Cuban state television broke off normal programming to read an official communique minutes after the announcement of the Supreme Court's rejection of an emergency last-ditch request by relatives seeking to keep the 6-year-old in the United States.
"Now more than ever, our population must behave with the greatest dignity, serenity and discipline," the communique said, adding that "appropriate exhortations" would be given later in the day.
The return of motherless Elian would represent a major political victory for President Fidel Castro, who launched an unprecedented patriotic campaign to support the demand of the boy's father that he be returned to Cuba.
The communique said Elian, his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and the rest of their entourage of friends and relatives currently in Washington, would wait until a 4 p.m. deadline passed before arranging the return.
Foreign correspondents in Cuba were given instructions to be at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport by early evening to cover the boy's arrival.
"Let's remember at all times that our battle is barely beginning and there is still a long way to go," the government communique added, echoing Castro's insistence that attention should now focus on ending the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba and changing Washington's immigration policy.
There were no obvious preparations being made for a homecoming for the boy. Months ago, Castro promised there would be no street celebrations, no parades. Foreign correspondents have been warned they will be lucky to see Elian's plane.
Indeed, very few people are expected to get a glimpse of the first-grader known here as the "boy hero" and "symbolic child" when he comes back home. In contrast to the national campaign that plastered the 6-year-old's face across billboards, placards and T-shirts, Elian is likely to slip quietly back into a normal life.
And although plans had called for Elian to live discreetly during his first three months back in a specially prepared boarding school in Havana, government sources have indicated that he may just return to his hometown of Cardenas.
The battle over Elian began in late November when the child was rescued off the Florida coast. His mother and 10 other people drowned when their boat sank en route from Cuba to the United States.
Elian was turned over to his Miami relatives, who began fighting to keep him with them. The child's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, fought to have the child returned to him in Cuba.
When a federal court ruled that Elian should be returned to his father, the Miami relatives refused to relinquish the boy. Federal agents forcibly seize the child on April 22 and turned him over to Gonzalez pending the court appeals.
Elian, his father, his stepmother, his infant stepbrother and several of the child's Cuban schoolmates have been living in Washington during the appeal process.
The Cuban government, meanwhile, has organized more than 100 rallies across the island, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to show national support for Elian's return.
©2000, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and Reuters contr4ibuted to this report