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Account of Elian meeting outrages Miami

Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives are outraged over his Cuban grandmother's account of how she playfully bit the 6-year-old boy's tongue and unzipped his pants during their long-awaited reunion.

"The family is shocked and disturbed," Armando Gutierrez, spokesman for the Miami relatives, said Friday. "That is not a Cuban custom."

Through Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., Elian's Florida relatives requested a meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno next week to discuss unspecified new information about the case, Justice spokesman Carole Florman said. The request was being considered.

In an interview on Cuban television Tuesday, Elian's paternal grandmother, Mariela Quintana, said she had "played jokes" with the boy during a U.S. government-ordered meeting Jan. 26 at the home of a Roman Catholic nun in Miami.

Quintana said the boy was reserved at the start of the meeting, so she joked that he might have lost his tongue. "I took his tongue out of his mouth," she said, gesturing with her hand as if she was pulling her own tongue from her mouth. "I bit it."

"I even opened up his zipper," she said, making an unzipping gesture. "I told him, "Let me see, let me see . . . if it has grown.' "

Meeting host Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin and Sister Lenore Esnard, who also was in the house, were unaware of the exchange until Quintana's remarks were broadcast on Miami television, said Barry University spokeswoman Michele Morris. O'Laughlin is president of the school.

In Cuba, few people found anything strange about Quintana's behavior, but the spokeswoman for the Spanish-language Telemundo affiliate in Miami said the station was flooded with calls from outraged viewers.

Uva de Aragon, assistant director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, said Quintana's behavior was probably innocent.

"The way the woman said it on national television shows it wasn't something perverted," de Aragon said.

She said the Cuban culture has been very male-oriented. Fathers, particularly in lower classes, often boast about the size of their sons' genitals, she said.