Elian-Granny Reunion Makes Matters Worse

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Paging King Solomon... Despite the fact that their conflict is cleaving Elian Gonzalez's emotional world as if with a sword, neither his Florida relatives nor his grandmothers gave any ground in their Wednesday encounter. If anything, the tension and fear surrounding Elian's brief reunion with his grannies at the home of Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, president of a local Catholic university, and the recriminations that followed, confirmed the extent to which the battle for custody over Elian has become a showdown between Havana and Miami's Little Havana. The Cuban government accused O'Laughlin of lying, cruelty and deceit in her handling of the encounter, while the Dominican nun shot back that the event had been plagued by fear instilled by Havana in the hearts of the grandmothers — and Elian's Florida relatives allowed a leader of the exile community to interview the boy on a live TV broadcast from a car taking him home from the meeting.

"It was abundantly clear at this meeting how both sides of Elian's family are being manipulated by the opposing political forces, to a higher degree than we'd thought," says TIME Miami Bureau chief Tim Padgett. "It was a sad moment for many people involved, because far from being the occasion that some had hoped would help facilitate a resolution, it was extremely tense and the two families didn't even talk." With no family reconciliation expected to resolve the dispute, the focus returned to Capitol Hill, where both the grandmothers and their Florida relatives arrived Thursday to lobby legislators over plans to make Elian a U.S. citizen. But they may find an election-year Congress a little short on Solomonic wisdom.