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Tom Gibb reports for BBC News in Cuba
"Rallies have taken place almost daily"
 real 28k

Malcolm Brabant reports from Miami
"Analysts have called the subpoena a brilliant tactical move"
 real 28k

Saturday, 8 January, 2000, 17:55 GMT
Cuban anger at custody move

Cardenas rally Thousands rallied in Cardenas to demand Elian's return


The father of Elian Gonzalez, the boy at the centre of a custody row between the US and Cuba, has reacted angrily to news of a move by a Republican Party congressman to delay his son's return home.

US congressman Dan Burton has subpoened six-year-old Elian to appear before a congressional sub-committee on 10 February - forestalling a decision by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that Elian should leave the US by 14 January.



I don't know what possible right this gentleman thinks he has - if he can be called a gentleman
Jose Miguel Gonzalez

"I don't know what he thinks he has to do with the matter ... the only thing they need to do is send my kid back to me," said Jose Miguel Gonzalez, Elian's father, at a rally in his home town of Cardenas.

Legal protection

Mr Burton says that his move is intended to ensure that Elian remains in the US for another month, while his relatives in Florida complete their appeals against the decision INS to send him back to his father.

In the House Committee statement, Mr Burton was quoted as saying that he had issued the subpoena because he was "concerned that, without a ruling from the judges, Elian is without legal protection over the weekend.


Elian Gonzalez rides on his great uncle Delfin Gonzalez' shoulders Elian Gonzalez rides on his great uncle Delfin's shoulders in Miami

He said he hoped the Clinton administration would do "nothing precipitous over the weekend," to implement the INS ruling and pre-empt the court action launched by the Miami-based relatives, Mr Burton said.

Mr Burton is a long-time opponent of Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Along with Republican Senator Jesse Helms, he was responsible for drafting the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 which strengthened US economic sanctions against Cuba.

'Cardenas awaits you'

As hardline Cuban exiles welcomed Mr Burton's move, the Cardenas rally - the latest in a series - demanded Elian's return.

"Elian, Cardenas awaits you ... with kisses," supporters sang.

Cuba's National Assembly chairman, Ricardo Alarcon, addressed the rally and said that Mr Burton's subpoena was an attempt to "disregard the decision of his own government".


Demonstrators Demonstrators in Cardenas hold pictures of Fidel Castro
Citing reports that Mr Burton would also invite the boy's father to give evidence before the committee, Mr Alarcon suggested that Mr Burton would also seek to keep the father in the United States.

"We believe, or we would like to believe, that the (US) government ... will proceed with returning the child" to Cuba, he said.

Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, his four grandparents and his great-grandmother began weeping as they sat in a row of chairs facing the stage as the group sang of his mother, who died at sea in November while attempting to reach Florida with her son.

Mr Gonzalez looked particularly exhausted and distraught, his eyes red from crying.

Telling the crowd of "hard and difficult days" suffered since the child was rescued at sea, Mr Gonzalez said that "our tears have given way to patriotic pride" seeing tens of thousands turn out regularly to demand Elian's return.

Guardian

In Miami, judges are considering the first legal challenge to the INS decision to return Elian to Cuba.

Lawyers for the boy's Miami relatives asked for his great-uncle in Florida to be recognised as his guardian.

The decision has led to widespread protests by Cuban exiles, who are threatening to disrupt operations at Miami international airport - one of the busiest in the world.


Cuban exiles Demonstrations in Miami entered their third day
The petition for temporary custody of Elian, filed by his great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez, said the boy was eligible for political asylum, and that to return him would subject him to abuse and neglect.

He faced the threat of "imminent harm by being summarily removed from the State of Florida and returned to Fidel Castro's communist regime", it said, and added that a return would significantly impair his mental and emotional health.

It claimed that Juan Miguel Gonzalez must have been forced by the Cuban authorities to say he wanted his son returned, and invited him to go to Florida to state his wishes freely.

Mr Gonzalez accused his uncle and other relatives in Miami of subjecting his son to evil and psychological torture.

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See also:
07 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuban exiles target Miami airport
06 Jan 00 |  Americas
Analysis: US-Cuba relations in the spotlight
 |  Americas
In pictures: Exiles feel force of the law
06 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba: Fight for boy continues
05 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba boy decision: Despair and delight
13 Dec 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Shipwrecked Cuban boy stirs mixed emotions
06 Jan 00 |  Talking Point
Should the Cuban boy go back?

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