Grandmothers Depart Opa Locka Airport for Meeting With Elian GonzalezAired January 26, 2000 - 4:51 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Lou Waters again at CNN Center. We're continuing to watch the Elian Gonzalez story. As you know, the grandmothers who had flow to the United States in an effort to see their grandson got hung up out here at Opa Locka Airport, resisting some of the preparations for their private reunion with their grandson, Elian.
That apparently may have been worked out, because the grandmothers have just approached the helicopter, which is supposed to whisk them to the rooftop of the Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach. From there, they will take a 2- to 3-mile journey by automobile to that Miami Beach estate of the Dominican nun Jeanne O'Laughlin.
Mark Potter is the -- the nuns' home there, the estate, the gated community there in Miami Beach.
Mark, we're watching the nuns get aboard this helicopter now. What are you hearing on your end?
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Only what you're reporting, and for the people who have been pushing for this meeting, that's good news. The boy is here. The family spokesman walked out here just a moment ago. We tried to get him to come over for an explanation, and he waved everybody away. He didn't want to talk.
So all we know is that this appears to be a good sign. There had been concerns raised about the privacy of the meeting. Maybe they have been solved. The grandmothers getting in that helicopter, which should bring them here shortly, is definitely a good sign.
WATERS: Let's play catch-up here if we can, Mark. We know audiences are tuning in every several minutes here on CNN. Perhaps you can tell us what the initial objection appeared to be.
POTTER: Well, from an official at the Cuban interests section in Washington, representing the Cuban government, there was a concern about how private this meeting would be.
It was stated in the agreement between the INS and the family that the grandmothers and the boy would have two hours of private meeting: a quiet, calm, as described by Sister O'Laughlin, who's sponsoring the meeting -- loving meeting where they could just spend some quality time together. But the grandmothers raised some concerns that it may not be that private as they understood it. And so they raised those concerns and refused to leave the airport.
Now, whether it has been settled we don't know, but the grandmothers are now getting into the helicopter...
WATERS: That would...
POTTER: ... have gotten into the helicopter, heading this way, yes.
WATERS: Yes, the rotor blades are spinning and the grandmothers are in the chopper. The original plan was to take them from their executive jet to the rooftop of the Mt. Sinai hospital, and from there to the two to three miles by automobile to where you are now, Mark. And they're meeting with the 6-year-old Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, who has been there for quite some time. He left at about 4:10 by my calculation from his Miami relatives home in Miami Beach, did he not?
POTTER: I don't know the exact time. I know that he arrived here a relatively short time ago: I would say 10, 15 minutes. So they haven't been here all that long.
But that's late. This was supposed to have started at 4 o'clock Eastern Time. It's now 4:55.
Now, we have just gotten word that the grandmothers have said that indeed the purpose of getting in the chopper is not to go somewhere else. They are indeed coming here to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where they will be dropped off and driven in here.
So it's not that far a ride from Opa Locka Airport. They'll be above all the afternoon traffic, should get here fairly quickly, and then be driven here to the house where everyone is waiting.
WATERS: Now, the grandmothers understand that they will not be able to take the boy back to Cuba. This is just a like a reunion with their grandson, whom...
POTTER: That's correct.
WATERS: ... they've been saying they've been dying to see him, and they will be allowed to see him for, we understand, two hours will be the length of the meeting. Is that still -- is that still the plan and what is the plan for the meeting?
POTTER: Well, that's it. They are expected to meet for two hours, and it has been stated by all parties that the grandmothers do understand that they will not be leaving in tow.
They're expected to go back to Washington; the boy will go back with his family to their house in Miami's Little Havana.
As for the meeting itself, the schedule, it's been reversed. The grandmothers were supposed to get here first, but they're now lagging behind by quite a bit. But they'll come in. They will spend some time on the second floor of one of the buildings behind me in a Florida room, a recreation room where they will be toys, puzzles, snacks. It's -- they'll be looking out over the water. It's supposed to be a nice room, very well-lit.
And they're just supposed to have two hours together, and then they will depart and go separate ways. And I understand that now that helicopter is leaving the airport and is indeed now en route.
WATERS: Yes. It's just lifting off. It shouldn't be long now, Mark. And you indicated in an early report that after this meeting with the boy, the grandmothers will be returning to Washington to continue their efforts to get the boy back to Cuba.
POTTER: Yes. Lobbying is the key here. Everybody's lobbying right now, because so much is at take and there are several venues involved. The grandmothers are expected to go back to Washington to lobby Congress, which is going to be considering soon whether to make Elian a citizen or a U.S. resident.
The family here also is involved in that fight, of course, from their end. And then there's the courts.
We're expecting a filing from the Justice Department, answering a lawsuit filed in federal court by the family.
So a lot still to come even after this meeting is finished.
Lou, back to you.
WATERS: All right. Mark Potter in Miami Beach, awaiting the arrival of the two Cuban grandmothers.
We're continuing to follow the story. As soon as the grandmothers show up, we'll be back to the story.
INSIDE POLITICS is next. I'm Lou Waters at CNN Center. We'll take a break and we'll carry on in a moment.
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