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The BBC's Rob Watson in Maryland
"US authorities are adamant the boy should reunite with his father"
 real 28k

Sunday, 9 April, 2000, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Miami divided over Elian
protest
Miami's Cuban community wants the boy to stay
The city of Miami is split on ethnic lines over the fate of the Cuban shipwreck survivor, Elian Gonzalez, an opinion poll says.

While most Cuban exiles and Hispanics believe the six-year-old boy should remain in the US, blacks, whites and other non-Hispanics say he should be returned to his father in Cuba.

Elian poll
Back to Cuba: 92% of blacks, 76% of white non-Hispanics
Stay in US: 83% of Cuban exiles, 55% of other Latinos

Juan Miguel Gonzalez has travelled from Havana to Washington in the hope of securing his son's return.

On Sunday, he briefly met the government-appointed psychiatric team charged with finding the easiest way to carry out the reunion.

He also personally thanked the two fishermen who rescued Elian last November.

'Bond exists'

Donato Dalrymple, who thinks the boy should stay in the US, and Sam Ciancio, who thinks Elian should go back to his father, said they believed a bond existed between father and son.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez
Juan Miguel Gonzalez in Washington

"I came here to satisfy my own heart," Mr Ciancio said after the meeting.

"I am leaving here satisfied."

Mr Dalrymple said: "I do believe that he loves him."

Attorney-general Janet Reno has ordered Elian's Miami relatives to hand the boy over to his father this week

The relatives have yet to firm up a meeting with the psychiatric team, as Elian's cousin - described as his surrogate mother - was said to have been admitted to hospital on Saturday.

Marisleysis Gonzalez has been in hospital several times in recent weeks, suffering from exhaustion.

Poll details

The Miami Herald/NBC 6 poll released on Sunday showed that 50% of South Floridians believed Elian should stay, while 44% disagreed. Last December, a similar poll showed 58% supported him staying.

The survey of 1,013 adults conducted between 6-7 April has an overall margin of error of 3%.

elian
Elian hangs from a door in his great-uncle's house

It also showed that Miami-Dade County's mayor, Alex Penelas, is in deep trouble with black and non-Hispanic voters for suggesting that responsibility for any violent protests in support of Elian should lie with President Clinton and Mrs Reno.

The authorities anticipate resistance from a human chain of anti-Castro protesters surrounding the Miami family's house.

Mrs Reno refused to discuss the use of force as a last resort except to say such plans have not been presented to her formally.

"I hope with all my heart that the rule of law prevails, and I expect that it will," she told CNN's Late Edition.

Custody battle

Elian has been at the centre of a bitter custody battle since last November when he was found floating off the Florida coast.

His mother and 10 others drowned as they attempted to cross illegally from Cuba to Florida.

His Miami relatives, who took him in, have been fighting to keep him in the US - with vociferous support from the Cuban community in Florida.

Talks between them and the US immigration authorities broke down acrimoniously on Thursday.

The relatives are appealing against a federal judge's ruling affirming the US government's decision to send Elian back to his father.

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Elian Gonzalez
Where does he belong? Add to the debate
Americas Contents

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See also:

07 Apr 00 | Americas
Psychologists target Elian
04 Apr 00 | Americas
High emotion in Havana and Miami
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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