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Miami Cubans Deal With Elian Leaving

June 29, 2000

MIAMI (AP) _ The neighborhood that once boiled with rage over Elian Gonzalez is finally quiet.

The 6-year-old Cuban boy returned to his homeland Wednesday, leaving from Washington with his father. He hadn’t lived here for two months, not since federal agents whisked him away from the Little Havana house his Miami relatives wanted him to call home.

The relatives have moved, seeking privacy. And the crowd that gathered at the bungalow where Elian lived for five months was small, shouting and crying as the boy’s plane left before dispersing.

``I was crying all day. I feel betrayed,″ said Ismary Sosa, a 40-year-old travel agent. ``I’ve lived in this country since I was 3 years old, and I believe in the laws. But there’s no justice in this case.″

It was a stark contrast to the crowds of protesters that took to the streets after federal agents stormed the home and seized Elian in a pre-dawn raid on April 22. They halted traffic and set bonfires in the roads. Police in riot gear responded by using tear gas. More than 350 people were arrested.

Officials didn’t want a similar scenario Wednesday and they didn’t see one. Cuban-American leaders in Miami warned that violence would not be tolerated.

Elian was rescued from the Atlantic Ocean on Thanksgiving Day after a boat leaving Cuba for Miami sank, killing his mother and 10 others. He stayed with his Miami relatives until the federal raid. The case finally wound up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to allow the boy to stay.

Many in Little Havana seemed to accept the decision.

``He had his day in court. That’s it,″ said Octavio Oliu, a 54-year-old Cuban-born engineer. ``I would have been upset if he hadn’t had his day in court. As a citizen of this country, that’s all I can ask, that he have his day in court.″

Still, some feel the saga isn’t over.

``He came to complete a mission here and now he is going to complete it over there,″ said Delfin Gonzalez, Elian’s great-uncle.

Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the Cuban group Democracy Movement, said community leaders and activists are planning a July 14 flotilla from Key West to the waters off Cuba.

``We can’t stand by and do nothing,″ Sanchez said. ``Today was a sad day for all of us and a day of frustration. When the boy landed in Cuba, Fidel Castro lost his only point of contention between the exiles.

``Now we’ll bring the focus back on him. The most important weapon we have is the courage to stand up to a government as cruel as Cuba.″

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