Cuba marks 10th anniversary of Elian Gonzalez's return

14:59, June 28, 2010      

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Cuba marked on Sunday the 10th anniversary of the return of the six-year-old castaway Elian Gonzalez, who hit headlines in a custody dispute between anti-Castro groups in Miami, the U.S. government and the Cuban government.

"The pain of the tragedy is left behind" and Elian, 16, lives now "as happy as any other Cuban teenager, with his family and brothers," the official daily Juventud Rebelde said Sunday.

"A decade after being the temporal plaything of the enemies of the Revolution, Elian can be seen wearing his olive green uniform as a student of the military high school Camilo Cienfuegos, where he is being trained as a future officer of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces," it added.

Elian's odyssey began on Nov. 22, 1999, when his mother, Elizabeth Brotons, and another 11 relatives attempted to illegally leave Cuba for the United States.

Their boat sank few miles away from Florida. Elizabeth and her 11 relatives got drowned, but little Elian was rescued by two fishermen.

After being delivered to his relatives in Miami, the child became the center of a custody dispute between his relatives in the U.S. city and his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who demanded the return of the child to Cuba, with the support of then Cuban President Fidel Castro.

For seven months, the Cuban government urged the return of Elian, while most of the conservative Cuban exiles in Miami demanded political asylum for the kid.

Janet Reno, attorney general in the Clinton administration, insisted that the child should be with his father. The U.S. authorities had to use force to take Elian from his relatives in Miami who refused to surrender.

Finally, on June 28, 2000, Elian landed at Havana airport in his father's arms.

Elian Gonzalez then became a symbol of the Cuban Revolution. Fidel Castro used to attend Elian's every birthday until he retired from public life in 2006 due to health problems.

The boy's return is celebrated annually with parades in his hometown of Cardenas, 150 km east of Havana.

Source: Xinhua


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