Tens of thousands of mothers fill Havana street for Elian
January 14, 2000
HAVANA (CNN) -- Waving tiny Cuban flags in a stiff breeze, tens of thousands of mothers marched along Havana's main oceanfront avenue on Friday, marking the day 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez was to have come back to Cuba from the United States.
Elian's own mother drowned at sea. The boy was plucked from the waters off the coast of Florida on November 25, one of three survivors of a boat accident in which his stepfather and eight others -- in addition to his mother -- drowned as they tried to reach the United States from Cuba.
Cubans have rallied almost daily since that time, supporting the demands of the Cuban government and Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, for the boy's return to Cuba. Both sets of Elian's grandparents also live in Cuba.
With their children by their sides or in their arms, the women followed Elian's two grandmothers, both wearing shirts emblazoned with their grandson's picture, down the Malecon coastal highway.
To emotional chants of "Return Elian to Cuba -- Save Elian," and "We want our son," the several-mile long march made its way to the building housing the U.S. Interests Section, where most of the demonstrations have taken place.
Bitter custody fight
Elian has stayed with relatives in Miami since his rescue, while the bitter battle over his custody escalated. While the U.S. government deliberated over whether to return the boy to his father in Cuba, Cuban-American activists protested to keep Elian in the United States.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ruled that only the boy's father can speak for him in immigration matters and he should go back to Cuba. But attorneys for the Miami relatives of Elian said they plan to file suit Tuesday in federal court challenging that ruling.
In Cuba, Elian is referred to as "the kidnapped boy," and Cuban officials said they were eager for his return.
"I believe in the word of the U.S. authorities," said Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly. "They have expressed themselves clearly in the proper relation. Let's hope that they will find a way to simply convert its words into actions."
The INS rejected on Thursday a second application for asylum filed on behalf of the boy, but agreed to delay its deadline for returning him to Cuba -- originally Friday -- to allow time for an appeal in federal court.
Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman and Correspondent Martin Savidge contributed to this report
INS rejects second asylum request for Elian
U.S. State Department
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