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Richard Lister reports for BBC News
"The Clinton Administration is insisting on a thorough review of the case"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 05:30 GMT
Cuba-US row deepens
Mass street demos are promised until the boy returns Mass street demonstrations are promised until the boy returns


Huge anti-American protests have raged for a third consecutive day in the Cuban capital, Havana, as tens of thousands of demonstrators demanded the return of a Cuban boy rescued at sea last week and now living in Miami.

Crowds thronged outside the United States mission and cheered calls for six-year-old Elian Gonzalez's immediate repatriation in what has become a tug-of-war emblematic of difficult Cuba-US relations.

Every Cuban radio and television station carried the protests - the largest in years - live, and the official press published letters from children addressed to Elian.

"I don't know you, but I think of you as if you were my brother or cousin. I have two things to tell you: don't let yourself be bought with toys or money," read one letter in the Rebel Youth paper.

Elian Elian was found at sea clinging to an inner tube
Elian was shipwrecked as he and other migrants sailed for Florida last month. His mother and stepfather were among those drowned, but his father - who wants him back - still lives in Cuba.

Cuban exiles in Miami, including distant relatives who are looking after Elian, insist he is better off in the US.

President Fidel Castro has accused the US of kidnapping the boy. He had set Wednesday as a deadline for his return, although he has since said this was not an ultimatum, only "wise advice".

"Little Elian will get back his country, his family, his school, his schoolmates, his school desk," Mr Castro promised classmates celebrating Elian's birthday in his absence on Monday. "He is a boy hero of Cuba."

Immigration talks

Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, 31, cared for the boy five days a week and has formally demanded his son's return. He says Elian was taken out of the country without his knowledge.

US State Department spokesman James Foley said on Tuesday night that Mr Gonzalez would be contacted by US immigration authorities "to explain the process by which it will evaluate his rights in the case".

Fidel Castro Castro: Accuses the US of kidnapping
But the Cuban Government says it does not trust the Florida courts to be impartial because of the state's large anti-Castro exile community.

It has said Elian's return is a condition to resuming crucial talks on immigration accords between the two countries set to take place in Havana on 13 December.

An end to the impasse appeared even more remote on Tuesday as Cuba demanded the handover of a group of Cubans alleged to have hijacked a boat to Florida.

"This new act of piracy, in which criminal elements endanger the lives of Cuban workers while emigrating to the United States repeats numerous past acts," the Cuban Foreign Ministry said.

The American authorities say they will decide whether a number of suspects detained are to face US or Cuban justice. The Cubans remained on Coast Guard ships late on Tuesday.

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See also:
06 Dec 99 |  Americas
Cuban custody row escalates
07 Dec 99 |  Americas
In pictures: Shipwreck boy sparks protests
05 Dec 99 |  Americas
Castro warns US over shipwreck boy
29 Nov 99 |  Americas
Cuban shipwreck boy in tug-of-love
04 Dec 99 |  Americas
New Yorkers' historic flight to Cuba
27 Nov 99 |  Americas
Cubans survive shipwreck ordeal
21 Sep 99 |  Americas
Life for Cuba 'people smuggler'
30 Jun 99 |  Americas
Six Cubans to stay in US

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