04/21/2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
The U.S. Justice Department declined to take action on Thursday after Lazaro Gonzales, the great-uncle of Elian Gonzalez, refused to honor a government order and surrender the 6-year-old to his father. The international incident over the youngster's custody continues to drag on amid escalating tension in Miami, Washington, D.C., and Havana. In Miami, thousands of Cuban Americans -- including singer Gloria Estefan -- protested outside of Lazaro's Little Havana home, where the great-uncle vowed to thwart the boy's removal, despite demands of Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Attorney General Janet Reno continued to seek a settlement between the two sides. Lazaro, meanwhile, is seeking his own face-to-face meeting with Juan Miguel, claiming he will then decide whether or not to turn Elian over to his father.