The high-stakes battle over Elian Gonzalez returned to the courts yesterday for what could be the last time, with lawyers for the boy's father, Juan Miguel, for the US government and for the Miami branch of the Gonzalez family arguing passionately about what would be best for the six-year-old Cuban castaway.
About 40 demonstrators waited outside the courthouse with placards demanding that Elian, who survived the shipwreck of a refugee boat in November, be allowed to remain in the United States permanently. "God sent him here," said one Cuban emigre. "Let's not send him back to the devil."
The 90-minute hearing at the appeals court in Atlanta was attended by several of the relatives who cared for him during his five months in Florida. But Elian and his immediate family remained at the farmhouse outside Washington, where they have lived for the past three weeks.
The court is expected to rule within three weeks.