Cuban Boy's Plight Could Become Factor for N.Y. Senate Candidates

MIAMI--Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old Cuban castaway, could become an issue in the New York Senate race. Yesterday, as one of his cousins wrote to Hillary Rodham Clinton, urging her to use her clout as first lady to help the boy stay in Miami rather than return to his father in Cuba, aides to New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani proposed having Elian help drop the crystal ball in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

The boy represents "what America means--freedom, the right to choose," said one aide who attended a closed-door meeting to discuss the idea with Giuliani.

In a letter addressed to "Mrs. Hillary Rotham Clinton," Marisleysis Gonzalez wrote: "We beg you now as a mother, to be the First Lady that truly crosses all ethnic barriers and speaks out for the children. Please, please help."

Cuban President Fidel Castro told NBC's "Today" he believed President Clinton was eager to return the boy to his father, "the sooner the better."

Last week, Clinton said the issue should not involve politics and said the law should be followed in determining the fate of the boy.

Murder Plot by DEA Agent Alleged

BROWNSVILLE, Tex.--A Drug Enforcement Administration agent based in Mexico is accused of trying to hire someone to kill a teenager suspected in the 1995 slaying of his cousin.

Authorities allege that Salvador Michael Martinez, 37, tried to hire someone to kill a Mexican teenager who was charged but not convicted in the 1995 death of Lionel "Bruno" Jordan, whose brother, Phil Jordan, at the time was a top DEA official in Texas.

Members of Martinez's family had said they believed the 1995 slaying was a warning from a drug cartel aimed at Phil Jordan.

* ST. MARTINVILLE, La.--Cuban detainees holding three hostages in a Louisiana jail uprising released 39 more fellow prisoners to police as they continued to press their demand for safe passage out of the United States, officials said. As many as nine detainees armed with homemade knives were in control of the second floor of the three-story St. Martin Parish jail after overcoming a warden and two jail guards on Monday.

* NEW YORK--To the delight of 3.5 million commuters, subways and buses kept on rolling after a tentative contract settlement averted what would have been the first New York City transit strike since 1980. The proposed three-year contract would provide annual raises of 5 percent, 3 percent and 4 percent.

* CAPE CANAVERAL--Space shuttle Discovery was set to lift off at 9:18 p.m. today, which would put it in orbit over Christmas to revive the Hubble Space Telescope.

* CHAPPAQUA, N.Y.--The Clintons' new home, now plainly visible from the street, apparently won't stay that way. A zoning appeals board Tuesday gave approval for an eight-foot, white-stained cedar fence around the house that President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton recently bought.