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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 21:49 GMT
Elian's father makes new appeal

Elian Gonzalez Elian Gonzalez: His father does not want an independent guardian for him

The father of shipwrecked Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez has rejected moves to appoint an independent guardian to look after his son.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez instead wants guardianship of his six-year-old son to be given to his great-uncle Manolo Gonzalez.

The 11-week custody battle row is still raging between Elian's relatives in Cuba and those who now live in Florida.

The right of custody is only and exclusively mine
Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez
Elian's father Juan Miguel said in an open letter: "I want to categorically reject any attempt to designate an 'independent guardian' for Elian, and any move that will come before the courts or anything else that would have the effect of prolonging the kidnapping of my son."

Three survivors

Elian was one of three survivors of a November shipwreck that killed his mother and several other Cubans who were trying to reach US shores.

He was rescued clinging to an inner tube off the coast of Florida and quickly became the centre of a heated international custody battle.

The latest letter, sent to US Attorney-General Janet Reno and Immigration and Naturalization Commissioner Doris Meissner, was printed Tuesday in the Cuban state-run daily Granma newspaper.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez Juan Miguel Gonzalez: Second open letter
Mr Gonzalez added in the letter: "The right of custody is only and exclusively mine."

In a previous letter, he had asked that guardianship of Elian be transferred from Lazaro Gonzalez, who is petitioning to keep the boy in the US, to Manolo Gonzalez, who supports his return to Cuba.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has not yet responded to his request and indicated that it is still considering its options.

"The INS and [Department of Justice] continue to develop a response to the father's request and as soon as it is finalised, it will be provided to him and information regarding it will also be released to the media," said Russ Bergeron, INS communications director.

Official custody

The INS has official custody of the boy and is allowing him to stay with Lazaro Gonzalez while the case is settled.

The agency ruled on 5 January that Elian should be returned to his father in Cuba.

Fidel Castro Cuban President Fidel Castro
The US-based family that has been caring for Elian was granted temporary custody of him by a Florida judge, but the INS has said the state does not have jurisdiction.

The family dispute over his future quickly escalated into a major political battle between the government of President Fidel Castro -which backs the father - and anti-communist Cuban-American groups in Florida, which want Elian to stay in the US.

A judge is scheduled to hear the American family's case on 22 February.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  Americas
Fresh appeal for Elian's return
01 Feb 00 |  Americas
Head to Head: The Elian Gonzalez case
03 Feb 00 |  Americas
Elian: View from Cuba
03 Feb 00 |  Americas
Cuban families separated by politics

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