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Wednesday, 5 January, 2000, 20:53 GMT
Cuba boy decision: Despair and delight

Miami Cubans Cuban exiles threaten to 'paralyse' Miami over Elian's return

The US immigration service's decision to return Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba has outraged Cuban exiles in Miami, but been welcomed by surprised protesters in Cuba.

Anti-Castro activists in Miami have already demonstrated outside the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) building and there have been calls for a human chain to prevent officials taking the six-year-old boy away.

"The US Government is not sending him back to his father. They are sending him back to a mad old man, that is Fidel Castro. What kind of future is that?" said the boy's great uncle Delfin Gonzalez.

"That is an outrageous decision," said Jose Basulto, leader of Brothers to the Rescue, an exile group which searches for Cuban refugees in the Florida Straits.

It is a sad day for America, for freedom and for what this country stands for
Jose Basulto

Some community leaders have called for large scale protests to paralyse the city.

Lawyers acting for Elian's relatives who have looked after him since his rescue from the Atlantic Ocean, are planning to ask a federal judge to order an injunction to block the boy's repatriation.

Cuban surprise

Many people in Cuba were caught by surprise by the INS decision.

The latest protest demanding the boy repatriation's had been planned for Wednesday evening. But as news of the US move became known, people reacted with joy and relief.

The retention of the boy was a foul thing carried out by the Miami crowd with the help of the US government
Havana shop assistant

"It's the correct thing to give custody to the father. They should have done it long ago," said 57-year-old Havana shop assistant Julio Martinez.

"The retention of the boy was a foul thing carried out by the Miami crowd with the help of the [US] government."

"Now they are going to shout their heads off in Miami. But they are wrong, they have no right," said secondary school teacher Rafael Rodriguez, 49.

Cuba gave a guarded official response to the news and warned the information may cause "excessive optimism".

The state-owned Cuban Institute of Radio and Television issued a statement saying the reports from the US needed to be treated with "extreme care".

"We cannot build up our hopes ... that the US government will provide the most fair and correct solution to the problem in the face of the Cuban-American mafia and the extreme right-wing groups in the US Congress, which will resort to all means to prevent the boy's return to Cuba."

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See also:
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