April 5, 2000

Take Elian Yourself, Dad Told

By Roberto Santiago and Corky Siemaszko. Daily News Staff Writer. Daily News Online Edition, April 5

MIAMI - Elian Gonzalez's cousin yesterday challenged the little refugee's father to "be a man" and come get his son, while anti-Castro activists broke down police barricades and formed a human chain around the Miami house where the boy is staying.

"They will have to kill us before they take Elian," demonstrator Rene Aturey yelled. "I will fight any government thief who tries to take that boy back to Cuba."

The U.S. Interests Section in Havana handed over six visas yesterday for Elian's dad, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and five other people to travel to the States and take charge of the 6-year-old.

But Gonzalez was stuck in Havana last night as representatives of Cuban strongman Fidel Castro renewed demands for more visas and a guarantee the father would get custody of the boy.

Gonzalez's attorney, Gregory Craig, flew to Havana last night to persuade Castro to let Elian's father travel right away to the U.S. without any preconditions.

The day began with a challenge when Elian's cousin Marisleysis Gonzalez took aim at the father's machismo and blasted him for insisting the boy be removed from her Little Havana home.

"I think that the father should be a man about it and get to this country and say, 'I don't want to put my son through thousands of cameras and thousands of people to [leave] that house. I'll go inside that house,'" she said on the "Today" show.

Marisleysis Gonzalez, who was later hospitalized with exhaustion, also scoffed at the father's fears of tangling with the activists surrounding her house.

"Nobody's going to do anything to him," she said.

But the mood outside the house was defiant. About 70 demonstrators knocked over the police barricades and formed a human chain around the house on a rumor that an Immigration and Naturalization Service van was on its way to take custody of Elian.

"Keep the chain," Ramon Sanchez, head of the anti-Castro Democracy Movement, told the demonstrators. "Don't break it!"

Miami cops made no attempt to break the chain.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the Miami family, in marathon negotiations with the INS, tried to buy more time by suggesting that a panel of child psychologists determine whether the boy should be returned to his father.

"I am prepared to deliver the boy if the legal process comes to a conclusion, if a professional psychological evaluation establishes that the change will not harm the child," the boy's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez said in a statement.

Federal negotiators rejected the Miami family's suggestion but put off yesterday's deadline for the family to agree to terms for the boy's possible handover. Talks will resume tomorrow.

Original Publication Date: 04/05/2000

© 2000 Daily News, L.P



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