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The BBC's Malcolm Brabant
The Miami family hopes to outmanoeuvre the government
 real 28k

Friday, 7 April, 2000, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Cubans threaten Miami disruption
Demonstration in Miami
Growing anger among the Cuban exile community
Cuban exiles in Miami have announced a civil disobedience campaign in protest at moves to return six-year-old Elian Gonzalez to his father.

Talks between Elian's relatives in Miami and the United States immigration authorities broke down acrimoniously on Thursday.

What the United States Government has decided ... is both unfair and dangerous to this child

Lawyer Jose Garcia Pedrosa
The Miami relatives want to retain custody of the child, who in November survived a shipwreck in which his mother was killed while trying to cross illegally from Cuba to the US.

The US authorities say Elian should return to Cuba with his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who arrived in the US on Thursday.

In an attempt to get public opinion on their side, the Miami relatives' advisers produced psychologists who said Elian would suffer psychological harm if he were to return to Cuba.


The US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) accused the relatives of being stubborn, since they would not concede they had to hand Elian over to his father.

We went to extraordinary lengths to try to resolve this matter in a co-operative manner

Robert Wallis, INS
The relatives are now expecting a letter from the INS setting out details of the handover.

If they fail to comply with it, they will face court action.

Mr Gonzalez is staying at the home of a Cuban diplomat in Washington DC.

Reno meeting

He is to meet Attorney General Janet Reno on Friday. There are reports that she will try to persuade him to travel to Florida if necessary to persuade the relatives there to hand Elian over to his father.
Elian Gonzalez
The US authorities want Elian returned to his father
The government intends that father and son should remain together in Washington pending the final outcome of the case.

But a leader of the Cuban exile community in Miami, Ramon Saul Sanchez, said Mr Gonzales should talk directly to the relatives in Florida and decide with them what was best for Elian's future.

Robert Wallis, Miami director of the INS, said his department had gone to "extraordinary lengths" to resolve the dispute during negotiations with the relatives.

"We still hope for an orderly process for reuniting Elian with his father," Mr Wallis said.

"The opportunity to ensure this orderly process rests squarely with the relatives in Miami."


Meanwhile 300 protesters gathered to form a human chain outside the Miami house where Elian is currently staying with a great-uncle.

"We can't abandon this place because if we do anyone can pick up the boy," Mr Sanchez said.

Later he urged demonstrators to block the roads around Miami International Airport beginning Friday afternoon.

He also encouraged them to put Cuban flags on their cars and turn on their headlights wherever they drive.

"The campaign of civil disobedience begins," he said.


The psychologists who have been treating Elian since he was rescued from the sea in November added their voices to the campaign to keep in in the US.

One doctor said he was suffering from the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome and could suffer irreversible depression if returned to Cuba.

Another said Elian was afraid of being sent back to his father, who she alleged had been abusive and aggressive towards the boy.

One of the family's main complaints against the US government is that it has not sent psychological experts to assess the boy's condition.

On arrival at Dulles airport near the US capital on Thursday, Elian's father said he had been "cruelly separated" from his son, and accused the Miami relatives of exploiting Elian for political ends.

Mr Gonzalez has said he is prepared to wait for as long as it takes to reclaim his son.

Meanwhile, three Cuban-American politicians have invited him to defect.

In a letter made public on Thursday, they offered immediate help with legal steps if he chose to live "in freedom" with his son.

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