Elian González, the Cuban boy who survived a perilous raft journey that killed his mother and became a symbol of troubled relations between the United States and Cuba, is now an adult.
Elián González, the Cuban rafter who made international headlines after he was found floating on an inner tube and then sparked a bitter custody battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, said he would visit his relatives in Miami – with one caveat.
He said he wants them to acknowledge they made a mistake.
González, now 21 and a revered figure in Cuba, where he regularly visits former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, told ABC News in an interview earlier this week that he wants to visit the United States to “give my love to the American people.”
Elián’s mother left Cuba with her son and her boyfriend to try and offer her son a better life in the United States. She and others who tried to make it to Miami drowned, but on Thanksgiving Day 1999 Elián was found by fisherman shivering and dehydrated, as he tightly clung onto an inner tube in the shark-infested waters of the Florida Straits.
He was taken in by his relatives in Little Havana, who hired a team of lawyers to try and gain legal custody of Elián after his father asked for his son to be returned to Cuba. After months of seesaw negotiations, in April 2000 Elián was forcibly removed from the home of his relatives and returned to his father in Cuba.
In the ABC interview Elián said he was open to visiting the family, which briefly made their modest home into a makeshift museum, but would only do so if they admit they were wrong.
Though Elián has not spoken ill of the family, he has continually said their actions weren’t in his best interest.
"Even though they didn't help me in every way possible, they didn't help me move forward, they are still my own family," he said during the 10-year anniversary of his return to Cuba.
In an interview with the Miami Herald this week, Elián’s great uncle, Delfin González, said he would gladly welcome his nephew back into his home – but seemed to indicate he wouldn’t change his original position.
“What we did at the moment was correct, to want a child to be raised in a situation where you have all the opportunities through your own actions and not in a system where the government manipulates you.”
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado didn’t seem so welcoming – saying it would be better for everyone if Elián stayed away from Miami.
“I hope he doesn’t come. It would be very polarizing. People who were trying to save him were beaten by police; some who went to bat for him ended up in jail. People lost their jobs who stayed in front of the house praying for him,” Regalado told the paper. “We don’t need this kind of drama in Miami.”
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