Reno Wants To Talk To Miami's Cuban Community About Elian

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - Attorney General Janet Reno admits the Elian Gonzalez case has deeply wounded the Miami Cuban Exile community, so Reno, a Miami native, wants to talk with that community about her actions in the international child custody case that ended Wednesday night with Elian's return to Cuba.

Speaking at her weekly news briefing in Washington, Reno said, " I say to all of those that are speaking sharply and are feeling hurt, I would like to talk to you. I would like to let you know just how much I care about you and care about the community and what it has done for a city I love."

Reno was asked if she could heal the wounds between herself and the exile community. She said, "I don't know whether I can. I would like to think that I can. Some of the messages that I get from them indicate maybe I can't. I'm devoted to that community. I believe in it. I believe in its caring nature and I am going to do everything I can to heal it. I don't know whether it would be possible."

Reno, however, has no regrets about her actions in the case that included an early morning raid in April, in which armed federal agents forcibly removed the boy from the home of his Miami relatives. Following that raid, Elian was transported to the Washington area, where he remained until traveling back to Cuba Wednesday.

"In the end, he is with his father and I am glad of that. I just wish he were with his father in a democratic, free country. As you look at him with his father, it is wonderful that they can now move on with their life and his father has made the decision as I think he must have under the law," Reno said.

Reno believes the case could not have been handled any other way.

"I don't know what else could have been done. I go over it regularly. I don't think that there's any lesson (to be learned) because I don't think we'll ever see anything quite like this again," Reno said.

She was also not surprised by the tenacity shown by Elian's Miami relatives in their court challenges to keep Elian in America.

"They believe strongly in their cause and they wanted to pursue it till the end and they had the opportunity to do so," Reno said.

"I think there were some hard feelings expressed and I think they were expressed because of the intensity of feeling. Again, I've spent many, many years with the Cuban community in Miami. They can speak sharply. This hurt may go too deep, which I will regret, but I still have to do what I think is right under the law and I think that this little boy's father should speak for him and I think he should be with his father," Reno said.

However, Ramon Sanchez, President of the Cuban Democracy Movement, doesn't think Reno's offer to talk will go over well in Miami's Cuban exile community.

"I am afraid that people will not welcome her intent at this point because they will not see it as sincere. They most likely will see it as opportunistic and an effort on the side of the administration to get some votes from the Cuban community in the upcoming elections for Mister Gore. I think that would be very unfortunate," Sanchez said.

Sanchez also believes Reno is not solely to blame for what happened in the Elian Gonzalez case.

"I don't blame the Attorney General. I know that she was put in a very difficult spot. I blame Mister Clinton directly, whom I supported at the beginning of his mandate. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a person that disregards human rights of the Cuban people and that is a very, very big disappointment. He utilized the Justice Department as a tool of foreign policy to please the Cuban dictator (Castro) so that they can move on to ease the tensions and sanctions so they can do business with the Cuban dictator. They utilized Elian's case for that purpose," Sanchez said.

Armando Gutierrez, a spokesman for Elian's Miami relatives could not reached for comment after repeated phone calls Thursday by

Florida Senators Connie Mack (R-FL) and Bob Graham had no reaction to Reno's comments.