- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2000

The continuing battle over whether Elian Gonzalez should be returned to Cuba with his father or remain in the United States has cost millions of dollars and the price tag will increase as the saga continues.

Miami police have said the cost of keeping order around Lazaro Gonzalez's bungalow in Miami's Little Havana and for riot control after the 6-year-old was snatched from the house by federal agents in a Saturday pre-dawn raid could exceed $5 million.

That includes police overtime pay and other expenses, but not the damage from a day and a half of unrest in the city after the boy was seized.

Federal costs for the actual raid, in which dozens of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officers and Border Patrol agents stormed the house and surrounded the property at 5:15 a.m., have not yet been calculated, but federal authorities believe that total could also be sizable.

Montgomery County, Md., picked up the tab for keeping order outside the Bethesda home of the Cuban Interests Section chief, where Juan Miguel Gonzalez stayed for two weeks with his family.

Officer Derek Baliles said preliminary estimates included $50,000 for overtime for police, but that at least two weeks of new overtime claims have yet to be processed. He also said other costs, including barricades, portable toilets, street sweepers and trash pickup, have not yet been figured into the total.

Prince George's County, Md., was responsible for guarding outside Andrews Air Force Base, where Elian and his family stayed for four days. Cpl. Tim Estes said he expected those costs would be tabulated "in the next few days."

Also, a number of additional local, federal and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority officers have been assigned over the past several days to handle demonstrations outside the Cuban Interests Section in Northwest Washington, the Justice Department and at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Bringing Elian Gonzalez to his father in Maryland was the responsibility of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. INS spokeswoman Maria Cardona said the agency has not yet figured the total costs involved.

The INS also will reimburse the U.S. Marshals Service for the cost of the flight for Elian aboard a Marshals Service jet to Andrews, as well as the cost of providing security to Elian's father and his family. That would include Coast Guard launches on the Wye River to patrol the area where Elian is now staying on Maryland's Eastern Shore and chase away those who come too close to the 1,100-acre grounds.

The cost of putting the Juan Gonzalez family up at the distinguished visitors unit at Andrews was about $40 a night, which also was paid by the INS. The rate is the same as that paid by military and civilian guests.

It was not clear yesterday how much it was going to cost the government to house the boy with his father, stepmother and half-brother at Carmichael Farm, the estate of the late Arthur A. Houghton Jr. of New York-based Corning Inc. The family was invited to stay at the estate by Mr. Houghton's widow, Nina, although security costs for the visit will be borne by the government.

The price of the Play-Doh given to Elian aboard his flight to Washington to reduce stress was about $4, according to Kmart.

The Elian saga also is expected to prove costly to the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, which is paying some of the $400-an-hour fee of Washington attorney Gregory B. Craig, who represents Juan Miguel Gonzalez. According to the National Council of Churches, money has been raised through a humanitarian fund established by the board's executive committee to pay the fee which is expected to run about $100,000. The precise amount has not yet been released.

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