Gonzalez Family to Seek Holy Week Reprieve From Clinton

July 7, 2008 - 8:25 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The American great-uncle of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez is preparing to ask the Clinton Administration to suspend efforts to take the boy from his Miami home during the upcoming Holy Week observance.

Officials involved with the negotiations over the boy's future told CNSNews.com on the condition of anonymity that Lazaro Gonzalez, the child's great-uncle, is planning to ask the administration in writing to forgo any efforts to remove the child at least until after Easter Sunday April 23.

The letter from the boy's great-uncle reportedly will be released late Friday and will note that President Clinton deferred military action against Iraq during the 1998 observance of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, and that similar deference should be shown toward his family and other Cuban nationals who practice Christianity.

According to sources, the Gonzalez letter will also ask the Clinton Administration to "please let us have control over this situation, let the family deal with this as a family," without intervention by the Justice Department or the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Elian has been staying with his great-uncle's family in the Little Havana section of Miami since being rescued off the Florida coast on Thanksgiving Day, 1999. The boy was part of a group of other Cubans attempting to flee the communist dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Most of those on the voyage, including the boy's mother, were lost at sea.

Clinton ordered bombing raids in Iraq on the eve of House debate regarding his impeachment in December 1998. In announcing the military action during a nationally televised speech December 16, 1998, the president said the attack on Iraq was timed so as to not take place during Ramadan, a Muslim religious observance.

The president said then that the attack was in retaliation for Iraq's refusal to cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors trying to eliminate Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's capacity to wage war with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Cuban officials said that many Cuban Christians in the US consider Holy Week to be the highest religious holiday of the year, and that it merits special consideration in the continued negotiation over how to handle the situation of the boy's status. Holy Week begins April 16 with the observance of Palm Sunday, and concludes on Easter Sunday April 23.

Elian's Miami relatives won a legal reprieve Thursday when an Atlanta appeals court granted a temporary stay on removing Elian from the United States.

The order, by Judge J.L. Edmondson of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, could be confirmed or rejected by a three-judge panel that is expected to consider it very shortly - possibly Friday.

Last month, a federal judge upheld an INS ruling that Elian's father, not his Miami relatives, has the right to decide whether his son stays in the United States or returns to Cuba. It is that ruling that the Miami relatives are appealing.

Even before the Atlanta appeals court intervened on Thursday, Elian's American family had defied a Justice Department order to give up the child at a Miami-area airport at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday afternoon.