Another Elian? Bitter International Custody Battle

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," August 27, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: You remember the chilling image of little Elian Gonzales. Elian is the young boy who drifted on an inner tube from Cuba and Florida.

His mother drowned before they made it to Florida, so Elian's relatives in Florida took him in. A fierce custody battle blew up between those relatives and the boy's father back Cuba. And after dragging then Attorney General Janet Reno into it, Elian's father won, and Elian was sent back to Cuba.

Well, now a four-year-old girl appears to be caught up in a strikingly similar battle. The Associated Press reporter Laura Wides-Munos joins us live from Miami.

Laura, tell me about this little girl. What is the story with her? Who is she?

LAURA WIDES-MUNOS, ASSOCIATED PRESS: This little girl came with her mother from Cuba in 2005. They came legally. She had gotten a Visa. And, unfortunately, shortly after they arrived, things just went downhill. The mother's husband abandoned them.

The mother had a crisis and, basically, a few days before Christmas of 2005, she had a meltdown, a breakdown, and she called 911 and said can somebody please take my children. She actually had brought a 12-year-old son with a different man, as well as her four-year-old daughter.

And the children were put into foster care, and eventually ended up with a family that they are now living with. But, the father of the little girl, who was back in Cuba when he found this out, he immediately contacted a lawyer and said I want to get my child back.

Unfortunately, it took months for him to get a Visa. And now he is here. And the foster family, which has since adopted the 12-year-old boy, now wants to adopt this little girl.

VAN SUSTEREN: This has been a relatively quiet situation until just recently. What happened, and where does it stand now in the court system?

WIDES-MUNOS: It was quiet. It was moving through the courts, first in closed hearings, which made it really quiet. And then there was a gag order, which kept all the attorneys from talking.

But now that gag order has been lifted, and the hearings are public. And today, the judge agreed to let the case go forward as to whether the father is a fit parent. And tomorrow the 12-year-old half-a brother of the little girl will be the first to testify.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me about the foster parents.

WIDES-MUNOS: The foster parents Joe Cubas and his wife Maria, are a Cuban-American family. He is a former sports agent--well-known, slightly controversial. He represented Orlando Hernandez, known as El Duque, and a number of others.

He is now a businessman in Miami. And they have adamantly said they want to keep the kids and that they believe the kids should be together.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the kids have been living with them for a while. They love the kids, essentially, right?

WIDES-MUNOS: I have not seen them with the kids, so I cannot say, but they seem to feel very passionately about the kids.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, they are fighting for the kids. And the father is there.

Now, what about the natural mother? Has she taken a position on this, whether the daughter should go back to Cuba with the father, or stay with the foster parents?

WIDES-MUNOS: She has, and that is one of the things that really makes this case different from Elian. His mother was drowned, and in this case, the mother says, "If I can't have the kids, I want the father to have them. He is a good man, he has a wife, and they have a small daughter as well."

And the father has come here, and he says he wants to have her back. So that really makes the difference in the case. And I think that has had an impact on the community here, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why isn't she trying to regain custody of her own daughter? If she is here in the United States, and their foster parents, they are not adopted parents, why doesn't she regain custody?

WIDES-MUNOS: I do not know for sure because I have not interviewed her at great lengths. But I believe there are issues about her psychological stability. And since the kids were removed from her care, that has been a struggle to get them back.

She did give up custody of her son. She did give him up to adoption to the Cubas family, they have now adopted him. But she has not agreed to give up custody of her daughter.

VAN SUSTEREN: We only have 25 seconds left. What is the community think? Is this likely to be as electrifying as Elian Gonzales?

WIDES-MUNOS: I do not think so, because both the parents have agreed to go through the U.S. court system. And I also think that there's a sense in the community that with what the mother says this daughter should go back to the father, and the father is saying he wants her.

And there is no evidence, at least for now, of abuse. And he has pretty quickly shown strong interest in her, and it is hard to say the family should not have that.

And even Spanish language radio, which is pretty strong anti- Castro and pretty vocal down here has really been relatively quiet. And some of the broadcasters have said, what do you do? It is parents who want to have their kids back.

VAN SUSTEREN: Laura, thank you.

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