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The BBC's Carrie Gracie
"A pre-dawn raid by federal forces"
 real 28k

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant reports
"The image of the moment that Elian was seized will haunt the Clinton administration"
 real 28k

The BBC's Tom Gibb in Havana
"There's been delighted reaction from Cuban officials"
 real 28k

President Bill Clinton
"The law has been upheld and that was the right thing to do"
 real 28k

Sunday, 23 April, 2000, 02:27 GMT 03:27 UK
Elian sparks heated emails
The raid was seen by many as heavy-handed
BBC News Online has received hundreds of emails following the dramatic seizure of Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives.

Emails came in at a rate of several a minute at certain times on Saturday in response to the question: Were federal officers right to snatch Elian Gonzalez from his relatives in Miami?

It was an indication of the intense interest generated by the emotionally-charged custody battle.

Many emails voiced concern about the psychological damage the six-year-old Cuban boy may have suffered - first through the loss of his mother, then through the tug-of-war of the custody battle and the dramatic pre-dawn raid by armed federal officers in Miami.

The way that Elian's case symbolised the tension between the US and Cuba was noted in many of the emails.

'Political pawn'

"This child has become a political pawn in an adults' world," wrote Penny Mellor in the UK.

Police arrest Miami demonstrator
Hundreds protested over the raid in Miami
"I cannot envisage a more frightening experience for Elian and the other children present in that house than masked officers running around with weapons."

While some emails praised the armed raid others condemned it as heavy-handed and inappropriate.

Raid 'over the top'

"Swat teams trashing the house in a pre-dawn raid and tearing a terrified child from the people that comforted him in his time of need was really over the top," wrote Val in the USA.

One recurring phrase in emails criticising the raid was: "I'm ashamed to be an American."

But according to P Julian in Australia, the federal agents "should be praised for releasing Elian without causing harm to anyone".

There was criticism of the US Government over the affair, with many emails arguing that it had allowed Elian's case to become a political football, exploited by both Cuba's veteran communist leader Fidel Castro and staunchly anti-Castro Cuban Americans.


"Castro won, Clinton lost, the Miami relatives lost, and the trauma to Elian psychologically was forgotten by everyone," commented Bernard Schneider in the USA.

On the other hand, many of the emails voiced satisfaction that Elian had finally been reunited with his father, albeit after a long and painful delay.

Elian and his father
Elian reunited with his father Juan Gonzalez
"Every day that child was separated from his father and in legal limbo was doing far more damage to him than what happened this morning. This action was long overdue," said Aaron Gordon in Canada.

Role of Miami relatives

Elian's Miami relatives came in for much criticism. They were accused of defying the rule of law and of acting selfishly over Elian.

"The US authorities had no option but to seize the child. The Miami relatives enjoyed basking in their 'star' status. They should hang their heads in shame for what they put Elian through," wrote Kali in the UK.

"There was no way those relatives in Miami were going to relinquish their claims on that poor brainwashed child," commented H. Calkins in the USA.

"It should never have come to this in the first place. He should have been returned immediately."

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See also:

22 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Elian seized
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Anger and grief in Miami
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Cuba welcomes Elian raid
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Janet Reno's statement
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Analysis: Elian divides America
22 Apr 00 | Talking Point
Elian: Was force necessary?
12 Apr 00 | Americas
What awaits Elian in Cuba?
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