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U.S. To Contact Cuban Boy’s Dad

December 8, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hoping to defuse a conflict with Cuba, the Clinton administration said Tuesday night it recognizes a father’s right to assert his claim to bring his 6-year-old son back home to Cuba.

State Department spokesman James Foley said the Immigration and Naturalization Service will contact Juan Miguel Gonzalez ``to explain the process by which it will evaluate his rights in the case″ of his son, Elian Gonzalez.

The statement followed increasingly strident demands by Cuba for the return of the boy, who arrived unaccompanied in South Florida late last month after a boat sank as it made way from the island to the United States.

``We are committed to working with the family of Elian Gonzalez, including the father, and all relevant Cuban officials to achieve an appropriate resolution to the case,″ Foley said.

Elian’s mother and stepfather died in the attempt to flee to the United States. His father, who lives in Cuba, has insisted on the boy’s return.

Foley repeated a statement he issued Monday in which he said the United States will not be intimidated by Cuban pressure to return the boy. Sunday morning, President Fidel Castro demanded the boy’s return within 72 hours.

The deadline would pass early Wednesday. Mass protests were being prepared near the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba to press for Elian’s return.

Foley also reaffirmed that the Cuban government would be held responsible for any harm to U.S. citizens or damage to the U.S. mission resulting from the protests.

``The government of Cuba has assured us that it will fulfill its obligation to protect international diplomatic missions and their personnel,″ Foley said.

Cuba has accused the U.S. government of kidnaping Elian, who was found on Nov. 25 clinging to an inner tube off the coast of Fort Lauderdale.

Elian’s mother and stepfather were among 11 people who died when their overloaded powerboat sank Thanksgiving week during an attempt to flee to South Florida.

U.S. officials said the attempt was a case of alien smuggling.

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