Boy's Backers Fear a Bad Characterization by the Media

Article excerpt

MIAMI - The Cuban-Americans in Miami are giving no ground in the Elian Gonzalez custody battle.

But most of them concede they're losing the battle in the dispatches filed by reporters for the national newspapers and the television networks.

An army of reporters and an armada of news trucks with telescoping satellite towers have descended on the Little Havana neighborhood where the 6-year-old boy has been living with relatives while his future is agreed on in the councils of government in Havana and Washington.

The pictures and reports they have broadcast have clearly touched a nerve.

"Nobody's threatening violence," says Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican and a champion of the city's Cuban-American exiles, in defense of the community on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday.

"We have hundreds of people show up for a candlelight prayer vigil and it gets no coverage at all. You have a picture of about 20 people looking violent when they were really not, and it gets reported over and over again."

Because of the media images, writes Miami Herald columnist Liz Balmaseda, "We are a national curiosity, something to be documented by National Geographic or the Sci-Fi Channel.

"As they see it, we belong to a lunatic fringe, to a single-minded, heartless population intent on kidnapping the son of Juan Gonzalez. To them, as to Havana, we are not only the `Miami mafia,' we are, outside the northern militia lands, the only irrational dot on the U.S. map."

Despite the passions surrounding the fight, Cuban-American leaders note that the only "casualties" to date from the daily demonstrations outside the Little Havana bungalow where Elian is staying have been two temporary barriers that were trampled on Tuesday when several dozen protesters broke through to form a human chain. …