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The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"This is a battle of television images and emotional demands"
 real 28k

The BBC's Tom Gibb
"The Cuban government has put massive resources into the last six weeks of continuous marches, rallies and propaganda"
 real 28k

Friday, 14 January, 2000, 22:21 GMT
Cuban mothers demand boy's return

demo A sea of protesters made their way to the US mission


Some 100,000 Cuban women have taken to the streets of Havana to demand the return of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba.

The women made their way up Havana's Malecon highway towards the US Interests Section, chanting: "Send our son back!"

Some waved the Cuban flag, while others chanted slogans denouncing the Cuban-American community in Miami for preventing Elian from being reunited with his father.


Elian Gonzalez Elian: Caught between Cuba and the US

Elian has been staying with his relatives in Miami since he was found clinging to an inner tube off the Florida coast on 25 November. His mother, stepfather and nine other would-be illegal immigrants all drowned fleeing Cuba.

Friday's mass protest was the latest in a series of organised demonstrations pressing for Elian's return to the island.

Since he was rescued, the boy has become the subject of an international custody battle.

Elian's Miami relatives want him to stay with them in the US. But his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, wants the US authorities to send his boy home, saying the exile community in Miami is using his son in a political tug-of-war.



No US authority is capable of assuring anything about the boy's return
Communist Party daily Granma
The US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had set a deadline of Friday for Elian to be returned to Cuba, but is allowing time for the family in Miami to appeal to a Federal Court.

Cuban frustration at the lack of a resolution to the case came to the fore on Friday, with the ruling Communist party daily, Granma, saying that the passing of the deadline would represent "the opening of a new stage of battle" by Havana to repatriate the boy.

"No US authority is capable of assuring anything about the boy's return," Granma said, even though "the health and sufferings of the boy demand it".

'Outraged'

The boy's father, both Elian's grandmothers, hundreds of pregnant women, thousands of children, and Cuban President Fidel Castro's sister-in-law, took part in Friday's government-organised march in Havana.


pregnant women Many pregnant women took part in the rally

Buses brought the women in from their homes and workplaces, and march organisers lined them up along the highway.

As she was marching at the head of the column, Elian's paternal grandmother, Mariela Quintana, said she was ready to go to the US to pick up the boy and take him home.

She said: "I am outraged. I want to go and pick him up but I will not stay there one minute more than necessary."

Elian's father told US television on Thursday that he would be willing to have the US authorities forcibly remove his son from his relatives in Miami and have him sent back to Cuba as soon as possible.

In an interview with ABC News, Mr Gonzalez said he felt "like breaking the necks" of those who appeared to have forgotten that Elian was just a child.



This is child abuse ... if he were able to say or to defend Fidel (Castro), he would do it
Juan Miguel Gonzalez
"They do not take into account that this is only a six-year-old child.

"The problem is suffering that both the child as well as all of his relatives here are going through simply because of political reasons."

Asked about photographs showing an apparently happy Elian giving a victory sign, Mr Gonzalez said his son had been made to do such things.

"This is child abuse. He is being made to do things against his will because if he were able to say or to defend Fidel (Castro), he would do it.

"He told me over the phone that he is dreaming about coming back to me to be with him, to be with me, and they are manipulating what he is saying and saying things that are untrue."

Cuban authorities say 150,000 students, workers and intellectuals would take part in another protest in Havana on Saturday

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Americas
Bizarre twist in custody battle
14 Jan 00 |  Americas
In pictures: Cuba's outrage
06 Jan 00 |  Americas
Analysis: US-Cuba relations in the spotlight
12 Jan 00 |  Americas
Reno backs Cuban boy's return
13 Dec 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Shipwrecked Cuban boy stirs mixed emotions
06 Jan 00 |  Talking Point
Should the Cuban boy go back?
14 Jan 00 |  Americas
Haitian family to be reunited

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