HAVANA TIMES — Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old rafter survivor who became the face of the confrontation between Cuba and the United States in 2000, said he wants to visit Miami, 15 years after his return to the island, reported dpa news.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the American people for their love” said Gonzalez, 21, in an interview in English whose first excerpts were released today by the ABC television network.
Gonzalez was found adrift by fishermen in the Atlantic in 1999. He was the only survivor of a capsized raft in which his mother and ten others fled Cuba.
“I was floating in the sea, that’s the last thing I remember,” he said in an interview to be released in parts throughout the day.
Elian’s rescue generated an international child custody battle between his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and his relatives in Miami. In April 2000, armed federal agents entered the house in Miami where he was being held and sent him back to Cuba.
The former “rafter child” is now a young student of 21 who lives in Matanzas province, east of Havana.
Gonzalez said in the interview he is not angry with his relatives in the United States and said he would be willing to visit them in Miami.
“Maybe one day I can visit the United States. There I could thank personally thank the people who helped us, who were on our side. I am grateful for what they did,” said the young man, who is considered a hero by the Cuban government.
“We are proud of him as the youngest of our heroes,” said the President Raul Castro, in December last year at a session of Parliament.
Cuba and the United States are in the process of resumption of relations after more than half a century of ideological confrontation. In a surprise announcement in December 2014, the two countries said they would resume relations broken off unilaterally by the US in 1961.