Cuban boy moves to Md. Shore

Elian, his father and stepmother in seclusion at Wye

Boy's playmates to visit

Senate GOP leader orders hearings into armed entry of home

April 26, 2000|By Jean Marbella, Karen Hosler and Chris Guy | Jean Marbella, Karen Hosler and Chris Guy,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

The odyssey of Elian Gonzalez continued yesterday with the boy and his family leaving Andrews Air Force Base, their home since he was taken from Miami relatives by federal agents early Saturday, and moving into private quarters at the Aspen Institute on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott ordered public hearings next week on Elian's seizure from the home in Miami's Little Havana, contending that Attorney General Janet Reno needs to explain why heavily armed federal agents were sent to retrieve him even as negotiations for a peaceful transfer were under way.

In Miami, the outrage of many Cuban-Americans was vented yesterday in a general strike that shut down Little Havana, but not the rest of the city.

Elian, his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, his stepmother, Nercy, and his baby half-brother, Hianny, were surreptitiously moved into a quiet home belonging to Nina Rodale Houghton, about two miles north of the Aspen Institute's Wye River Conference Centers, which was initially thought to be their destination.

Houghton is the widow of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., a wealthy industrialist and arts patron who donated his more than 1,100-acre estate on the Wye River to the Aspen Institute in 1979 and died in 1990. Nina Houghton, a legendary, low-key hostess on the Shore, is chairman of the Wye Institute, which is part of the Aspen Institute. The institute is a nonprofit center for education and conferences on world issues. She was recently appointed to the Board of Regents that governs the University System of Maryland.

The residence is known as Carmichael Farm, although yesterday afternoon a workman covered its sign with one identifying it as Aspen Institute. Located at the end of a quarter-mile driveway lined with maples and dogwoods, the property is blocked from public access by a wooden fence marked "Private" and now, with Elian's arrival yesterday afternoon, a contingent of U.S. marshals.

Houghton would not comment on her latest houseguests. Nor would U.S. marshals or the Aspen Institute comment on why the family is living at Houghton's home rather than one of the conference center houses.

The Gonzalez family is expecting company soon: Elian's father requested that four of his son's playmates from their hometown of Cardenas, Cuba, be allowed to visit. State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said the visas would be expedited for the four kids, each accompanied by an adult, to stay with Elian for about two weeks.

Additionally, a teacher and a cousin who previously were granted visas were planning to fly to the United States today.

The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, a supporter of Juan Miguel Gonzalez's effort to be reunited with his son, said Elian's hometown visitors will help create "a sense of normalcy for him about the life he has led and will lead."

The home is the latest refuge for a boy who has been at the heart of an intense international tug of war that started when he was discovered on Thanksgiving Day clinging to an inner tube in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. He had survived the capsizing of a rickety boat that killed his mother and 10 other Cubans trying to escape their homeland.

Afterward, Elian lived with relatives in Miami who refused to give him up despite the pleas of his father and the orders of the U.S. government, saying they feared he would be returned to Communist Cuba.

Elian has been largely kept from the public eye since being taken from the relatives early Saturday and reunited with his father at Andrews later that morning. His seclusion has stood in marked contrast to his several-times daily appearances outside the Little Havana home of his Miami relatives, who are continuing their fight to see him. They await an appellate court's ruling on whether the boy can seek asylum in the United States against his father's wishes. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has scheduled a hearing May 11.

If Andrews, as a military facility, kept a tight lock on access to the little boy, the Aspen Institute has indicated that it will be no more open.

The nonprofit institute would say only this yesterday: "Today, Elian Gonzalez and his family have been relocated to the Aspen Institute while awaiting the outcome of the Court of Appeals decision. The Aspen Institute provides a private, retreat setting conducive to reflection. Aspen Institute campuses offer retreat environments, away from the disruptions of the outside world. We receive confidential requests from time to time for the use of our facilities where the need for such a setting is paramount. As a matter of policy we do not comment on such requests."

Carmichael Farm, built in 1920, is situated on a 50-acre site. It is a cozy, colonial-style home with dark paneling and shelf after shelf of books, according to a one-time visitor.

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