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Malcolm Brabant
"Strict security surrounded the waterfront mansion"
 real 28k

Malcolm Brabant
"It is almost like a royal visit"
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The BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Miami
"They left without saying a word"
 real 28k

Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 12:46 GMT
Elian reunited with grandmothers

Crowds at reunion Supporters from both sides gathered outside the reunion venue

The two grandmothers fighting for the return to Cuba of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez are taking their fight to Washington after a brief reunion with the boy.

They will be pressing Washington politicians to abandon efforts to make Elian a US citizen - just hours after they saw the boy for the first time in more than two months.

Elian has been at the centre of an international custody battle since he was plucked from the sea after a boat smuggling his mother and stepfather into the US sank last November.

Elian Gonzalez Elian: Future in the balance
His relatives in Florida have temporary custody of the boy, but his family in Cuba want him to be returned to his father.

At a reunion ordered by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Elian's grandmothers, Raquel Rodriguez and Mariela Quintana, were said to be elated.

The two grandmothers hugged and kissed Elian as he walked into the living room of two nuns - the agreed 'neutral ground' for the meeting.

They also showed him photos of his school friends and played games with the boy during the two-hour meeting.

But Elian, who has become a media star in the US, was said to be initially shy at seeing his grandparents.

One of the nuns, Sister Leonora, said: "When Elian saw his grandmothers, they were elated and they picked him up, and they hugged him. They were shaking a little bit. Elian was at ease, although he did not speak much."

Mobile controversy

But the acrimony that has characterised the case was never far from the surface.

A mobile phone taken into the room by the grandmothers was confiscated, for fear that Elian's grandmothers might use it to contact the boy's father.

This was about the future of a child
Sister Jeanne O'Loughlin
And in Cuba, a letter written by the father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, was published in the Communist Party daily newspaper, Granma, demanding that the child's great-uncle should not be allowed into the reunion.

Outside the nuns' house supporters from both sides of the argument had gathered.

Police sealed off the front of the house and police patrolling a canal at its rear prevented a boat from the anti-Castro Democracia Movement approaching.

Sister Jeanne O'Loughlin, who was at the reunion, said: "This was about the future of a child."

Elian's grandparents left the meeting without commenting as they headed back to Washington. Elian's temporary custodians waved to the crowds as they drove him to their home in Little Havana.

Georgina Cid, Elian's cousin, said: "The reason that Elian is here and that we are fighting for him to stay here is because we know that he is not going to have a future in Cuba."

Residency plans

The INS made the meeting a condition of the boy's immigration status after the Miami relatives refused the grandmothers permission to see Elian earlier in the week.

The grandmothers will spend Thursday putting their case to Republican politicians, who are attempting to draw up a law that would give Elian either US citizenship or residency.

President Clinton has urged Congress to stop working on such Bills until the courts have pronounced on Elian's fate.

If he became a US citizen or resident, his case would no longer fall under INS jurisdiction.

The US administration is backing a decision by the INS that Elian should be reunited with his father in Cuba.

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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  Americas
Grandmothers fail to see Elian
20 Jan 00 |  Americas
Clinton enters row over Cuba boy
19 Jan 00 |  Americas
Elian relatives seek court ruling
16 Jan 00 |  Americas
Analysis: Politics cloud Elian case
17 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba attacks Elian 'kidnapping'
12 Jan 00 |  Americas
Reno backs Cuban boy's return
14 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuban mothers demand boy's return
11 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba boy ruling under fire
14 Jan 00 |  Americas
Bizarre twist in custody battle

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