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Reconciliation urged before Miami kin visit Elián

WASHINGTON – A child psychiatrist who interviewed Elián González for the government has recommended that his Miami relatives reconcile their differences with his father before they are allowed to visit the 6-year-old Cuban boy, a Justice Department spokeswoman said today.

Dr. Paulina F. Kernberg, of Cornell University Medical College, advised Immigration Commissioner Doris Meissner that "Elián needs more private time with his family and she believes that before the Miami relatives see Elián they need to work out their differences with Juan Miguel,'' Justice spokeswoman Carole Florman said.

Kernberg spent 2½ hours Tuesday with the González family at their new retreat on Wye River Plantation on Maryland's Eastern Shore. She spent some time alone with Elián, some alone with the father and some with the entire family including his stepmother and 6-month-old half brother, Florman said.

"The doctor reported that Elián needs to feel there is no tension between his family and his Miami relatives before any sort of extended family meeting,'' Florman said.

Kernberg was one of three doctors consulting for the government who interviewed the father and Elián's great-uncle Lazaro González, who had been caring for him, before Saturday's raid. They recommended that the boy be quickly reunited with his father.

A Justice official, requesting anonymity, said Kernberg told Meissner that Lazaro González's 21-year-old daughter, Marisleysis, "is clearly not ready to see Elián, because she is too emotional and too angry to be a positive influence for him.''

Kernberg has not interviewed Marisleysis, but the young woman has conducted several televised news conferences describing her anger over the raid that took Elián from her home in Miami.

Meanwhile, little pieces of Elián's life in Cuba are being brought to him in America as his family, the courts and the Senate consider the case.

In the latest stop on his five-month odyssey, the young boat wreck survivor was moved to the secluded and wooded Maryland retreat Tuesday with lots of room to play. There, he awaits visits by his former kindergarten teacher and a 10-year-old cousin, who left Cuba today for the United States.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said visas would be expedited for four of Elián's playmates to come from Cuba. "A young 6-year-old ... needs to have someone to play with,'' he said.

Kernberg reported that Elián "is doing very well, is playful and interactive and displays a sense of belonging to a close family unit,'' Florman said today.

"The doctor found that he teases his father and helps to take care of his brother and plays what she called 'the proud big brother' role,'' Florman said. "He calls his stepmother 'Momma' and they look and interact very much like a close-knit family.''

Kernberg gave Elián toys to play with, including green toy soldiers with guns to see if he had any negative reaction to memories of the raid in which he was taken by heavily armed Border Patrol agents from the Miami home, Florman said.

"The doctor said he played with them regularly like a normal 6-year-old boy and at the end picked them up with his other toys and put them in his toy box,'' Florman said.

"He drew a picture of Juan Miguel as a strong, sturdy man standing on top of a mountain – a sign he looks up to his father as a protector,'' Florman said Kernberg reported.

The doctor found that the boy tires easily, and she concluded that he needs private time "away from the spotlight, in natural surroundings,'' to rest emotionally, Florman said.

Meanwhile, one of the eight Border Patrol agents who entered Lazaro's house Saturday morning as part of the "high-risk team'' to retrieve Elián told Immigration and Naturalization Service officials he "had never encountered this much resistance,'' INS spokeswoman Maria Cardona said today.

"The agents said the crowd around the house was extremely aggressive and hostile,'' Cardona reported. "The female agent, Betty Mills, was pushed to the ground on the way in.''

As the agents approached the door, several people formed a human chain and had to be pushed aside. The agents identified themselves and asked for cooperation, "but they did not get it despite the family's promise to just open the door peacefully if we came to get Elián,'' Cardona said.

"There was a couch pushed against the door, so the agents had to breach the door to get inside. Inside all the while, family members and supporters were screaming at the agents.''

Cardona said the agent pictured holding up an automatic weapon as he encountered a terrified Elián in the arms of supporter Donato Dalrymple had the safety lock on. "He made a specific decision to keep the safety lock on because he feared he would encounter a physical struggle and didn't want the gun to go off accidentally,'' Cardona said.

There has been no indication that Juan Miguel González wants to see the Miami relatives, who made repeated unsuccessful efforts to see Elián when he was at Andrews Air Force Base. Security officers at Wye would bar them from entering without permission, said Drew Wade, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service.

Doris Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said today on NBC's "Today'' that Kernberg told her "something I found very touching – that the father is not hostile to the Miami relatives, he is very hurt. They have said very cruel things over recent weeks and the adults need to sort that out before the child is involved.''

Attorney General Janet Reno failed to quiet Republican criticism of the raid during a meeting Tuesday with a bipartisan group of senators. Congressional hearings are scheduled to begin next week.

With the drama moved a thousand miles to the north, Cuban-Americans in Miami upset over Elián's seizure called a general strike Tuesday. Workers stayed home, students skipped school and businesses closed, bringing honking cars and Cuban flags to the streets of Little Havana. Several baseball major league baseball players honored the strike.

Attorneys for the Miami family filed a motion Tuesday in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that a guardian be appointed to check on Elián's well-being. The court directed attorneys for Juan Miguel González to file a response by this afternoon, stating any reasons that shouldn't happen.
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