Elian González, the 6-year-old Cuban boy who was snatched by U.S. government agents from his Miami relatives at gunpoint in 2000 to be returned to his father in Havana, is looking forward to returning to the U.S. Now 21, he said he wants to personally thank the people who helped him after he was miraculously found by fishermen hanging onto an inner tube.
In a rare interview with him that aired Monday on ABC’s Good Morning America, González said he wants to spend time in the U.S. “to give my love to American people," but also see a baseball game and visit art museums.
"For my family it has always been, we always have the desire to say to the American people, to say to each household our gratitude, appreciation and love that we have," he told the ABC reporter. "Perhaps one day we could pay a visit to the United States. I could personally thank those people who helped us, who were there by our side. Because we're so grateful for what they did."
González is studying to become an engineer in Havana, where he lives with his father, his stepmother and three brothers.
He is also engaged to marry 22-year-old Ilianet Escaño.
According to the report, González said he disagrees with his mother’s decision to escape Fidel Castro’s regime on a boat that capsized and took her life and 10 others. He said his last memory of her is when she put him safely on a raft.
"I remember when I was put on the raft and my mom was covering me and I was raising my head, looking around,” he told the ABC reporter. “At some point I raised my head and I didn't see her again, I was alone in the middle of the sea.”
The GMA interview is the first one he gives as an adult – previously he had spoken to the press 10 years ago, when he was 11.
In a 2013 Union of Young Communists event in Havana, however, he did say the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act – better known as the ‘wet foot, dry foot policy – was to blame for his ordeal and his mother’s death.
"I suffered the consequences of that law,” he said then. “They also violated my basic rights gathered in the (U.N.) Convention on the Rights of the Child: the right to be together with my father, the right to keep my nationality and to remain in my cultural context."
He also acknowledged "the nobility" of the U.S. people, who - although "often they are also the victims of disinformation" - sympathized with his plight.
After his rescue at sea, Elian González was placed in the temporary custody of relatives in Miami, a move that sparked a bitter legal, family and political dispute between the Cuban and U.S. governments that ended with his return to the communist island with his father in June 2000.
In an historic shift, Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced last December the start of a process of rapprochement between the two nations, after more than 50 years of antagonism.
EFE contributed to this report.