Reno defends her handling of the Elian case

The US attorney general, Janet Reno, was forced yesterday to defend her handling of the Elian Gonzalez case, responding to criticism that she had hesitated too long about removing the child from his Miami relatives, was too personally involved and had 'lost her way'. With the appeals court still considering a key ruling, Ms Reno said that public pressure 'should not be the issue; what's right should be the issue' and, she insisted, 'I know where I'm going.'.

Ms Reno made her remarks at her regular weekly meeting with reporters, which was brought forward a day because of the Easter holidays and, unusually, televised. Challenged to explain why she had not yet acted to transfer the six year old boy to his father, even though legal custody was transferred last week, Ms Reno said that her priority was still to have Elian returned 'in the safest and least disruptive manner possible'.

The father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, has now been in the United States for two weeks, staying at the residence of the senior Cuban diplomat outside Washington. He has seen Elian on television and spoken to him three times on the phone, but has not been able to meet him. The Miami relatives say that he should meet them first, without the child, before they will consider handing him over.

Ms Reno, who personally flew to Miami last week in the - vain - hope of negotiating an agreement, said: 'If the criticism of me is that I'm trying to avoid violence, if the criticism of me is that I'm trying to avoid that little boy being hurt.... I plead guilty.' And she indicated that she was still prepared to wait for the appeal court to rule before ordering the child's enforced transfer. Clearly concerned, however, she added: 'NO child should be in that kind of Never-Never land for that long.'

Ms Reno, a Miami native whose first major decision as attorney general was to authorise the disastrous use of force against the Branch Davidian cult headquarters at Waco in Texas, denied that this decision had led her to be overcautious in this case. The two cases, she said, were quite different. At Waco, the safety of police officers was directly threatened by 'people who could kill'. Yesterday was the seventh annniversary of the Waco assault.

Meanwhile tempers were fraying outside the relatives' house in Miami's Little Havana quarter where Elian is living. On Tuesday night, a man with a placard calling for Elian's return, and another shouting that he should go back to Cuba, were roughed up by the crowd of Cuban emigres that has assembled each day, and escorted away by police. This was the first time that the crowd, which wants Elian to stay in the United States and fluctuates between several dozen and several thousand people, had faced any opposition.

Opinion polls show 60 per cent of Americans in favour of sending Elian back to Cuba, but more than 80 per cent of Florida's Cuban emigres believe that he should remain with his relatives in Miami.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions