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Elian’s Hometown Becoming Impatient

April 21, 2000

CARDENAS, Cuba (AP) _ For people here in Elian Gonzalez’s hometown, the solution seems simple: Take the 6-year-old boy from the house where he is staying in Miami and reunite him with his father.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that Elian must remain in the United States until the court decides whether he should get an asylum hearing, aggravating impatience in this town 60 miles east of Havana.

Adding to the frustration is the failure to reunite the boy with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who went to the United States two weeks ago but has not yet seen the boy.

``Now it’s time to do something. I don’t see any other way. He has to be taken out,″ said Belkis Rodriguez, a 31-year-old accountant with two children.

In Miami, ``they say that if they go in and take him it will cause him harm, but they don’t say how much harm all this is doing to him: the interviews, demonstrations. That causes him more harm than if a battalion went in.″

Elian was found clinging to an inner tube off the Florida coast in November after his mother and several others died in the attempt to reach the United States.

He has been staying with his great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, who has fought to keep the child in the United States even though U.S. officials revoked Elian’s temporary custody last week. The father wants to bring him back to the family home in Cardenas.

``It only takes a moment. Grab the boy and bring him to the father,″ said Calixto Felipe, a retired construction worker.

He complained that Attorney General Janet Reno had been slow to act.

``What you have is driveling,″ with much talk but little action, said Felipe, 70, in his wood-walled house adorned with portraits of President Fidel Castro and revolutionary hero Ernesto ``Che″ Guevara.

Walls and doors throughout Cardenas, a city of 70,000 people, are plastered with posters bearing Elian’s image. People here follow every development in the case of the child who has become the town’s most famous son.

His school desk remains empty and waiting, and a small museum dedicated to the case has been set up.

Fellow students and his teachers appear regularly on state television. The government has asked the United States to let them visit so that Elian will see familiar faces from home when he finally leaves the Miami house.

``What Reno has to do is order in her people and it’s over, but every day there are more excuses,″ said Hilda Ordonez. ``They should have acted from the first day. What the father must feel is powerlessness.″

On Thursday in Washington, Juan Miguel Gonzalez asked the U.S. people to urge their leaders to return the boy.

``Don’t let them continue to abuse my son,″ he said, referring to the Miami relatives who have been caring for Elian since November.

The Cuban government, meanwhile, kept up its campaign of rallies demanding the child’s return. Roughly 100,000 supporters gathered Thursday, chanting and waving flags in front of the U.S. Interests Section here.

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