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Court Keeps Elian in U.S. For Now

April 20, 2000

HAVANA (AP) _ Cuba claimed Wednesday that anti-communist groups planned to use force to prevent federal officials from taking Elian Gonzalez from the Miami house where he is staying.

Fernando Remirez, head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, said men armed with shotguns are stationed permanently at a house close to that of Lazaro Gonzalez, the great-uncle who has custody of the boy, according to a text of his remarks read on Cuban television.

``Their objective is to block U.S. authorities from taking Elian from the house,″ it said.

Miami police spokesman Delrish Moss said no armed men have been sighted and that a home near the Gonzalez house was checked for guns.

``We checked those rumors and they’re untrue,″ he said. He also said federal officials have not given any indication that they are going to do anything in the ``next few days or the next few seconds.″

Reporters outside the house also said they haven’t seen anyone armed.

Cuban journalist Lazaro Barredo said the text of Remirez’s statement had been sent to the U.S. State Department, as a show of concern for the life of the 6-year-old boy at the center of a custody battle that has become a battleground between friends and foes of Cuban President Fidel Castro.

A State Department duty officer said he had heard nothing about the letter.

Also Wednesday, Cubans expressed disappointment with a court ruling in Atlanta that said Elian should stay in the United States while an argument about a possible asylum request is resolved.

``The problem is Clinton. Clinton is guilty,″ insisted 59-year-old parking lot attendant Francisco Hernandez, referring to the U.S. president.

Elian ``should return because he is Cuban,″ Hernandez said.

In Cuba’s first official reaction to the court ruling, Remirez and Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon said the judgment ``ignored the opinions of judges, psychologists and pediatricians″ about the boy’s welfare.

In a joint statement read over television, they said that the U.S. government should have settled the case administratively by turning Elian over to his father four months ago.

``The U.S. government knows... of the dangers the boy runs and is responsible for his security,″ their statement said.

Cuban state television has broadcast almost daily reaction and commentary on the case since Elian was found off the coast of Florida in late November following a shipwreck that killed his mother. His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, has gone to the United States to reclaim the boy, saying he wants to bring him back to Cuba.

While news of the ruling had not reached the streets of Havana earlier in the day, Cubans told of it by a foreign reporter expressed support for the child’s return to Cuba.

``This has to end,″ said Nancy Andino Diaz, 38, a cook. ``He has to return because his father speaks for him. How is it that this has lasted four months?″

``It’s a crime that he is there,″ said Norka Mena, 66. She said the case should be settled because it has caused ``so much bitterness″ for Elian’s family.

``It’s an abuse what they are doing with that boy,″ said her sister Dinora Mena, 63. ``I’d kill for my granddaughter,″ she said.

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