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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS

The Story Of Elian Gonzales. Aired 11-11:30p ET

Aired August 24, 2017 - 23:00   ET

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


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[23:00:00] MANNY DIAZ, FORMER MAYOR OF MIAMI: Just the family suffers enough to throw someone over the edge. When all that is being witnessed on a daily basis by the entire world, not easy. I mean I've been involved in politics all my life, I'm a practicing lawyer, public speaker. I have the training as best you can to be able to do something like that. This family had zero, zero training.

MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S COUSIN: I have been in this for four months. Not for political issues, not to look good in front of people but for the best interests of this child.

DIAZ: Remember at today's show where I think we may have left the show and gone to the hospital, because she really took a beating, emotional beating from that process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a loving family. They got caught up in the collective hysteria. This was the battle against Castro.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What people saw in the Elian story often depended on where they stood. As the weeks passed, national polls showed a deep divide with more and more Americans outside south Florida in favor of returning the boy to his father. But in Miami the exile's fury continued to grow, spilling over into protests that blocked traffic on the highways. And exasperated many of the cities non- Cubans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a parent and I believe a child should be with his father. It's like -- you people have no -- you don't have a clue about what being in a free society is. You have no respect for other people's opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know what happened to him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I, by now, had seen the anger in Miami, I have seen the determination by some of the Miami Cubans to make sure that Elian did not leave. Senator Lehigh came to me and said we're going to get that little boy back to his father and I'm going to help you but you're never going to make it happen, if you don't involve a lawyer in this. I have a lawyer for you. His name is Greg Craig. I'm calling him now. He won't say no.

GREGORY CRAIG, LAWYER OF JUAN MIGUEL: I went to the Justice Department and said I'm going to go to Cuba and I want to be able to tell Juan Miguel that when he comes back to the United States he will be able to take custody of his son within the space of a few days, that he is not going to have to sit in some room and watch his son on television being paraded around by these relatives. They were not willing to give me that commitment.

I had nothing going down to Cuba. Other than to say now is the time to do it. To be clear, Castro was in the middle of this decision making. Castro was waking up from a nap. You could just tell he'd been asleep and putting himself together. The meeting was forever. It lasted forever and we drank more coffee and more water and people would be getting up and going off to relieve themselves. Castro didn't move for four hours. I think perhaps he had a device. He would shake his finger at me and said why do you think an American court would ever rule in favor of a Cuban national? There has never been a case where a Cuban national has won.

My only argument was I don't know of any time when the government of the United States has been on the same side of a case of a Cuban national. Which in term on the same side of the government of Cuba. That is never happened in history. So maybe the results will be different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking with Dr. Andrew Wild, the author of "Eating well for optimum health."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think its fine to lower cholesterol levels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG: My name is Gregory B. Craig. I'm pleased to report that Juan Miguel Gonzales, his wife and six month old son will arrive will be coming to United States, they will arrive tomorrow morning, Thursday April 6th, at 7:00 a.m. at Dulles airport.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[23:05:00] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:10:00] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

CRAIG: It was the next day that we had the meeting with the Attorney General. I'm driving the car and I'm saying to myself now is the time to tell Juan Miguel what his options are. There's no Cuban diplomats. Fidel Castro is not in the room. It's just the family. So I said to Juan Miguel, do you want to get Elian back this afternoon and stay in the United States with your family? You will have that opportunity, because you're going to have the commissioner of INS and they will grant that request, if you want to do that. He says thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At a certain point the Attorney General asked that everybody else leaves the room.

CRAIG: Very powerful meeting. Very powerful. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He cut off the conversation almost when it

started, saying I stand by my word. I have a family in Cuba. I have a life in Cuba. My son is going to grow up as a Cuban and I am not going to be claiming asylum. He was a very proud, very clear person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I called my cousin and said look, we need go and meet with this father and find out what he really wants to do. This is our time to find out the truth.

SAM CIANCIO, DONATO'S COUSIN: He was instantly drawn to a camera. I begged him. No more shows. No more shows and got off the airplane at Dulles. And it was probably the biggest media center I've ever seen in my entire life. Once we got into the car from the airport, it was within 60 seconds that I knew. The Cuban national foundation were not only trying to brain wash me, they wanted to look like that once we got there that Juan Miguel refused to meet us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say the news conference is going to be in about five minutes. I would recommend since we've been going all Cuban all the time that we take it.

DONATO DALRYMPLE, AUTHOR: How are you guys doing today? My name is Donato Dalrymple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like a spelling for that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, please.

DALRYMPLE: If I have to get on my knees, I will get on my knees for this man because I want to get on my knees for Elian, I love this boy.

CRAIG: Juan Miguel said he wanted to thank them. If it was possible to arrange without a whole lot of hoopla. Juan Miguel came in and in a very sincere way thanked them for having saved Elian's life.

CIANCIO: Juan Miguel is a very, very heart warming, loving father with tears in his eyes when he would talk to me. My heart told me the right thing and he wants his child back.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking about a 6-year-old little boy here. It's a child. That is all we need to be concerned about, nobody else. We need to put this baby to rest right now. Donato has to speak for himself.

DALRYMPLE: I said I'm Donato the fisherman. I was there when your son was about to drowned. And man, this guy's eyes started to well up with water and I ran over there and grab and hugged him.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

CRAIG: We didn't kick him out but we had to urge him to leave.

DALRYMPLE: I don't stand in the way of this father but I can tell you this I don't feel that he is free outside of his lawyer here. Juan Miguel said he is not going to go down to Miami, so what's going to happen?

[23:15:00] JORGE MAS SANTOS, CUBAN-AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: We needed a family meeting away from the media, governments pitted against each other. The Cuban American national foundation against the Castro brothers. We needed to get out of that and we needed a neutral third party which I thought was the Catholic Church. We got the blessing of the pope about using the Vatican embassy in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got a call saying to go to Elian's house and saying to bring Elian to Washington. I went into the house and said if you ask me, I wouldn't do it because if you're going to ask me for any guarantee, I can't give them to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a new element to this story. The boy's Miami relatives released a video of Elian last night. It shows him on a bed. It's not clear who was in the room with him, whether he was coached or not.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After the Miami relatives refused to bring the kid to Washington, it became clear that if we wanted Elian, we were going to have to go into the house and take him.

JAMES GOLDMAN, FORMER INS SECURITY CHIEF, MIAMI: For the last couple of days we weren't even 100 percent sure Elian was even inside the home. He was not being brought out by family members, he didn't make appearances into the crowds. The less we saw of him, the more concern we had had as to his welfare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it comes to taking Elian by force, U.S. Law enforcement officials have a plan.

The SWAT Special operations group is available and the Florida highway patrol has placed units on alert. The final go or no go order will come only from Attorney General, Janet Reno.

For weeks the government had had been assembling a shock force of federal agents to seize Elian if necessary. But Janet Reno had misgivings that went beyond her loyalty to Cuban exiles in Miami. Just after taking office as Attorney General, Reno had ordered federal agents to raid the religious compound of Waco, Texas. 75 people died, including 25 children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We must all reflect how we, as a society, can prevent in the future such a horrible, tragic, senseless loss of life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Janet Reno was somebody who made her decisions based on the facts and the law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Instead of discussing how Elian should be united, they continue to demand that we revisit the issue of whether Elian should be reunited. That is not what the law provides.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Demonstrators break through those barricades to try to form a human chain in front of this house if federal agents came to seize Elian Gonzales.

GOLDMAN: There were people in the crowds that had violent police records. There were armed individuals in the crowd. The entire event was a potential powder keg. We wanted to effect this search warrant as soon as possible. The only delays were last stitch efforts made by the U.S. Government to negotiate a peaceful, so to speak, surrender to the child of the U.S. Government.

[23:20:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Reno was willing to exhaust every option. So when members of the community came in and said we think we can broke her a deal, she was willing to talk to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were afraid that this was going to bring a lot of harm to the community and the perception of the community. This was spinning out of control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My focus was to get the community to have a unanimous position that we're going to do this peacefully. My view we were very close to doing in two days that which had not been done in five months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to create a scenario where the two families would go to a military base, have an opportunity to talk to each other and look for an elegant solution. We developed the points and faxed them to Janet Reno.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get the fax off and we had been instructed by Aaron Pothers, you guys are fine. Our expectations were that we'll be out of here in a couple hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The offer was the same as had been made repeatedly by the family and that ultimately not only had hadn't succeeded but was not willing to in any way concede turning over the child to the father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just another effort. I think most of us thought to delay.

GOLDMAN: We had identified 5:00 a.m. To be an optimal time to execute this search warrant. We were ready well prior to that and still awaiting a final green light from the Department of Justice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're in the Attorney General's office. She stated in her open line and I stayed on an open line with the INS people in Miami, because I needed to give them the order that it was a go.

GOLDMAN: I had two lines. One to the house and one to Attorney General Janet Reno. It never occurred to me that there was a raid planned and I kept saying to the Attorney General, what's the big rush about?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She gave them deadlines. She told them after this point it's going to be too late and then you are out of time. You're running out of time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was the only night that Elian didn't sleep. He was scared that they would take him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's well past midnight and I tell Aaron, look, I'm beginning to feel very uncomfortable like there's a problem here because this is a one-page document.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was questions in the room are we on hold? Is it a go? And Ms. Reno said it's a go.

GOLDMAN: Then about 4:00 we got a call from Aaron and his voice is almost shaking. And he says to me you got five minutes to wake everybody up. I woke everybody up. And while we're having that conversation, there's a bunch of yelling and screaming outside. And I said to Aaron, Aaron, the feds are here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:27:29] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we go live? Can we go live? Are we shooting it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the barricade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hoards of people were going to do everything in their power to prevent us from reaching the front door. They chanted, they screamed, lights went on. They formed human chains. We virtually had to push our way to the front door. Behind us there was a riot going on. It was clearly organized resistance. I pounded at the door. Federal agents were executing a search warrant. Open the door, open the door. I had to give the order to breach the door.

M. GONZALEZ: I clearly remember the lady that came into get him saying where's the f-kid? Where's the f-god damn kid? I did step forward a little bit aggressive like mad and she says if you take one more step, I'm going to shoot.

DALRYMPLE: If there was anybody, it shouldn't have been me to get Elian into my arms but everyone's running to shelter because they're hearing the same thing, get down or we'll shoot and we're thinking they're going to kill us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see in the closet Donato and Elian. The boy says to me -- I said nothing's happening. Baby but everything's going to be all right.

DALRYMPLE: The door busted open and there's a federal armed agent with an assault weapon and he is got that thing pointed directly at me and Elian. All I hear is choo choo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm flashing. I'm strobing this guy in the face. Freedom of press. You can't touch that.

DALRYMPLE: He is screaming give me the kid. Give me the f'ing kid. Within second as woman appeared in the room and that is when I handed Elian over to the agent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready to get the boy. They've got the boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go.

MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S COUSIN: All I could hear was Elian screaming, prima, prima, prima. Just calling out and I couldn't do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Over here.

M. GONZALEZ: Elian was just a kid and that day they risked his life I sometimes wonder what Juan Miguel felt about that. I would have never wanted my child to be taken out like that.

Elian Gonzales is as we speak being flown to Andrews's air force base just outside Washington where he will be reunited with his father.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are the first pictures we have seen of young Elian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should have be known we didn't want to have a bunch of photographs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Director of public affairs said if he is flashing a pretty ugly photo around the world right now and you should really get a camera and get some pictures out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I took that picture. Yeah. Pretty good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pictures taken by an Associated Press photographer which they'll have to answer to.

M. GONZALEZ: There's a picture of that little boy's fear, scared. So Janet Reno and everybody else don't say you came here with no violence and this boy is ok. How can this boy be ok when he had a gun at his head?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marisleysis Gonzales expressing her feelings on what happened, describing what happened this morning.

M. GONZALEZ: They treat us like criminals. They broke -- they broke Elian's bed.

DALRYMPLE: He was saying capasa, capasa I just kept holding his head like this. America, what did you do to this boy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Up until the last, we tried every way we could to encourage Castro Gonzales to voluntarily hand over the child to his father. Unfortunately the Miami relatives rejected our efforts, leaving us no other option but the enforcement action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a fire. Another fire.

[23:35:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crowd here very angry over the Elian Gonzales situation, extremely angry with the Justice Department's handling of this situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After the Elian incident, I think the Democrats were terribly harmed by what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by, stand by. CNN right now is moving Florida back to the too close to call column.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Elian Gonzales issue may have driven a lot of Cuban Americans back to the Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An election in turmoil, a presidency on the ballots, a nation waits. Who will emerge a winner in the historic Florida recount?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were ten thousands Cuban Americans Democrats who became Republicans post Elian. Had the Elian event been handled better, we might not have had the Iraq war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush became the President of the United States in 2000, because of Elian Gonzales. There is no doubt in my mind and I think that numbers proved that out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a much bigger issue than that. I think what cost al gore the election was a fiasco in palm beach county Florida with the ballots. Ralph nadir getting 100,000 votes in Florida. And I doubt it had anything to do with Al Gore not carrying Tennessee, his home state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They would not see Elian again. In late June, almost seven months after his rescue at sea, the Supreme Court finally lifted the order keeping him in the United States. He and his father were back in Cuba before night fall.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:43:57] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Castro was in fact dedicated to getting that little boy home and it became a matter of his heart. It was not now just a government victory. And Elian became virtually like a child of his.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Elian grew up, Fidel continued to celebrate the boy's return as a triumph in the bigger chapter of Cuba's revolution.

[23:45:00] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what Elian's life is like now in Cuba. He more prominent probably that he can ever imagine. But whatever he is, it was created here. It was created here in Miami.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In hind sight, it had a lot of impact because it became a pivotal point for many in the community to realize that we were not having a rational approach to Cuba, that it was getting out of hand and that we need to show a different view, a different approach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the aftermath of the Elian affair, new Cuban leaders challenge the transient of the old guard. Even the Cuban national foundation retreated, appealing to an exile community less defined by the old hatreds and paving the way for historic changes in American policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We definitely began focusing on a younger generation both here and in Cuba. We have to talk to their hopes and aspirations. They're going to be the key to the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First American President in 88 years touched down just a few moments ago here in Cuba.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have come here to bury the last remnant of the cold war in the Americas. Havana is only 90 miles from Florida. But to get here we had had had to travel a great distance. Over barriers of history and ideology, barriers of pain and separation. In many ways the United States and Cuba are like two brothers who have been estranged for many years. I want the Cuban people, especially the young people, to understand why I believe that you should look to the future with hope, hope that is rooted in the future that you can choose and that you can shape and you can build for your country.

[23:50:00] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DALRYMPLE: Did I won the state in America, selflessly, yes. He was going to have scholarships, he is going to go to college, he is going to have the American dream, but you know in the end I realized this American dream wasn't for him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As he lives out his life, what role he will play in Cuba, what role he will play in the Cuban revolution, that is to come inevitably, he'll be part of the new generation and how he will weather that, how he will respond to that is probably partly related to what will happen to Cuba and some of that depends on us.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

[23:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I shouldn't be happy because a person has died but he is separated my family, my parents never got to see Cuba again so today I rejoice for this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Cuban Americans celebrated fide Fidel's deaths, Miami's talk show replayed his comments and revisited a long running question. What sort of man had the miracle boy become?

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We always said that is what he would become, a little trophy for the government when they roll out whatever they need to.

M. GONZALEZ: People have told me did you hear what Elian say? He is brainwashed. I say he is not a fault of what he is become where he is at right now, he doesn't know any better. So I don't judge him, I just sit and wait.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

M. GONZALEZ: I would love to see him here, even if it's just to visit, but I don't see myself going back to Cuba. I feel that I would be betraying his mother.

I'm not in his future, I'm in his past. Years could go by and it's the same thing over and over.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

M. GONZALEZ: Whether it's right or wrong, we're family and we love each other. I dream to the day comes that I can speak to him. I love him no matter who or what he chooses to be.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)