Elian's father leaves for US

Juan Miguel Gonzalez left Cuba for the United States early Thursday on a journey that raises the possibility he will regain temporary custody of his son, Elian, more than four months after the 6-year-old boy's rescue off the Florida coast set off an international tug-of-war over whether he should return to his communist homeland.

The father left Havana before dawn Thursday in a private jet and was due to arrive around 7 a.m. (1100 GMT) at Washington Dulles International Airport with his wife and 6-month-old son.

The trip was worked out by Gregory Craig, a lawyer for the senior Gonzalez, during a 24-hour visit to Cuba. Craig said Wednesday night that a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service statement on Monday had made the trip possible.

Gonzalez had said he would be willing to travel to the United States, but only if he could be assured that he would be able to take temporary custody of the boy from an uncle in Miami, Lazaro Gonzalez.

The statement, as read by Craig outside his downtown Washington law office, said, "Once Mr. Gonzalez arrives (in the United States), the INS will begin transferring the parole care from Lazaro Gonzalez to the boy's father."

The elder Gonzalez is scheduled to stay in Bethesda, Maryland, at the modest two-story brick home of Fernando Remirez, head of the Cuban diplomatic mission to the United States.

Since Tuesday, Montgomery County, Maryland, police cars have been stationed at the ends of the street where the Remirez home is located. Police planned to set up a designated demonstration area about 30 meters (100 feet) away from the house on an adjacent street.

Agreement on a peaceful transfer of the boy to his father may not be easy. Two days of such efforts earlier this week involving lawyers for the government and Elian's Miami relatives did not bear fruit. A new round of talks was set for Thursday.

Cuban-American protesters have threatened to form a human chain around the Miami home where Elian is staying to prevent him from being sent back to Cuba.

INS spokeswoman Maria Cardona welcomed the news that Elian's father was coming to the United States but said it did not mean the boy would be immediately reunited with him.

"We are still working out the most appropriate manner in which to proceed with the actual transfer," she said late Wednesday. "This is an issue that we will be addressing with the family tomorrow."

Elian's uncle Lazaro Gonzalez said in Miami that he and his family were willing to meet with Elian's father at their home, but nowhere else.

"We aren't going to take the boy anywhere," he said Wednesday night.

In Havana, President Fidel Castro declared that it was just matter of days before Elian would be reunited with his father.

"I am talking about three days" more or less, Castro told hundreds of university students from across Latin American and the Caribbean in town for a regional congress. "It is inevitable."

White House spokesman Jake Siewert said only, "We believe that the father's travel to the United States could contribute to a successful resolution of this matter."

Elian's mother died along with 10 others when their boat sank during a crossing from Cuba to the Florida in late November. Castro has attempted to gain maximum political advantage from the fight over the boy - and even the leading U.S. presidential candidates have been drawn into the fray over an issue of that could impact the Cuban-American vote in the November election.

Even if the father regains temporary custody of the son in the next few days, he will not be able to claim victory.

Elian's Miami relatives have asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to overturn a federal judge's ruling in late March affirming the INS decision to return Elian to his father.

Outside the home of Elian's Miami relatives, word of Juan Miguel Gonzalez's imminent trip to Washington filtered through a crowd of more than 150 people clustered behind police barricades.

"Tomorrow is a crucial day. We must prepare," demonstrator Gerardo Barrios shouted into a bullhorn.

Afterward, another man read a prayer to supporters gathered in a circle under the white glow of TV lights. "Protect this boy, Lord," they sang in Spanish. But Elian was not inside; he had departed earlier to visit a cousin.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015