By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KEY WEST, Fla., July 15 -- A flotilla of boats left for international waters off Havana for a service in memory of 41 people who were killed trying to flee Cuba when their tugboat was sunk by the Cuban authorities in 1994.
About 60 people boarded eight boats at Key West late Friday and sailed into the Florida Straits. For today's memorial they were headed to a spot outside Cuba's territorial waters, 12 miles off the Florida coast.
"I think a lot of good will come out of this, and now with what happened with Elián it will only strengthen the message we are trying to portray," said Marta Evora, 53, of Miami.
Six-year-old Elián González, who was found by fishermen after the boat he was in capsized off the coast of Florida, returned to Cuba last month after being the focus of a custody battle between his Miami relatives and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The Democracy Movement, an anti-Castro exile group based in Miami, organized the flotilla to remember Cubans who drowned when their tugboat was overturned on July 13, 1994, by the Cuban coast guard.
"Our purpose here is not a confrontational one," said Ramon Saul Sanchez, the group's spokesman. "We are here to remember the Cubans who died on the tugboat '13 de Marzo' and Elián González."
In Havana, the Cuban government said President Fidel Castro had met with Elián on Friday, their first meeting since the boy's return from the United States on June 28.
The reports did not say where the meeting took place, but the government had prepared a house in west Havana for Elián, his father, Juan Miguel González, and their family to live in before they returned to Cárdenas, their hometown.
Mr. Castro congratulated the child for completing first grade, according to Granma, the Communist Party daily newspaper.