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Larry King Live

Will the Saga of Elian Gonzalez End in Violence?

Aired April 13, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, will the relatives of Elian Gonzalez be forced to give him up? And if so, what's going to happen in the streets of Miami?

We'll hear from Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who's chairman of the Senate Judiciary. In Miami, we'll be joined by Spencer Eig, attorney for the Gonzalez family. In Miami, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, who's in front of the house where Elian is right now. In Washington, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California; plus, Gloria Estefan's niece Lili, who left Cuba 20 years ago. They and more all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We'll begin in this portion with Mayor Penelas in Miami and also will be with us will be Senator Orrin Hatch in Washington.

Mayor, what is the latest on the furor there? What can you tell us about what's going on right now?

MAYOR ALEX PENELAS (D), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, Larry, let me tell you something, it was a roller-coaster day here in Miami. As you know, we woke up this morning expecting some sort of action taking place at 2:00 p.m. Rumors were that federal agents would actually come to the home and take the boy away. It was a very tense moment. Obviously, the temporary injunction that was filed and approved by the 11th circuit early this afternoon has really helped ease tensions significantly.

KING: Now, is it probable that they will rule tomorrow on whether Mrs. Reno has the right to take the boy? Is that your guess?

PENELAS: Well, it's very possible. The way I read the order, a single judge from the 11th Circuit issued the temporary injunction, but indicated that was only valid until such time as a full three- member panel had an opportunity to hear the request for temporary injunction. The order further states that the government has until 9:30 tomorrow morning to file their response.

So hypothetically, it is possible that this three-member panel will meet tomorrow. They could rule tomorrow. They could rule early next week.

KING: Mayor, do you fear the worst here? By that I mean, do you fear a mob scene? PENELAS: No, Larry, I really don't. And I think it's been unfair to a certain extent that people have characterized what's been happening here as a mob scene. People have been protesting peacefully. What you see here near the home is a permitted protest. People have been acting in a very orderly fashion. They feel strongly about this issue, Larry. You know about it. You're talk a about 41 years of frustrations, 41 years of having been separated from their family members, 41 years seeing their love ones lost on the streets of Florida. And they feel as if the boy's legal rights are being somehow limited. So there's a lot of emotion and there's a lot of frustration, but people, I think, have been behaving very appropriately over the course of this last two or three weeks.

KING: Senator Hatch, do you expect the rule of law to prevail no matter how it comes down?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, it should, but there are differing interpretations what the rule of law is. For instance, there's a real question why due process and asylum custody matters are not taken into consideration? In asylum cases, the attorney general hasn't followed her own rules and her own laws with regard to asylum, and this has caused a lot of problems. These continual demands for, you know, deadlines that have been set that really -- that are difficult to enforce.

KING: But if it comes right down to it, senator, will -- if, let's say, they say that child deserves to be with his father and go back, will that prevail?

HATCH: Well, there's still a question what's going to happen tomorrow on the TRO -- the temporary restraining order. That, apparently, is going to be heard at 9:30 a.m.. I don't know where it goes from there. I don't know what -- how they're going to put together the three-judge panel, but I think we're a far cry from having this done.

There's another rule that's been broken: Whenever there's a private relief bill filed by a Judiciary Committee or anybody in Congress, we have an agreement with the attorney general and with the Justice Department. It's an informal agreement, it's not a legal agreement, but it's one that's always been honored to, my knowledge, where that child, until the matter is resolved, that child is permitted to stay until the end of that particular Congress. In this case, I don't know why, but in this case, suddenly, the attorney general takes the position this doesn't fit within the same standards as the prior private relief bill. Well, I think it does. And I think we ought to resolve this, we ought to restrain ourselves and do what is in the best interests of the child.

There are certainly two sides to this. I've heard both sides, and I have to tell you, naturally, you presume that the father has a right to the child. On the other hand, keep in mind the people in Miami and in South Florida, the Cuban Community, many of them were children who were sent over by their parents so that they could have freedom, and so that's why they feel so deeply about this. KING: One other thing, Mr. Mayor: Did you say, or were you quoted incorrectly, that you would not ask the police to assist should that boy have to be given to his father?

PENELAS: Well, it's not the role of local government, as you well know, Larry, to execute federal orders. However, I want to make it very clear that our local law enforcement agencies will keep the public order. I've said that since the very beginning, and I think, quite frankly, the last several days has demonstrated that we will not tolerate, in any way, shape, or form, any civil disorder, any unrest, any violence, and we are prepared to deal with that if it were to happen.

KING: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. We'll hold Senator Hatch and come right back with Senator Orrin Hatch. He's chairman of Senate Judiciary. We'll also be joined in a little while by Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, president of Barry University, who has been part of this, certainly in the last few days, to a great extent.

Don't go away.


JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am prepared to enforce the law, but I want to be clear, that if we're compelled to enforce our order, we intend to do so in a reasonable, measured way, the approach that we have always taken in this matter. We have the authority to take action, but responsible authority means not only being able to take action, but knowing when and how to take that action.



KING: We're going to spend some more moments with Senator Hatch, and then we'll talk with Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, who has been a part of this, and I guess will be very glad when it's over.

When it comes right down to it Senator Hatch, though, first privilege is -- you're a father. It's his kid, ain't it?

HATCH: Yes, it really is. And there's a presumption that the parent should have the child. Keep in mind, though, the mother gave her life so that this boy could have freedom.

KING: Yes, but all of that is...

HATCH: Wait a minute. I admit that's all passed, but let me just make my point: There still has to be some determination, it seems to me, if there's any equity in this matter at all, as to what is in the best interests of the child. And it isn't just -- it goes with the father no matter what happens, it's what's in the best interests of the child.

I suggested this past week that the attorney general, that we could pass a bill that would put this matter in the federal district court where they could hold a child custody hearing that would defuse the matter, where they could bring the -- get an agreement from the Cuban community and from the family that if this is handled in the federal district court and that both sides are allowed to be heard and every case is allowed to be made and due process is there, then whatever the court decides would be the rule, and everybody would live by it. I think that's a way to resolve this. If they don't want to use a district court, let's use a master. If they don't (AUDIO GAP) let's have the family pick an arbitrator. Let's have the Justice Department pick one, the two of them pick a third, and -- but let's get people so they agree that a final decision is going to be made in this matter, which is in the best interests of the child, and whatever that is, if it's going with the father, we're -- people will have to accept it then. But the way it's being done, Larry...

KING: Do you...

HATCH: The way the attorney general is doing it is she keeps setting deadlines, which exacerbates the problem, increases the tensions, and could lead to some very disastrous results here, and not in the best interests of anybody, certainly not due process, certainly not for this child. So these are some of the suggestions I have, and I really believe -- she indicated to me that she felt that, well, if we did that, it would set a bad -- it would set a bad situation for future kidnappings.

But this is not a kidnapping. This is a case where the child was rescued by fishermen, who was brought to his family members who have taken care of him. Sister -- Marisleysis has done a wonderful job with that. And now they're concerned about whether the father, who seems to have Secret Service people everywhere he goes, isn't even given a chance to meet with the child by himself and with his family, without interference and in a way that -- and with the family in a way that where he might be able to make up his own mind on these matters.

KING: Right. Thank you, Senator Hatch, as always. Senator Orrin Hatch, he's chairman of Senate Judiciary, and he's got some solutions that so far haven't taken place.

Now let's talk with Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, president of Barry University. Sister, it's good to see you again.

Where is the boy right now?


KING: What was that meeting like last night?

O'LAUGHLIN: It was a solemn affair in the sense that the family members shared with Janet -- or the attorney general their deepest concerns, their deepest hopes. One by one, they told their stories, and it was listened to with great reverence by the attorney general as well as the commissioner. It was heart rending for me as I listened to some of the stories of their own experiences, and it helps you to understand their concern and their worries about the environment that Elian would have in Cuba. KING: Can -- in your opinion -- and as certainly the head of one of the fine Catholic institutions in this country -- is this peacefully resolvable?

O'LAUGHLIN: You know, Larry, I have never prayed so diligently for something in my life. I just sat at that table just in deep, deep prayer, and I think it can be resolved peacefully if we can get the family, both families, into one room and let them air it, let them scream or holler or do whatever has to be done, and I believe I heard from each family member around that table that they loved Juan, their cousin. Some of them, Marisleysis, particularly, said that she had been with him in her growing up years.

And you were right and the senator was correct in saying that their concern is that he is still not allowed to speak freely, and I believe if you could get them together -- and then if he makes the choice, yes, I do freely want to return to Cuba, I believe if that would be even the end result of a three-day or whatever length of rejoining with family would take, I think that the family would accept that. I think that...

KING: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

O'LAUGHLIN: Excuse me. I think that there is within them and within the Cuban-American community a sense that this particular child was not given the true justice that he deserved through the courts. I think the court -- the federal court, the appeal -- I think those -- if those can work their way through, I believe that this family will abide by the decision.

KING: Sister, you said Hialeah. They're in Little Havana, right, the family?

O'LAUGHLIN: Little Havana. I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

KING: Hialeah has a large Cuban community as well.

Are you optimistic?

O'LAUGHLIN: I have to be. The life of every child is so vital to this world, and I pray and hope that the day will come that every child who is misplaced and lost will get this much attention, but if we fail at this one, I fear for the children that will follow him. This probably will be a case that will haunt us forever. It's a human tragedy.

It is the saddest story that I have experienced in my 55 years as a nun. And it is so complex, and it's pulled so many ways, and the pain that has -- it has engendered in people of good will and the passion of which it has been brought up is just a very awesome thing.

KING: Yes, thank you very much, Sister. Thank you for all you do as well. Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, president of Barry University, thank you.

O'LAUGHLIN: OK, thanks, Larry. Thank you. KING: Barry University in the heart of Miami Beach, Florida.

When we come back, we'll assemble a panel, a diversified panel to discuss all of this. We'll include some of your phone calls as well. Don't go away.


GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: Juan Miguel Gonzalez came to this country eight days ago expecting to be reunited with his son. Since he arrived, he has had to live the nightmare that he most dreaded. While waiting here for his son to be returned to him, he has been forced to watch Elian, exploited by those who have him in their care on the morning shows, on national television, in the streets of Miami, and now, most recently in a videotape taken of Elian in his own bedroom. Not only have these relatives broken the law, they have emotionally damaged and exploited this most wonderful little boy.



KING: This very volatile subject, we now welcome our panel. They are Lili Estefan. She's at our Miami bureau. She's the niece of the famed Gloria Estefan. She's the host of her own program on Univision, the major Spanish-speaking network in this country, and she's a journalist with them.

Joining us as well in Washington, D.C. is Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California; in Providence, Rhode Island, Dr. Lewis Lipsitt, professor emeritus of psychology at Brown University, a famed child psychologist; in Washington is our own Greta Van Susteren, CNN legal analyst; in front of the house in Miami is Officer Angel Calzadilla, spokesperson for the Miami Police Department; and in our Miami bureau is Spencer Eig, attorney for the Gonzalez family.

There's a new element in this story, the boy's Miami relatives released a videotape of Elian recorded last night. It shows him on a bed. We're going to show it to you. It's not clear who was in the room with him, whether he was coached or not, but here is the tape. It was received by the Spanish language network, Univision, and translated by CNN. Watch.


ELIAN GONZALEZ (through translation): Dad, I do not want to go to Cuba. If you want to, stay here. I am not going to Cuba.

Dad, you saw that older woman that came to the Sister's house. She wants to see me back in Cuba. I -- tell them -- I am telling you -- you are saying that I want to return to Cuba. But I am telling you now that I do not want to go to Cuba. if you would like, stay here. But I do not want to go to Cuba.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: All right, Dr. Lipsitt, the boy is saying he doesn't want to go to Cuba. I don't mean to be cute, but my nephew today said he didn't want to go to school. He didn't like his teacher, he hated his teacher, and they sent him to school anyway.

Is this tape relevant?

LIPSITT: Well, it's hard to interpret the tape. Having not seen it, I cannot comment specifically on the tape or what the young man was saying.

I think it's very important to realize that this is much more a psychological problem going on than it is a political problem. This is a young fellow, six years of age, who has already experienced a great deal of trauma. It can be expected that he is going to be having some problems over that trauma, both while he was at sea, as it were, and also since his return to the United States, since his coming to the States.

Right now, it's very important for all persons concerned to be sensitive to the psychological nature of his problems and not get so tied up in the political and legal affairs that the child, the boy and those who love him are forgotten in the process. The...

KING: I see. Spencer -- hold on one second, doctor. Spencer, why was the tape released?

EIG: Larry, Elian has been saying these things about his fear of returning to Cuba without exception for five months since he got here. So far, Elian's voice has not been heard. This is what Elian says every day as...


KING: ... Was he unhappy -- is he unhappy with his friends? That he didn't like his school? He didn't like -- what was his fear as expressed when he first came?

EIG: In Cuba, he knew that people were walking around all the time frightened, that it's a scary place, that people are constantly under pressure, that people are constantly informing on each other and that people are not happy. He sees here in this country that people can stand up. People are free. People are happy. People have a future, and even a 6-year-old can tell the difference.

KING: All right. Congressman Waters, shouldn't Elian's thoughts be given consideration?

WATERS: Let's talk like mature adults here, Larry. Anybody that's raised a child, been around children understands their intellectual capacity. This kid did not stop loving his daddy and start talking about he does not want to go to Cuba without having someone put that into his head. That film was outrageous and unconscionable, and for anybody to represent that he came from Cuba thinking that something was wrong there and people weren't free is absolutely outrageous. He did not initiate this. I do not believe it. The way that he carried out the little act that we just saw helps me to understand that he was tutored. He was instructed, and I think any reasonable adult would know that.

As a mother and as a grandmother, I know the difference...

KING: All right, hold it right there. Hold it right there.

WATERS: All right.

KING: We've got a lot of panelists. We'll get everybody in. We'll take a break, come back, and get, first, the thoughts of Lili Estefan on all of this and what she thinks and the rest of the panel as well. Don't go away.


KING: Before we talk with Lili, Officer Calzadilla has to leave us in a couple of minutes. He's a spokesperson for the Miami Police Department. He's on scene at the house. What have the crowds been like tonight, officer?

CALZADILLA: Well, Larry, tonight and all through the day, like the mayor said earlier, it has been a roller coaster of emotions. We saw tensions get really high. We saw that tension turn into celebration. But throughout the day, I'm pleased to be able to report that there have been no incidents, no confrontations, no violence, just a lot of cheering and yelling and a lot of praying.

KING: What will be your role if this comes to federal involvement? What's the police role?

CALZADILLA: Well, Larry, I was born right here in Miami, but obviously, my parents are Cuban. My grandparents are Cuban. And even as a child, they instilled in me the dangers or the fear of communism, how horrible it is on the island, the difference before and after Castro.

So yes, on a personal level, it hurts me to see the child go back, but then again, on a professional level -- and of course when we put on the uniform, my co-workers and I realized that we were sworn to uphold the laws of this country, and we will do so without hesitation. At the same time, some of us might do it with a broken heart.

KING: So law enforcement comes before your own emotions?

CALZADILLA: Absolutely. When we took that oath, we realized that sometimes black officers have to observe a Ku Klux Klan march or maybe a Jewish officer has to defend a Nazi rally. And that's just part of the obligation that makes this country so beautiful, is that everybody does have that right.

KING: Do -- as you know that community, and you know it well, do you expect some problems if it comes to that? CALZADILLA: This group in particular throughout its history has never turned destructive. We believe that the tensions will get higher if no agreement is reached. We're all praying that an agreement is reached where no stranger, whether it's local or federal, has to go into that house and bring out a crying child. Nobody would like to see that. And we think that something will be reached and the crowds here will honor whatever decision is made by the family.

KING: Thank you, officer. Officer Angel Calzadilla on the scene in Miami.

Lili Estefan, you're with Univision. You've been reporting on all this. What's your read on that tape of the boy?

ESTEFAN: Larry, I have to say that I would like to answer Ms. Waters: that yes, I think that all of that has been put into Elian's head, but I don't think it was his family here in Miami. I truly believe that the boy has been listening to this for a long time. I'm sure that in Cuba before leaving with his mother, this is all he heard. We want to leave Cuba. We want to go to Miami. We want to leave Cuba. We want to be in the United States.

It actually makes me think back when I was 6-years-old, and I remember my father talking by phone with my family here in Miami, Gloria and Emilio, and always trying to make a plan. This is what I lived for years. So obviously, when the time came around and I left Cuba and I arrived to the United States, this is a dream come true. This is something that you long for a very long time.

KING: But did you -- was your father with you?

ESTEFAN: My father was with me. In 1977, my mother died, and in 1980, when the Mariel boat lift, we had the opportunity of having Emilio go to Cuba to bring us to the United States.

He was there for approximately two weeks, and I remember Mother's Day of 1980, my father sat me down, me and my brother, and he told me, there is an opportunity of two people getting in that boat, and of course, it's going to be you and your brother.

You have to think that my mother has just died. It was Mother's Day. I was very emotional. And my father, you know, when he broke the news that I was going to be away from him and going to Miami with my family, I wasn't happy. And I remember he told me, one day you will know why I had to make this decision. And 20 years later, Larry, I have to tell you that...

KING: You know.

ESTEFAN: ... he was right.

KING: We'll take a break, and we'll get Greta Van Susteren to get us up to date with her legal analysis of all of this, and then a full panel discussion with all our guests. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GLORIA ESTEFAN, MUSICIAN: Ms. Reno told me specifically that the father is afraid of this community, that he feels it is dangerous. We stand together as a Cuban-American community and offer the father sanctuary as well. He will be safe in Miami. He will be safe anywhere coming to get this child, because we understand that he is also a victim here. We extend our hand to him. Our prayers are with him. We understand he is in a very difficult situation, as everyone is here.


KING: All right, Greta Van Susteren, the police officer said he can't deal with it emotionally. Can the lawyer? How do you view this?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, a lawyer ordinarily shouldn't deal with it emotionally, Larry, but this is a very complicated case. Obviously, if I were the lawyers on behalf of the family in Miami, I would certainly play the emotional card, because the law isn't particularly strong on their side.

What they have done, though, is taken a federal district court judge's order, which was an active order, which said that the child should go to the attorney general and the attorney general then turns it over to the father to go back the to Cuba -- what they have managed to do is convince one appellate judge to put that active order on hold, and what the judge also said is until that hold is lifted, the child cannot leave this country.

But the big hole in that order from that single judge in the court of appeals is, it doesn't say that the attorney general can't take custody of that child in this country. Do I expect that she would do that? No, because I don't think she wants a confrontation.

KING: They could lift that, though, tomorrow morning, couldn't they?

VAN SUSTEREN: They could lift that so fast, everybody's head would spin. You'd never know -- it was one judge, and maybe three judges tomorrow may lift it by 9:31.

KING: Spencer, if it is lifted tomorrow -- that's an if -- what's your next legal move?

EIG: Larry, we'll continue with our appeal. That is only -- our appeal is still pending. We are stilling trying to get Elian his day in court, where the issues of what's in his best interests and what will happen to him in Cuba can be heard in a fair way by the judge. In the meantime, the Gonzalez family here is -- the door is unlocked to federal marshals if they want to come and take the boy into custody, but what the Gonzalez family has said is they will obey, but they will not be made into agents of the INS to deport the boy themselves.

KING: So they won't deliver him? EIG: They will -- they have said what they will do is to -- not to do INS' dirty work for them and not to take away the moral responsibility for this decision from the INS.

KING: Dr. Lipsitt, what can we count are the views of a 6-year- old? In other words, if you were the Solomon in this, do you talk to the boy?

LIPSITT: Yes, I think that both sides have to talk to the boy, Larry. It would be a good idea, as Sister Jeanne said, for everyone, that is both sides of this issue, to get together in a room, she said to yell and shout at each other. I think that they should get into a room and talk to each other like civilized human beings, which I'm sure they all are, and express their love even for each other through this young man for whom they have so much affection.

One of the problems here is that both sides have a great deal of affection for this boy, and they want him, as it were, on their side, and it's a tug-of-war, and the tug-of-war is hurting him. That sort of thing that occurs in custody battles is very harmful to kids, or can be.

KING: He's the loser.

Lili, why can't all of these reasonable people just get together and sit down?

L. ESTEFAN: I think -- my personal opinion -- we also went through many problems in my family. You know, my mother died in Cuba. I truly believe that I got to make -- I got to think that part of her problem was because she couldn't be reunited with her family. She lived a very good life when she was a little kid.

KING: That wasn't the question. The question is, why can't these people all sit down together? Why can't some reasonable person come in and sit them all together?

L. ESTEFAN: It's tough to answer. I believe that they're very resentful of Juan Gonzalez leaving the mother before she even gave birth to Elian. I think there are personal problems there that hasn't, you know -- we don't know about. And it's got to be -- that's why everyone says the family should get together and should talk about it. I believe Juan Gonzalez should come up and say, OK, fine, I'll be in Miami, and I'll do this. He's the father. I don't know why he doesn't want to talk about it.

KING: Maxine, why can't he do that? I know we know about all the laws and everything. Why can't the father go down there? I am sure the people aren't going to harm him. He's the boy's father. They'd be nuts if they harmed him. He didn't do anything wrong. Why won't he go there?

WATERS: Well, I don't know what may or may not happen to him. I think it's absolutely ridiculous to place conditions on a man being able to see his son. He can see his son, they say, if he does this, first it was if he would put his feet on free soil; secondly, it was if he would walk the streets of Miami; third, is was if he would go off into a room with the family and allow them to talk with him. They think they can get him to defect. They are determined that they're going to get this done before they release that child to him.

KING: What's wrong with that?

WATERS: The fact of the matter is -- well, it's his son.

KING: Yes, but what if they can get him to defect? Then he'll be with his father in the United States, they'll be happy, and they'll all be together. Why is that bad?

WATERS: If they're saying, come here and allow us to talk to you and make you defect, and he's saying I do not wish to have you surround me and try and force me to defect, then he's got a right to say that.

More than anything else, the most important issue here is the father and the son, the parental relationship is being violated, is being denied, and every trick and every antic is being employed to try and keep this man from being reunited with his son. He should be pretty angry by now.

KING: Greta, is it inherent in the law pretty much that the other side has to prove it that the father, if the father is alive, or the mother, if the mother is alive and the father dies, that they get the child? Is this pretty standard?

VAN SUSTEREN: Where you start, Larry, is that the father is entitled to his son. If you want to terminate parental rights in the state of Florida, like many states, you must show by clear and convincing evidence that the father is unfit, and that of course we have had no hearing to show that he's unfit. This has been no effort to terminate his parental rights. You know, you hear a lot of people talking about what's in the best interests of the child? Under Florida law, best interests of the child isn't the consideration, unless the battle is between a mother and a father. But here, we don't have a mother and a father. It's simply, in this case, father gets the child unless a court determines by clear and convincing evidence he's unfit to be the father.

KING: I see.

And we'll have Spencer respond to that, and we'll include some phone calls as well, when we come back.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a legal system, and it has been followed, and the decision that was made that Elian Gonzalez's father was a devoted and fit father and proper to speak his son, and therefore, to make decisions for his minor son, was ratified in district court and is now on appeal to a court of appeals. But none of the courts have granted any kind of interim relief which would justify opposition to the plain rule of law.



KING: Spencer Eig, Greta made it pretty clear -- has any court declared the father unfit?

EIG: No court has declared the father unfit, but the father is not the only person that can speak for this child. Somebody else, Elian's mother survived six miscarriages, delivered this child and gave her life so he could find freedom in this country. That speaks louder than words, and that should be something we take seriously in this country.

KING: So the father has no voice? The father has no...

EIG: He should also -- he should -- also has a voice. He's here in this country. He should come to Miami and participate in a process to determine what's in the best interests of this child. He has come to America. He's further away from Elian than he was in Cuba.

The Gonzalez family here wants to sit down with him, no preconditions, in a family meeting, but the meeting that Attorney General Reno offered us last night was a half an hour meeting in which -- after which the child has to be given to Juan Miguel and he's free to return immediately to Cuba, and that's just not fair for Elian. That would be like tearing him away from Marisleysis -- would be like making him lose two mothers in six months.

KING: Let's take a call.

Toronto, Canada, hello?

CALLER: Hello. My question is for Mr. Spencer, the attorney for the -- Elian's family.

KING: Spencer Eig, yes.

CALLER: Yes. My question is, you talk about the best interests of the child and what is not fair for the child and what is. You -- the family removed the child yesterday to bring him to the Miami Beach residence, to bring him away from all the stress and all the chaos that was happening in Little Havana. Why remove him from that and bring him right back into that media, into that chaos? How is that in the best interests of the child?

KING: All right, Spencer?

EIG: Well, that is the child's home. The child is the focus of the attention of the entire community. And those people that are there, especially the Cuban-Americans and others, are witnesses. They know firsthand what kind of a hellish future Elian would face in Cuba, better than I know, better than people in other parts of the country know. These are the witnesses of Elian's future. His future is better in America.

KING: All right, are you sure -- you're saying, Spencer, every child in Cuba faces a hellish future?

EIG: I'll tell you, they all face a hellish future, but the worst future is faced by Elian, because he has become a...

KING: Why?

EIG: Because he has become the symbol that Fidel Castro wants to make, the symbol of the very regime that Elian's mother died to free him from, and to do so, Fidel has to be very careful that Elian doesn't say anything wrong, so he'll have to be brainwashed and watched carefully, taken away even from his father, even from other children, and be sitting right on the lap of the pharaoh while Elian's father has to sit on the pharaoh's feet.

KING: Lewis -- Dr. Lipsitt -- Dr. Lipsitt, what will this do to this boy?

LIPSITT: Well, this is very high drama to assert that the boy is going to enter into some kind of dungeon or hell in going back to Cuba. After all, there are lots of happy kids in Cuba, and there is no reason to expect in advance of any malfeasance or any kind of behavioral problems that he's going to enter into an environment that's going to be harmful to him.

I think the people have to get away from that kind of political rhetoric and look at what is best for the boy, and that can only be done by the two sides talking to one another about their respective attachments and love for the child and coming to a resolution as quickly as possible.

KING: Maxine, do you think...

EIG: Larry, there is a good reason why people...

ESTEFAN: Larry...

KING: All right, well, let's not -- one at a time. One at a time. Let's start with Maxine. But first, Lili, you wanted to say something. Go -- Lili, first.

ESTEFAN: Yes, I wanted to say that he says that there are many happy kids in Cuba.

KING: Sure.

ESTEFAN: But you know why? Because they don't know better. Elian already knows better. After two months I was here in Miami, there was no way that they could take me back to Cuba and I would be happy again. There's no way. People cannot understand this because things in Cuba are so unrealistic that it's like a novel, it's like a soap opera. Elian already knows better. He could never be happy in Cuba again.

KING: OK, is that a good point, Maxine?

LIPSITT: I don't think anybody can possibly say that, that he would never be happy in Cuba.

WATERS: No, that's not a good point to make. As a matter of fact...

KING: Dr. Lipsitt, in other words it's impossible to say that?

WATERS: If you have seen the pictures of Elian and his father at his birthday parties playing with other children, there are just many photos. The father has a great reputation. The mother and the father came together even after divorce to have this child. They loved this child. She loved him dearly. This father loves this child dearly. All this child needs is to be reunited with his father. Of course, he has experienced some difficulty, but nothing that can't be solved with a loving father who will hold him, who will nurture him, who will do the same kinds of things he did with him before he left Cuba. Let him go. Relinquish him.

KING: We'll pick that up -- hold it. Let me get a break, we'll come back, more phone calls and more comments from each of our guests right after this.


KING: Santa Cruz, California, hello.


KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: My question is about the video.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: Don't you think it was obvious from the way Elian's eyes kept shifting off camera that he was being coached by these people?

KING: Was he, Spencer? Spencer?

EIG: Yes, this is what Elian feels. This is -- as Lili has explained to me, this is how children in Cuba feel. They all -- not all, but people in Cuba, they want to be free. This is the beginning of the holiday season of Passover, which is a festival of liberation. It should become one for the people of Cuba also as it was for the Jewish people in Egypt thousands of years ago.

KING: Greta, do we know -- Greta, what do we know legally about the Cuban system that tells us the children there are unhappy?

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, we don't know much, Larry. The only thing I can tell you is that Lucia Newman, who is our Havana bureau chief, has talked to me on a number of occasions about life in Cuba, because I told her -- I said, look, I don't know much about Cuba. The most I know is they've had this leader for a long time who's done a lot of bad things.

But in recent years, the only thing that I've seen in Cuba is they have a bunch of old cars. Bring me some personal information about why this place is so horrible. In fact, if I were the lawyers for the Miami family I think that's how I would attempt to force the issue and to get the American people more on their side. I would say, look, these are recent personal horror stories. Instead -- you know, the American people just don't understand because we don't see it.

KING: Lili, someone said today the crime rate is so much less in Havana that he -- the young man would have a better chance of growing up there than in Miami just safety wise.

ESTEFAN: Larry, let me tell you, I left Cuba when I was a little kid, so I cannot talk about the crime rate -- or not the crime rate, but I could really tell you that the opportunities that I have had in the United States are incredible. I would have never had the life that I've had if I would have lived in Cuba.

For example, Elian is going back to Cuba. He's only 6 years old. But by the time I was eight, I was already going to school in the morning. I would go home for lunch, and you would go back to school. Mondays and Wednesdays, you would do physical education in the afternoon, and then Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would have to go to the fields and pick up tomatoes, you know, weeds, you know, whatever they needed to do, because he truly believes that since you're a little kid, you've got to learn to do the manual work with education. That is the philosophy of Fidel.


ESTEFAN: And that's what's he's going back to.

KING: Hold on, hold on. All right. Yes. Who's speaking, Maxine?


KING: I'm sorry. I can't see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Larry, you know, what's -- what's interesting about what Lili says, it sounds like, in my view, it's a lousy place to live. I don't want to live in Cuba. I don't want to live under Castro. But the issue here is whether or not, looking at -- he's on American soil, looking at American law. Is he an unfit father? The fact that he might choose to live in an environment that I don't want doesn't disqualify him as a fit parent. That's the problem.

And if we're going to be loyal to the so-called "rule of law" that Congressman Waters and all of her colleagues kept telling us about for two years in the United States in the impeachment proceedings, you know, if we're going to be loyal to the rule of law, I think we have to look to see is he fit or not.

KING: Ah-hah. Maxine, would this be true in any case? Suppose that this were Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, same situation. You'd let him go back?

Of course. As a congresswoman in the United States Congress dealing with public policy, domestic and international affairs, I'm concerned about all children, and this is not about whether or not he is Cuban, he is black, he is white. Every child belongs with their parents. And what is normal for them may not be normal for us.

We live in a democracy. We love it. There are others who live in different kinds of situations, different kinds of governments in communism. And if they choose to do that, that's their business to do.


KING: We'll get a closing comment from -- hold it, hold i, hold it. We'll get a closing comment from everybody right after this.


KING: Same question for each of you. Maybe it's impossible. We'll try. Forecast. We'll start with Spencer Eig.

Spencer, honestly, what do you think's going to happen?

EIG: The Gonzalez family -- Lazaro, Marisleysis and Delfin -- would like to sit down with Juan Miguel, his wife, and have a family discussion, try to settle this thing in the family. I hope that's what'll happen next.

KING: Do you think it will?

EIG: I think it will. I think that at this point, with the legal system, the legal situation up in the air, the best thing to do right now is for the family to get together without preconditions, without orders by the government to hand over this child or to do that, just to sit down as a family.

KING: All right. Dr. Lipsitt, what do you think is going to happen?

LIPSITT: Larry, this should not be a debate over whether the social and economic circumstances in Havana or in Miami are better. Rather, it should be an issue of love and affection, and it should be worked out verbally with both sides present and then with the child himself brought in to be party to the decision that's eventually made.

After all, it is his attachments that we're talking about. It's his love relationships.

KING: Maxine, what do you think is going to happen, congresswoman?

WATERS: I think that eventually this child will be reunited with his father. We're going to have to go through all of the obstacles that are being put in the way of this unification -- reunification by those who are trying to hold on to Elian. But eventually, it will happen, and that's what should happen.

This father deserves to have that child back, and I think America has shown that they support the father. Today, you're own CNN polls showed that 74 percent of Americans believe that he should be given to his father and returned to Cuba.

KING: Lili of Univision, what do you think will happen?

ESTEFAN: I don't know the process exactly, but I'm sure Elian will end up staying in Miami. And I just want to say, I left 20 years ago, and my friends, when I was 6 years old, Larry, 18 of them are already out of Cuba. The last one just came March 11th, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). She just came here from Cuba.

So the only thing I've learned from this that only time -- it's only time. And I just hope...

KING: You think he will remain, though?

ESTEFAN: I think he will remain. And I just hope if for any reason he ends up going back to Cuba, he never has to come the way his mother came and ended up not getting here.

KING: Greta, what do you think is going to happen? With your legal experience, how do you think this all is going to come out?

VAN SUSTEREN: I think, Larry, as factual matter, that the young boy will go back to Cuba. But everybody loses: the attorney general, the father going back to Cuba, Elian going back to Cuba, the family in Miami. I think everybody loses. I don't think anybody comes out a winner. This is a horrible, horrible tragedy.

KING: In other words, this is a no-win story?

VAN SUSTEREN: Absolutely no win. Absolutely, and everyone...

KING: And...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, if there's one win out of this -- and this is sort of looking for that silver lining -- is I think more Americans are understanding the plight of the Cuban-Americans and the difficulty and the things that happened to them many years ago. We have a little more information about what happened to them that we didn't have before. But that's a slight silver lining for the tragedy we're seeing.

KING: We thank you all very much for an outstanding discussion of a very volatile, very difficult subject. Lili Estefan, Spencer Eig, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Lewis Lipsitt, Greta Van Susteren, and earlier Officer Calzadilla, Sister O'Laughlin, Mayor Penelas, and Senator Orrin Hatch.

One week from tonight, Al Gore will be our guest for the full hour. See you tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND." From New York, good night.



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