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The BBC's Tom Gibb in Havana
"Fidel Castro joined with the crowd of some 10,000 students and communist party activists"
 real 28k

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Miami
"Emotional temperature is rising by the hour"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
High emotion in Havana and Miami
Painting of Elian
Elian has a near religious status in the exile community
As Elian Gonzalez's father prepares to travel to the United States in an attempt to secure custody of his son, the strong emotions which the Cuban boy's case has provoked were evident on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Cuban exiles in Miami are convinced the moment is approaching when Elian will be forced to leave the temporary refuge of his great-uncle's home.

Activists have urged exiles to be ready to surround the modest house in Miami's Little Havana district to try to prevent the US Government from removing the boy against the Miami family's will.

A leading advocate of civil disobedience, Ramon Saul Sanchez, said there would be no protest if the Miami relatives agreed to hand Elian over to his father.

Cousin's plea

But Elian's cousin, Marisleysis, who has taken on the role of surrogate mother since he was rescued from the sea, made it clear that the Miami relatives have no intention of yielding to US government pressure.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez
Juan Miguel Gonzalez hopes to bring Elian back from the US
"Let the father come to this house," she said. "Don't let the Cuban Government put the rules. We live in a country of freedom and justice."

She addressed the crowds outside the family home on Monday evening with tears in her eyes.

"His mum died for him to live in freedom. Now his mum is dead - are we going to kill Elian too?

"That is what this government is trying to do. If we send Elian back to Cuba he is going to be tortured."

Seafront monument

Elsewhere in the US, the emotions surrounding the Elian case in Miami are viewed with bemusement.

Crowds were also on the streets in Havana, where President Fidel Castro joined some 10,000 students and communist party activists shouting: "Cuba, yes - Yankee, no!" at the inaugural rally of the new monument in front of the US interests section on Havana's seafront.

Stage in Havana
President Castro led a gathering of 10,000 in Havana
The monument comprises a huge concrete stage, with a long line of steel arches covering the audience.

At one end stands a statue of the Cuban independence hero, Jose Marti, shielding a child who looking remarkably like Elian.

The monument, named the Jose Marti Anti-imperialist Open Stage, has taken three months to build, with bulldozers working around the clock.

The government has not said how much it cost, but street rumour puts the figure at $2m.

Fidel Castro has said that it will be a stage for anti-US protests far into the furure, even if Elian is returned to Cuba.

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See also:

02 Apr 00 | Americas
Reno renews Elian appeal
31 Mar 00 | Americas
Gore changes stance on Elian
31 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Estefan joins Cuban boy row
30 Mar 00 | Americas
US delays Elian deadline
30 Mar 00 | Americas
Tensions high over Elian case
27 Mar 00 | Americas
Elian thinks his mother is alive
03 Feb 00 | Americas
Elian: View from Cuba
29 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The Dalai Lama of Little Havana
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