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The BBC's Malcolm Brabant
"Elian has not yet been told of the latest twist in this international tug-of-war"
 real 28k

The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"President Clinton is aware of the outrage but says the officals were right to follow the law"
 real 28k

INS Commissioner Doris Meissner
"Juan Gonzalez has the sole right to speak for his son Elian"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 06:09 GMT
Battle rages over Cuban boy

demo Hundreds of Cuban-Americans gathered outside Elian's home

Cuban exiles opposed to Fidel Castro staged protests late into Wednesday night in Miami after the US immigration service ruled that a six-year-old boy from Cuba should return to live with his father.

Elian Gonzalez has been at the centre of a politically-charged custody battle ever since he was found clinging to an inner tube at sea in November, after his mother, stepfather and nine other refugees died while trying to reach Florida.

The boy has been staying with relatives in Miami, who insist that his mother had intended him to live in the US, rather than communist Cuba. But Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, wants him to come home.

relatives Relatives pick Elian up from school in Miami
An international custody battle ensued over the six-year-old, whose father wants him to be allowed home, while his relatives in Miami want to keep him.

Doris Meissner of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) said on Wednesday that it had decided that Elian should be reunited with his father, and called for his return by 14 January.

Following the INS decision, several hundred people gathered outside the home where Elian has been staying in Miami with his relatives.

They linked arms, shouting "Liberty!" and sang the Cuban national anthem.

In front of the Miami INS office, several hundred protesters waved Cuban and US flags and shouted anti-Castro slogans.

This little boy, who has been through so much, belongs with his father
INS Commissioner Doris Meissner
Some community leaders have called for Miami to be brought to a standstill in an attempt to prevent the boy being returned to Cuba.

One of the protesters outside the home of Elian's relatives was Republican Congresmman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. He said the Clinton administration had handed Fidel Castro a propaganda victory in allowing Elian's return.

"I hope and pray a judge stops the administration from committing not only this injustice but what I consider this monstrosity," he said.

But President Clinton said politics had played no part in the decision.

cousins Elian's Florida family have said they will fight the decision
"The INS followed the law, and the procedures and made the decision that they made after an exhaustive review of the facts," he said.

Lawyers for Elian's relatives in Florida said they had written to President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno asking for a full immigration hearing and saying they were prepared to go to federal and state courts if necessary to keep him in the US.

They say they can offer Elian a better life in the US and have filed a petition for political asylum on his behalf, which had been due to be heard by the INS on 21 January.

US officials believe the courts are likely to favour Elian's natural father, especially as he appears to have proved that he can provide the loving, family environment the boy needs after such a traumatic ordeal.

Elian was spending his second day at school in Miami as the news emerged. He has not yet been told of the latest decision and is currently in a safe house under police protection

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See also:
05 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba boy decision: Despair and delight
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Moves to solve shipwreck custody battle
13 Dec 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
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In pictures: Shipwreck boy sparks protests
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American churches back Cuban father
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Cuba resumes protests over shipwreck boy
24 Dec 99 |  Americas
Cuba attacks custody battle delay
13 Dec 99 |  Americas
Crucial talks over shipwreck boy
11 Dec 99 |  Americas
Asylum bid for shipwreck boy

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