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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent