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Sunday, 26 March, 2000, 06:04 GMT
Cubans demonstrate for Elian's return
Cuba demonstration
This was the latest in a series of demonstrations in Cuba
Thousands of Cubans have gathered in the central city of Sagua la Grande to demand the return of Elian Gonzalez, the six-year-old Cuban boy at the centre of an international custody battle.

Cuban state media said some 50,000 demonstrators had taken part in the march, the latest in a series of government-sponsored demonstrations.


Demonstration in Havana
Cubans have been demonstrating for Elian's return
Broadcasting the event live, government television showed tens of thousands of people wearing T-shirts featuring Elian's portrait and waving a sea of red, white and blue Cuban flags.

The rally was attended by Raul Castro Ruz, head of Cuba's Armed Forces and deputy in the communist government to his brother President Fidel Castro. Juan Almeida Bosque, a close Castro adviser, was also present.

Deadline

The rally came a day after the US authorities set a new deadline of Monday for Elian's Miami relatives to agree to a speedy appeal - or see the boy swiftly returned to his father.

Lawyers acting for the boy's Miami relatives will have to submit the appeal by 3 April, if the relatives agree by Monday to go ahead with the process.

If they do not agree to the new deadline, the US authorities will begin the process of returning Elian to his father in Cuba next Thursday.


Elian
Elian's Miami relatives want him to stay there
Elian was found clinging to wreckage off the Miami coast in November after surviving a shipwreck in which his mother drowned.

The boy's mother and 10 other would-be emigres died during an illegal attempt to gain entry to the US.

Elian has been staying with his great uncle Lazaro Gonzalez's family in Miami since he was rescued.

The family in Miami argues that Elian would face immediate psychological and physical harm if repatriated.

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See also:

25 Mar 00 | Americas
US sets new Elian deadline
22 Mar 00 | Americas
Father ready to take Elian home
03 Feb 00 | Americas
Elian: View from Cuba
29 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The Dalai Lama of Little Havana
11 Dec 99 | Americas
Asylum bid for shipwreck boy
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