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Elian's Miami relatives turned away

The Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez descended on Washington yesterday, denouncing the government's removal of the boy and demanding that they be allowed to see him.

Accompanied by a Republican senator, Bob Smith, they tried twice to enter the air force base where the six-year-old boy is staying with his immediate family, but were turned away. In an impassioned half-hour outpouring, Elian's cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez - sometimes shouting and sometimes in tears - brandished the photograph of Elian and the armed officer. "This is the face of fear," she said. She also challenged the Immigration Service's claim that there might have been guns in the house. She said: "There was no guns in that house, and thank the Lord there was no guns in that house. We are not criminals."

Elian and his father, with the rest of the family, were still at Andrews air force base yesterday, staying in what officials called "a very nice flat". The boy was said to have spent some time "happily playing" outside. The family is expected to move in the next few days, probably to Wye Plantation, the secure Maryland estate that was used for Middle East peace talks two years ago.

Under an appeals court ruling issued last week, Elian is required to remain in the United States at least until after his full appeal for an asylum hearing is decided. That ruling is not expected until late May. If his claim for an asylum hearing is rejected, the Miami relatives could take the case to the Supreme Court, which could leave Elian in America until Christmas or beyond.

An uneasy calm had returned to Miami after the near-riots of Saturday but further protests are planned. As many as 200,000 of the city's 800,000 Cubans are expected to stay away from work tomorrow in a strike against the boy's removal.