Cuban official says Elian won't be used for propaganda

Castro aide says boy will not be exploited

April 10, 2000|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- A senior Cuban official promised yesterday that if 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez returns to Cuba with his father, the Cuban government will not exploit the boy for propaganda purposes.

"We are not going to parade him," said Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly and a top aide to Cuban President Fidel Castro, on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."

"We are not going to use him as those people in Miami have been doing for more than four months," Alarcon said. "He will return to his home with his father and his family."

Alarcon's remarks represent the most authoritative statement by the Cuban government on what Elian's future will be like if he goes back to the island. Alarcon appeared to be trying to dispel speculation that Castro might stage some showy political displays alongside Elian after his return.

Elian left Cuba with his mother in November when she tried to flee by boat to the United States. She died in a shipwreck along with 10 others, and the boy was rescued on Thanksgiving Day in waters off Fort Lauderdale, Fla., by two fishermen. He has been living with Cuban-American relatives in Miami ever since, while his father, who lives in Cuba, has been seeking to regain custody.

The two fishermen met yesterday with Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, 31, a hotel doorman who flew to Washington last week. Afterward, both men said they were convinced the father has an emotional bond with his son.

"I came here to satisfy my own heart," said one of the fishermen, Sam Ciancio. "I am leaving here satisfied."

Justice Department officials have said that Gonzalez should be able to regain custody of his son this week.

On the NBC show, Gregory Craig, the lawyer representing Elian's father, made it plain that he does not want his client to have to go into Miami and its anti-Castro Cuban community in order to take custody of his child.

"The circumstances in Miami are so fragile, so passionate, so emotional that it would be bad for Elian, and we have ruled that out," Craig asserted. "... There's a variety of alternative places that we'd be willing to consider."

Last week, Attorney General Janet Reno announced that a team of psychologists would meet with the Miami relatives tomorrow as one of the last steps before Elian is turned over to his father.

Yesterday, however, Elian's Miami relatives said that Marisleysis Gonzalez, the 21-year-old family member who has taken the lead role in caring for the boy, is in a hospital with stomach ailments and may not be able to keep the meeting tomorrow with the psychologists.

Because of her illness, Elian's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, asked in a letter to Reno that the meeting "be scheduled on a tentative basis." Attorney General Eric Holder suggested that even if the meeting does not take place, U.S. officials may move ahead anyway to return the boy to his father.

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