven but that she was "lost in Miami somewhere and lost her memory and
just doesn't know I'm here''. Then his cousin gently reminded him that his
mother had drowned in the high seas.
His cousin said a school of dolphins had protected the boy. ''He said that
every time he tried to fall under, something would push him up and it was the
Elian managed to survive 50 hours alone in the water by reciting a prayer in
which he asked his guardian angel to stay with him day and night and to protect
Elian showed Sawyer a framed picture of his mother and then pointed to his
cousin, with whom he has formed a very close relationship sometimes calling her
"I tell him that I am his cousin but he says 'you are like my mom who
teaches me things,''' his cousin said.
New Orleans psychiatrist, Dr Gunther Perdiago, observed the meeting with
Sawyer and said it was obvious the boy had been well nurtured in his early years
with his parents in Cuba.
"He liked to play with toys, he was very interactive. He related well.
So, one can see that this child did have good nurturing in his early years,''
Speaking on the same program, Elian's father's lawyer, Greg Craig, said his
father dearly loved his son and wanted him to come home.
The father's worst nightmare, he said, was that he would come to America and
be stuck in a hotel room while someone else had custody of his son.
Sawyer said Elian was a well-mannered and thoughtful boy, who was concerned
that the famous news anchor would not clean up the mess she had made in the
school playroom where she spent time with Elian.
More excerpts of the interview are due to be aired Tuesday when Elian is
expected to give his side of the story in the custody drama.
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