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12/06/13 - CNN - Elian Gonzalez makes first trip outside Cuba since return from Miami 

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Elian Gonzalez, the focus of a bitter international
custody dispute after he was rescued at sea as a child, left Cuba on Friday
for the first time since 2000, when the U.S. government returned him to the
island.

Gonzalez, who also turned 20 on Friday, traveled to Quito, Ecuador, as part
of a 200-member Cuban delegation to a weeklong youth conference there.

It marks a return to the international spotlight for Gonzalez, who recently
said in an interview published in Cuba's state-run media that his fame
continues to follow him in Cuba.

"Wherever I go there's always a child, an old woman that comes to me and
wants to meet me," he said. "Not because I am famous but because they
suffered with my family."

In 1999, Gonzalez, then 6 years old, was found clinging to an inner tube on
the open sea after the rickety boat he was traveling in from Cuba to the
United States sank. Gonzalez's mother and nine other people who taking part
in the clandestine journey drowned.

After his rescue, Gonzalez was placed with relatives in Miami, who wanted
to keep him in the United States.

But Gonzalez's father, Juan Miguel, fought to bring him back to Cuba.
Then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro led massive protests on the island demanding
Gonzalez's return. The case of the telegenic boy became a flashpoint
between supporters and opponents of Castro's revolution.

As the two sides fought out the high-profile case in court, U.S.
immigration officials decided to put Gonzalez in the custody of his father,
who had come to the United States to argue for Elian's return. His
relatives in Miami refused to go along, and armed federal agents then
raided the home of Gonzalez's uncle and seized the boy.

Gonzalez was reunited with his father, and after a few more weeks of court
proceedings -- ending with the Supreme Court rejecting the Miami relatives'
efforts to get him back -- the father and son returned to Cuba.  There the
government celebrated a political victory but largely kept Elian Gonzalez
out of public view and surrounded by government bodyguards.

A state celebration was held on the 10th anniversary of his return to Cuba.

"Fidel Castro for me is like a father," Gonzalez said in the recent
interview. "I don't profess to have any religion but if I did my God would
be Fidel Castro. He is like a ship that knew to take his crew on the right
path."

Now a military cadet studying industrial engineering, Gonzalez said he
would have suffered had he stayed in the United States.


Original Source / Fuente Original:
http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/06/world/americas/elian-gonzalez-travel/


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