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Elian to Grandmothers: I Miss Mom

May 15, 2000

HAVANA (AP) _ Elian Gonzalez wished his grandmothers a happy Mother’s Day but said during a telephone message that was videotaped and shown later Sunday here on state television that he missed his mother.

``Congratulations!″ Elian told his maternal grandmother Raquel Rodriguez in a telephone call captured on videotape Sunday morning. He told her he had drawn her a flower on her special Mother’s Day card.

``Everyone is here,″ the 6-year-old said in the call from the farm in Maryland where he is staying with his father, stepmother, half-brother and playmates from Cuba. ``Everyone is here but my mama. She’s missing″

Rodriguez is the mother of Elian’s mother, who died in the fatal sea journey last November. She appeared to weep during the few minutes of the call shown during an evening television show.

The broadcast was among the most personal and touching of the programs aired in recent weeks on the Elian Gonzalez case.

Dressed in their Sunday best, Rodriguez and Elian’s paternal grandmother Mariela Quintana sat in a television studio decorated with fresh flowers while watching the tape of their call with Elian. They were also shown a series of interviews conducted with children from across the island offering love and encouragement.

``Don’t worry, Elian will be back with you soon,″ a boy of about 10 said. ``And you shouldn’t feel alone: all of the Cuban people are behind you. ″

Mother’s Day has special significance in Cuba and during the day it is not uncommon for complete strangers to greet women in the street with a Mother’s Day greeting.

At the end of the show, the grandmothers were given floral bouquets wrapped in ribbons and cellphone, and a big cake.

During the show, Elian’s godmother, Lourdes Martell, from his hometown of Cardenas, remembered the 6-year-old’s mother Elisabeth, who perished in the sea journey that led to the international custody dispute over the boy.

``Elisabeth was a good mother, a good daughter, a good woman,″ Martell said. ``I admired her very much.″

Martell’s statement appeared to contradict arguments by attorneys for Elian’s Miami relatives, who have said that if Elian is returned to Cuba he will be taught that his mother was a traitor to the communist revolution.

Fidel Castro’s government all along has portrayed Elian’s mother as a good person, and said she was bullied into taking her son on the journey by her boyfriend.

Elian was rescued off the coast of Florida in late November after his mother and 10 others died when their boat sank during an illegal journey from Cuba to the United States.

Elian was reunited with his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez in the United States last month after an armed federal raid on the Miami relatives’ home where they boy had been staying.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, one step below the U.S. Supreme Court, heard arguments Thursday on a request by Elian’s Miami relatives that a political asylum hearing be held for the boy. Father and son must remain in the United States pending the ruling, which is not expected for several weeks.

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