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The BBC's Nick Bryant
"The political fallout for the Elian custody case is still being felt in Washington"
 real 28k

Thursday, 27 April, 2000, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Cuban support group joins Elian
Elian's cousin
Elian's cousin, Yasmani Betancourt Valentin, en route to US
Shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez has been joined in the United States by a cousin and a former teacher from Cuba at a rural retreat east of Washington DC.

While the battle for custody of Elian moves to the courts, his 10-year-old cousin, Yasmani Betancourt Valentin, and a former teacher, Agueda Cecilia Fleitas, arrived at the Carmichael Farm residence of the Wye River Conference Centre in Maryland.

Elian was reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, on Saturday after five months in the care of relatives in Miami.

Federal agents seized the six-year-old in a dramatic armed raid when the Miami relatives refused to hand him over.

An Atlanta court is scheduled to consider an appeal by the Miami relatives to win a political asylum hearing for the boy on 11 May.

The court last week ordered Elian to remain in the US pending appeals.


Elian, his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, step-mother and baby half-brother on Wednesday spent a second day sheltered from television crews, protesters and the Miami relatives who are still campaigning to win custody of the boy.

Juan Miguel and Elian Gonzalez
Psychologists say father and son need more private time
The relatives, vehement opponents of the regime in Havana, say Elian should not be forced to grow up in communist Cuba.

The idea behind the visit of the cousin and teacher is to help to readjust to an expected future in Cuba.

According to reports, visas for more Cuban visitors have been issued. The visas allow a stay of two weeks.

Legal battle

Elian's father has filed an emergency motion seeking the sole right to speak for his son before the courts.

The motion marked the first direct use by Juan Miguel Gonzalez of the US court system in his custody battle with his Miami relatives.

Security is tight around the Gonzalez family's new base
Greg Craig, the attorney for Mr Gonzalez, asked the court to reject a bid by the boy's great-uncle and former temporary guardian, Lazaro Gonzalez, to have his lawyers and doctors see Elian and speak for him before the court.

"Whatever the motives of Lazaro Gonzalez and his kin may be, it is sadly obvious that Elian indeed has been made the unwilling pawn on the chessboards of United States-Cuba relations, politics and innumerable other agendas," the motion said.

'Private time'

A child psychiatrist who interviewed Elian for the US Government has recommended that the Miami relatives should not meet the boy until they have reconciled with his father.

There was outrage among the Miami relatives at Elian's seizure
A Justice Department spokeswoman said that Dr Paulina Kernberg of Cornell University Medical College had interviewed Elian.

The psychologist reported that "Elian is doing very well" but "needs more private time with his family", the spokeswoman said.

"She believes that before the Miami relatives see Elian, they need to work out their differences with Juan Miguel."

No video of raid

NBC, the American television network, is asking the federal government to explain why one of its cameramen who tried to cover last weekend's raid to seize Elian Gonzalez was prevented from taking pictures.

The cameraman, Tony Zumbado, was pushed down during the raid and no video was recorded inside the house of Elian's Miami relatives as the raid took place.

A photographer recorded several still pictures for the Associated Press agency, including an image of a federal agent pointing an automatic rifle in the direction of the six-year-old boy as he reaches to grab him.

This image has become the symbol of the Cuban-American community's outrage at the seizure of Elian.

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See also:

26 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Elian strike
27 Apr 00 | Americas
What would await Elian in Cuba?
22 Apr 00 | Americas
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24 Apr 00 | Americas
US media debates dawn raid
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Reno's role in Elian saga
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