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Gore: Bring Cuban boy's dad to Miami on visitor's visa

December 11, 1999
Web posted at: 2:05 p.m. EST (1905 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Vice President Al Gore on Saturday suggested that the father of a 6-year-old Cuban boy whose mother drowned bringing him to the United States be granted a U.S. visitor's visa so he can "freely express his feelings" on where he wants his son to be raised.

In an off-camera question-and-answer session with members of the CNN editorial board, the Democratic presidential candidate said the future of Elian Gonzalez "should be decided by due process of law -- U.S. law and international," not Cuban law.

"The overriding issue is what's in the best interest of this child," especially "given the fact this child's mother lost her life" trying to get him to this country, Gore said.

Elian, now living with relatives in Miami, clung to an inner tube for two days before being rescued at sea on Thanksgiving Day by the Coast Guard after his mother and nine others drowned. Two others on the boat carrying the group also were rescued.

Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, has since publicly demanded the boy be returned to Cuba. Street protesters in Havana have condemned the United States' refusal to do so.

"I would recommend we give a visitor's visa to this child's father, his new wife and new child so he can speak freely about his feelings," Gore said.

He said that, as a father himself, that would be his preference "if I lived in a dictatorship and felt the intimidation of daily paid demonstrations." He said Elian's father should be allowed "to stand on free soil and give me true feelings."

Gore isn't the first candidate to recommend that Elian's father come to the United States. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, made the same suggestion in the most recent GOP presidential debate but was not specific on how this could be done.

Asked about what he might do as president to change the course of U.S.-Cuban relations, Gore said, "I favor openings to the Cuban people but not the Castro government."

He accused Cuban President Fidel Castro of "politicizing" the custody dispute involving the young boy and said, "I find it hard to forgive him (Castro) for some of the things he's done," in particular: "Turning those convicted murderers and rapists free on I-95" -- a reference to the 1980 Mariel boatlift that brought more than 100,000 refugees to Florida's shores, including many hardened criminals released from Cuba's prisons.

Associated Press news material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.


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Saturday, December 11, 1999

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