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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Cuban Boy Intercepted in Seas Off Key West Will Remain in U.S.

Aired November 26, 2002 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Correspondent Mark Potter is with us now about a story that happened yesterday and Mark, we understand today, you've learned a boat came close to shore in Florida, several people got off, except for one teenage boy. Take it from there.
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Judy.

This interesting story involves a 13-year-old Cuban boy intercepted at sea. His father made it to shore. The question then becomes what to do with the boy? Does he come to the United States, does go back to Cuba? As we first heard about this, this reminded us, of course, of the Elian Gonzalez story, which broke exactly three years ago this month.

A decision, however, has been made now, we're told, at the highest level of the U.S. government. Here's basically what happened. Yesterday, the Coast Guard got a report out of Key West that a boat was having some trouble in rough seas about 20 miles off shore. The Coast Guard went out there, found the boat, provided it with fuel. They found two men on the boat. The boat started making its way to Key West but ran out of fuel. The Coast Guard brought it in to their dock at their base.

As they went to search the boat after bringing it to shore they found six Cubans down below. As they entered the boat, five of the Cubans jumped out and they made it to shore. One person did not, a 13-year-old boy, he was left behind and remained in coast guard custody. The five adults included a man believed to be his father. Officials also believe that the boy's mother is back in Cuba.

The question becomes, what to do with the boy? Now, we are told that a decision has been made to bring the boy to the United States as a material witness in a smuggling case. The two men originally found on the boat are suspected of smuggling the others into the United States. They, we are told, will be charged and will be brought in as a material witnesses.

That also solves the dilemma from a humanitarian standpoint. Coast Guard officials wanted to bring him in anyway for that reason, but the material witness reason has been used. So it appears that this situation has been dealt with, but it took while. The boy remained on the Coast Guard boat overnight and for most of the day as U.S. officials wrestled with what to do -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, you are so right, Mark.

It does sound like Elian Gonzalez all over again. Clearly, with different circumstances.

All right, Mark Potter, we'll be looking to find out what the permanent resolution of that developing story in Florida is.

Thank you, Mark.

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