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Elian says dolphins saved his life

Published Mar 27, 2000


Miami - Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the centre of an international custody dispute, says dolphins saved his life by helping him stay above water and cling to an inner tube after the boat he was travelling in sank.

The six-year-old's first television interview was aired by ABC's Good Morning America on Monday, as lawyers for the boy's relatives prepared for another round of a legal battle to keep him in the United States.

The relatives are appealing a US government decision to send Elian back to his father in Cuba following his dramatic November 25 rescue at sea after the shipwreck, in which his mother drowned.

Drawing a picture reflecting his experiences at sea, Elian said that while he was clinging to the inner tube he was surrounded by dolphins, who would push him up when he started losing strength.

He also said he dreamed that his mother was still alive.

"My mom is not dead, she is not in heaven," said the boy in Spanish. "She is in Miami, but she has lost her memory and does not know that I am here."

The playful and talkative boy showed a lot of affection to Marisleysis Gonzalez, his 21-year-old Miami cousin, who says she has become the boy's surrogate mother.

Elian has been living with relatives in Miami since he was rescued off the coast of Florida.

His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, backed by the Cuban government, has been demanding the boy's return to Cuba, but Elian's Miami relatives have successfully blocked his repatriation over the past four months.

Television journalist Diane Sawyer spent two days with the boy in the company of a Spanish-speaking child psychiatrist, who had no prior connection to the case.

The legal wrangling has given rise to concerns that the family's defeat in courts could spark massive protests similar to those that rocked this city in January when, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service announced its decision to repatriate Elian to Cuba.

But Linda Osberg-Braun, a lawyer for the Miami relatives, said they "are willing to give their 100 percent assurance that they will obey the laws of the United States" - even if they are forced to send Elian back to Cuba. - Sapa-AFP

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