March 27, 2000

Cuban boy draws picture of shipwreck drama

By Sue Pleming. Fox News. 10.08 a.m. ET (1515 GMT) March 27, 2000

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.


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 dolphins.''

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 him.

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 mom.

"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,'' Perdiago said.

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.

CubaNet does not require sole rights from its contributors. We authorize the reproduction and distribution of this article as long as the source is credited.



...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