Alan Diaz tells elafilador.net’s Rosa Flores and elafilador.net photojournalist Dominic Swann around capturing famed photos of Elian Gonzalez.

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You are watching: Cuban boy sent back to cuba

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now 23, the Cuban boy at the facility of an worldwide custody fight in 2000, has actually grown up.

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in ~ 6, Elian Gonzales to be ripped through federal police officers from a relative’s home and sent earlier to Cuba. In ~ 20, he speak out.

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elafilador.net’s Rafael Romo recorded up with Elian Gonzalez and also asked him about his deportation from U.S. And also his time in Cuba.

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Randi Kaye reports top top the worldwide custody fight over Elián González 13 year ago, and also what’s happened due to the fact that then.

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gain a quick rundown the the complex history in between the U.S. And also Cuba native elafilador.net’s Patrick Oppmann.

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elafilador.net’S Nic Robertson looks at the future that US-Cuba relations adhering to Fidel Castro’s death.

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Program note: elafilador.net films presents, “Elian,” the story the a custody fight over a six-year-old boy that flourished into an worldwide incident. Watch “Elian,” Thursday, august 24, at 10 p.m. ET ~ above elafilador.net. This story has actually been updated indigenous an article first published in 2015.


When tiny Elian Gonzalez returned to Cuba in 2000 adhering to a gift custody battle and also a commonwealth raid on his Miami relatives’ home, it to be to resume a life much from the glare that the media spotlight. At least that’s what Cuban officials and also his father stated at the time.

Seventeen years later, it hasn’t resolved that way.


Gonzalez, 23, remains one of the most identifiable figures on the island and one of his generation’s most outspoken supporters of the Cuban Revolution.

The tiny boy that was discovered clinging come an inner tube in the Florida Straits, and became renowned playing in the garden of his Miami kin’s house while two nations battled over his fate, graduated indigenous a military academy in 2016 through a level in industrial engineering.




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“I don’t perform anything various than other young people,” Gonzalez claimed in 2015 in one interview with the Cuban Communist Party daily Granma. “I have fun, play sports, but I am also involved with the job-related of the change and realize that young people are crucial for the advancement of the country.”

prior to he graduated, Gonzalez told Granma, that plans on involvement the Cuban military.

“Living below is a debt i owe to the Cuban people,” Gonzalez said. “That’s who I will always work and also fight for.”

A deadly expedition on a rickety boat

His journey to fame began with the international incident that exploded ~ 6-year-old Elian was found in the water on Thanksgiving day 1999.

His mother, Elizabeth, and nine other people who were taking part in the clandestine trip drowned after their rickety boat capsized in high seas while castle tried to make their method from Cuba come the united States.

Elian’s father, Juan Miguel, battled to lug the boy back to Cuba. Cuban leader Fidel Castro led massive protests ~ above the island demanding Elian’s return.

The case became a flashpoint in the already boiling feud between supporters and also opponents the Castro’s revolution.

Elian’s Miami relatives said if the boy went earlier to Cuba, he would end up being a brainwashed trophy because that Castro in his long-running feud through the US.

as the two sides battled out the high-profile case in court, U.S. Immigration officials chose to put Elian in the custody that his father, who had pertained to the United claims to push for his son’s return.


Elian’s loved ones in Miami refused to hand him over, and also then, in a nighttime raid, equipped federal agents stormed the house of his uncle and also seized the boy. An connected Press photograph of the terrified child, cowering as an officer in riot gear points an attack rifle at him, inflamed passions also more.

Rioting damaged out in Miami as numerous in the Cuban-American neighborhood reacted angrily come the seizure the the boy.

Elian was reunited with his father and following more court proceedings – ending with the supreme Court rejecting the Miami relatives’ initiatives to acquire him ago – father and son flew house to Cuba.

A enormous ‘welcome home’ demonstration

there the government celebrated Elian’s return v a enormous demonstration.

From climate on, Elian Gonzalez was surrounding by government bodyguards. The said later that they ended up being some of his best friends throughout his childhood.

Gonzalez’s father, a waiter who had actually received invitations to defect while in the joined States, to be appointed to the island’s nationwide Assembly.

despite the promises he would go back to his old life, Elian Gonzalez never stayed out of the general public spotlight also long.

in ~ his seventh date of birth party, the guest the honor was Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Photos of Elian and also Castro celebrate were an initial shown on the island’s state-run TV and also then transmitted approximately the world, come a public quiet fascinated through the situation of the rafter-boy.

“I don’t profess come have any type of religion, but if i did mine God would be Fidel Castro. The is prefer a ship the knew to take his crew on the best path,” Gonzalez claimed in one interview with Cuba’s state-run media in 2013.

’I experienced the monster native the inside’

In one more 2013 interview, Gonzalez claimed he remembers little of the devastating journey come the us or the it s too dirty months life with loved ones in Miami’s tiny Havana if lawyers and government officials said over his future.

His mommy was “manipulated” by her friend to leave Cuba, the said, and if he had stayed in Miami, he would have actually been forced to end up being “a performer” for the media.

“I witnessed the monster from the inside,” he said, quoting Cuba’s revolutionary poet Jose Marti.

That exact same year, Gonzalez take it his first trip external of Cuba due to the fact that his return native the joined States, traveling to Ecuador for a youth conference.

during the conference, Gonzalez blasted U.S. Plans that that said motivated Cubans prefer his mommy to do the dangerous journey by sea to Florida.

“Just prefer her, many others have passed away attempting to walk to the unified States. Yet it’s the us government’s fault,” the told elafilador.net in one interview. “Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and an important economic instance in Cuba.”

’The youngest of our heroes’

In 2014, Gonzalez was among the guests of honor at the government celebration to note the return of 3 Cuban knowledge agents that were freed as component of the historical thawing of relations in between the U.S. And Cuba.

“We space proud the him, as the youngest of ours heroes,” Cuban chairman Raul Castro said throughout the ceremony, gesturing to Gonzalez in the audience, as he recounted the young man’s success in institution the means a proud father would.

speak to abc News in 2015, Gonzalez claimed he would favor to visit the United states again someday to thank the people who sustained his return to Cuba.

“To the American people, very first I say thank you because that the love they offer me,” Gonzalez said. “I want the time to offer my love to American people.”

yet Gonzalez remains a strident revolutionary.

In 2015, that was chosen to the management of his regional Committee because that the Defense the the Revolution, the neighborhood watch teams that act together the front-line eyes and ears of the Cuban government. In current years participation in the committees has actually dwindled, an especially among the young, that seem less interested in the 59-year-old transformation than their parents and grandparents are.

“It’s a mistake come say the young world are ‘lost,’” Gonzalez stated in the interview with Granma in June. “Young people aren’t the future, we space the present.”