Elian Greets Grannies. Is This a Turning Point?

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Elian Gonzalez and both his grandmothers met in Miami Wednesday, after the Justice Department laid down the law to the boy's Miami relatives. The family of Lazaro Gonzalez, the great-uncle who is fighting for custody in order to keep the boy in Miami, brought Elian to the home of Sister Jean O'Laughlin, in compliance with an Immigration and Naturalization Service order to allow the boy's grandmothers to meet with him alone at a neutral venue. Mariela Quintana and Raquel Rodriguez had left Miami on Monday without seeing their grandson, having insisted on meeting in "a supervised neutral setting," but their Florida relatives had refused and insisted that the grandmothers attend a party in their home.

But besides wanting to avoid the tension of this ill-starred family reunion, the grannies did not want to appear to endorse Elian's staying with his Miami relatives. Conversely, the Florida family did not want to seem as if they were conceding any claim to the boy, and may even have feared that the grannies would try to take him home immediately. The INS order required that Elian be brought to a meeting with his grannies at the Miami Beach home of the president of a local Catholic college. But it also made clear that the meeting would not change Elian's immediate status, and that he would be required to return afterward to the home of Lazaro Gonzalez. Still, with the Miami Gonzalezes insisting that Elian tells them every night that he doesn't want to go back to Cuba, while his grannies maintain that he pleads to go home every time he talks to them on the phone, Wednesday's meeting is a high-stakes moment for both sides.