Cuban Exiles Threaten Protest At Miami Airport

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - Cuban exiles protesting the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) decision to send 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez back to his father in Cuba are planning to protest Monday at the Miami International Airport. But airport officials and Dade County Police say they are ready for any conflict.

The airport is one of the busiest hubs to Latin America in the western hemisphere and the place most likely where Gonzalez would fly out of back to Cuba.

Ramon Saul Sanchez, an official with a Cuban Exile group "Democracia Movement" told those rallying for Gonzalez to remain in America to slow down traffic at the airport in support of the boy.

Gonzalez has been in Miami with relatives since Thanksgiving Day when he was discovered alone in a raft after his mother and others had drowned trying to flee Cuba for the United States. Since that time Fidel Castro has demanded Gonzalez be returned to his father in Cuba.

"We're calling for everyone to drive with their vehicles throughout the whole day to the Miami International Airport in order to slow down the airport and even bring it to a halt if necessary," Sanchez said.

Sanchez hopes the protest will prod Clinton to rescind the INS decision to allow Elian to return to Cuba.

"What we are asking for is for the President of the United States to allow Elian to have his day in court. Castro has put up a smoke curtain with the case of Elian to divert the attention that all the media and international community have placed on the dissident movement after the Ibero-American summit. He [Castro] is concentrating an outside conflict with the United States so that he can crush the dissident movement." Sanchez said.

Officials at the Miami International Airport say they are ready for the protest and vow that airport operations will not be shut down.

"They won't shut it down. We've got some things that we are preparing to do that I can't say or disclose publicly. We are very, very confident that this airport will not shut down. We are bringing in a heightened level of police officers, there will be a significant amount of police out here. We're also bringing in additional tow trucks to tow vehicles. If anybody is going to stop or block the traffic, they will be promptly towed," Lauren Gail Stover, a spokesperson for the Miami International Airport told

Stover also said the Miami International Airport has experienced such incidents before and is prepared for anything today.

"We have heightened security measures due to some of the worldwide incidences that have occurred. We just are prepared in the event that these protesters come here. We will not allow them to interrupt our operations," said Stover.

Some flights to Cuba originate from the Miami International Airport but most are charter operations.

Miami-Dade County police said they have increased its patrol units in anticipation of any trouble at the facility.

"We have security at the airport and are the police presence at the airport. We were on heightened alert as it was, so what we've done is literally just doubled the amount of officers we have here. We have a field force contingency on standby at the airport. We've put all our uniformed officers on it and all our investigative services on it. We have cancelled days off and we're on 12 hour shifts, " Miami Dade police detective Pat Brickman told

Brickman also said the Miami-Dade county police will not be assisted by the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) or the Florida National Guard in keeping order at the airport.

"It won't be necessary. We certainly have enough resources to provide security at the airport," said Brickman.

A spokesperson for Governor Jeb Bush's (R) office told on Friday that the governor is monitoring the Miami situation and working with state and local law enforcement officials but has taken no action with regard to using Florida National Guard troops in Miami.