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The BBC's Tom Gibb
"Several hundred thousand Cubans attended a rally in Revolution Square"
 real 28k

Monday, 1 May, 2000, 20:32 GMT 21:32 UK
Millions demand Elian's return

A "harder edge" to this year's May Day rallies
Millions of Cubans have attended rallies around the country to demand the return from the United States of six-year-old shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez.



Not even Dante could have described the hell Elian has been through

President Fidel Castro
There were brass bands, songs and speeches - most of them anti-American.

Meanwhile in the US, in the aftermath of Elian's seizure by federal agents 10 days ago, a row deepened between the Mayor of Miami and another top city official.

Hundreds of thousands of people converged on Havana's Revolution Plaza for a rally.

Many had pictures of Elian, the boy at the centre of an international custody battle, pinned to their shirts.

President Fidel Castro, in his first May Day speech for many years, said the annual march had been given a harder edge this year because of the battle for Elian.

Phone call

In a piece of pure theatre he called up Elian's father on a mobile phone so he could pass on greetings to the crowd.


Castro speaks to Elian's father
On the phone to Elian's father
"It is Juan Miguel," President Castro said holding the telephone. "He says, 'Congratulations. Many thanks.'"

His words were greeted by an enormous roar of approval from the crowd.

And in a reference to Elian, he added: "Not even Dante could have described the hell he has been through."

Court battle

Cuba has seen massive deomonstrations demanding the return of Elian since November, when the boy was found floating on an inner tube off the Florida coast following a boating accident that killed his mother and 10 others.

His Miami relatives are fighting to keep him in the United States while his father wants to take the child back to Cuba.

Elian and father
Elian and his father were reunited last week
Elian was reunited with his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez in Washington last week after a dramatic raid on his Miami relatives' home.

The raid has been bitterly criticised by South Florida's large Cuban-American community, as well as by conservative members of Congress.

Father and son must stay in the United States pending an 11 May appeals court hearing.

Elian's Miami relatives have demanded a political asylum hearing for the child.

Miami political battle

Miami Mayor Joe Carollo on Monday accused the city's outgoing City Manager of attempting to blackmail him.

Mayor Carollo also ordered an investigation into allegations that the City Manager, Donald Warshaw, had misused city funds.

Mr Warshaw was fired by the mayor last week for failing to fire the city's head of police.

The head of police had angered the mayor by not informing him of the seizure of Elian ahead of the operation.

Mayor Carollo, a Cuban-American himself, has been a vocal supporter of attempts by the boy's Miami relatives to keep Elian in the US.

"The city manager sent an extortion demand to me that if I fired him he would take me out as mayor... would file criminal charges against me and I would lose my pension," Mayor Carollo said.

"No city manager should be allowed to extort a mayor in any city in America."

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See also:

26 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Elian strike
29 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian protests split Miami
28 Apr 00 | Americas
Police chief quits over Elian row
27 Apr 00 | Americas
What would await Elian in Cuba?
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Analysis: Elian divides America
23 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian sparks heated emails
24 Apr 00 | Americas
US media debates dawn raid
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