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Tue May 2 12:37:16 MDT 2000
Group suffers blow with Elian loss
Miami Herald, May 1, 2000
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
achardy at herald.com
The Cuban American National Foundation spent thousands of dollars and
considerable political capital underwriting the fight by Miami relatives to
keep Elian Gonzalez in the United States.
Foundation Chairman Jorge Mas Santos estimates the foundation has spent
about $10,000 on lobbying trips to Washington, D.C., by some of Elian's
Other costs absorbed by the foundation include the deployment of its
security chief to the Little Havana house where federal agents seized Elian
on April 22. A senior foundation official also has given money to Elian's
great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez and jobs to Lazaro and the two adult survivors
of the sea tragedy that killed the child's mother and 10 others.
Money aside, perhaps most costly to the foundation was the failed
negotiation that would have taken Elian and his Miami relatives to
Washington on April 12 for a meeting with the boy's father.
Mas Santos announced the meeting at a nationally televised press conference
at 11 p.m. April 11, but by midnight Lazaro Gonzalez abruptly canceled the
At the outset, the foundation produced posters showing a dazed Elian just
minutes after he had been picked up at sea.
At the end, just hours after federal agents took Elian from Lazaro
Gonzalez's home, the foundation flew Gonzalez, his daughter Marisleysis and
his brother Delfin to Washington in a failed bid to see the boy.
Top foundation officials were at the side of Elian's Miami family almost
from the start. And they were there at the end -- in the person of
foundation security chief Mario Miranda, who could only watch as agents
seized the boy he had been guarding.
To some, the image of Miranda lying face down on the lawn of Lazaro
Gonzalez's house under a federal agent's gun was symbolic of the
foundation's decline since founder and longtime Chairman Jorge Mas Canosa
died of lung cancer in 1997.
But in a recent interview with The Herald and two reporters from Spain, Mas
Canosa's son -- Mas Santos -- said the foundation remains strong.
He acknowledged, however, that the Clinton administration has not been as
supportive on Elian as the group would have wished.
Part of the problem, Mas Santos suggested, is that President Clinton is no
longer running for office and therefore no longer cares about the exile
But Vice President Al Gore, who is running for Clinton's job, does. That's
why, Mas Santos said, the foundation reached out to Gore and he embraced the
group's Elian position.
In late March, the vice president endorsed foundation-backed legislation
that would have granted Elian U.S. residency.
''To put it in context, a lot of people were calling,'' Gore campaign
spokesman Doug Hattaway said Saturday. Gore campaign chairman Tony Coelho
had ''several conversations'' with Mas Santos, Hattaway said. However, on
the residency bill, Gore also got advice from three influential Democrats --
Florida Sen. Bob Graham and New Jersey's Sen. Robert Torricelli and Rep.
Gore ''has taken his stance on the legislation because he thought it was the
right thing to do, not because of politics,'' Hattaway said.
The biggest cash expense, Mas Santos said, has been the lobbying trips to
Washington by family members and supporters, including Donato Dalrymple, the
man who helped rescue Elian and who was holding him when federal agents
raided Lazaro Gonzalez's home. When asked how much the trips cost, Mas
Santos said he couldn't say. But when asked if an estimate of about $10,000
was accurate, Mas Santos did not challenge it.
Other unestimated expenses: the reassignment of the foundation's security
chief -- a bodyguard for Mas Canosa and then his son -- to Lazaro's house.
Federal agents involved in raid planning said they were particularly
concerned about Miranda because fellow agents dispatched to do pre-raid
surveillance of the house remember him carrying a weapon -- an allegation he
Besides Miranda, another top foundation official involved in helping the
Miami family is Lombardo Perez, a foundation director and president of Metro
Ford. Soon after Elian was rescued, Perez hired Lazaro Gonzalez to do body
work at his car dealership.
Direct contributions of money and services to the Miami family could be
considered taxable income, Internal Revenue Service spokesman Bob Firman
After Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, arrived April 6 he stayed at the
home of Fernando Remirez, head of the Cuban government's diplomatic mission
in Washington. Then when Elian was seized and was flown to Andrews Air Force
Base outside Washington, the family moved into base housing.
On Tuesday, they moved to the Wye Plantation, a compound on Maryland's
Eastern Shore 70 miles from Washington where owners of a guest house have
allowed the family to stay free of cost.
Lawyers for the Miami relatives say they are providing their services free,
but some legal expenses are being paid from the Elian Gonzalez Defense Trust
Fund that has taken in more than $200,000 in donations since March,
Juan Miguel's lawyer, Gregory Craig, is being paid out of a fund set up with
the help of the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, until recently general secretary
of the National Council of Churches, which has been closely involved in
helping reunite Elian with his father.
Herald staff writers Frances Robles, Manny Garcia, Ana Acle, Andres Viglucci
and Mark Silva contributed to this report.
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