Court Refuses to Block Elian's Departure

Wednesday, June 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a final wave, Elian Gonzalez ended his American saga Wednesday after the Supreme Court cleared the 6-year-old boy's return to Cuba and settled a custody battle tinged with anti-communist passions in the United States.

Seven months after he was lifted from the sea — his mother lost in that desperate journey to American shores — Elian took off in one of two chartered planes with his father, family and friends to return to a nation that calls him its ``boy hero'' yet vowed to give him a normal life.

His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, said at Washington Dulles International Airport: ``We are very happy to be going home.'' He thanked the American people and the government for their support and expressed the wish for better relations between Cuba and the United States.

The high court wrote the last chapter of Elian's tortuous journey with decisive brevity, issuing an order rejecting a formal appeal filed by the boy's Miami relatives and a separate emergency request to postpone his departure.

Within hours, the boy who captivated Americans at every turn — whether mischievously playing outside his relatives' home, screaming in fright as federal agents snatched him from that house, or smiling back in the arms of his father — was on his way.

``The legal battle is over,'' said Gregory Craig, attorney for Juan Miguel.

The Miami relatives who had fought so long to keep Elian in the United States had no immediate comment.

In the end, after the months of heated words, high emotions, legal wrangling and his seizure by federal agents in the home of his Cuban-American relatives, Elian's course was set by a brief order from the high court.

``The application for stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the court is denied. The petition for a writ of certiorari (the appeal) is denied.''

Before leaving in a motorcade for Dulles, Juan Miguel Gonzalez thanked his hosts at the Youth for Understanding International Exchange in Washington's Cleveland Park neighborhood for their hospitality.

``We've made a lot of really nice friends and we appreciate your humanity and your kindness and your warmth and understanding to me and my family in a period that has been difficult for us,'' he told them in Spanish.

Sally Grooms Cowal, president of the organization, described the Gonzalez family as ``very restrained ... They are obviously very happy.''