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Elian Gonzalez makes 1st trip abroad since 2000

Cuba Elian Gonzalez
HAVANA (AP) - Elian Gonzalez, the young Cuban boy who survived a boat sinking and became a political football during the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign as the subject of an international custody fight, is on his first trip overseas since being reunited with his father.

Cuban state-run media say Gonzalez is in Ecuador this week as part of a 200-strong delegation to the 23rd World Festival of Youth and Students, which runs through Friday.

In a recent interview published on the official website Cubadebate, Gonzalez said living in Cuba afforded him more privacy than if he had stayed in the United States.

"I'm a little shy, so when I stand up somewhere and know that the whole world is looking at me and I'm perhaps the center of attention ... it's pretty tough," Gonzalez said.

"I'd rather pass unnoticed," he added.

Gonzalez was just shy of his sixth birthday when the small boat that was carrying him, his mother and a dozen others went down near Florida. Gonzalez's mother was among those who died, but he was found floating in an inner tube, rescued and taken to the United States.

A bitter court battle ensued between Gonzalez's father, who demanded the boy be returned to him in Cuba, and Miami relatives, who insisted he stay with them.

Gonzalez became a political cause celebre both in Cuba, where the government organized mass marches proclaiming his right to be with his father, and among Florida exiles, who argued it would be inhumane to send him back to Communist-run Cuba and said his mother's wish to take him to the U.S. should be respected.

The case culminated with a dramatic raid on a house where U.S. federal agents retrieved Gonzalez at gunpoint, and he was flown back to the island in June 2000.

Gonzalez has been almost entirely out of sight since then, his privacy fiercely guarded by his father and Cuban officials. He attended a military academy as a cadet for a time and is now studying industrial engineering at Camilo Cienfuegos University of Matanzas.

In the interview, which was published to coincide with his 20th birthday on Friday, Gonzalez said the young man he is today was shaped by lessons from his parents. He also spoke of his admiration for retired leader Fidel Castro, who kept close tabs on his welfare over the years.

"He always came for my birthday. I always looked forward to that moment," Gonzalez said. "I'm a person of few words (and) I clammed up when he was there, but it was enough to see him and give him that hug."

"I always remember what he told me: That I was already somebody, that the whole world knew who I was, and now what I had to do was be good at something, that's what he asked of me," Gonzalez added. "He never cared which path I took ... the intention was that I be good at whatever I did."

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taha1946 December 14 2013 at 6:58 PM

what the usa did then was the right thing to do return to his living father who he did need most then not creat a political cause.

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kostas December 11 2013 at 2:08 PM

Please no one cares about Elian this is Castro USA nothing more,
We hate Castro dictator Communist hold on China communist yet we send all of our jobs there.
How many have lost there job do to outsourcing.
Saudi Arabia king dictator no rights for the ladies we buy a lot of oil from them that keep those
people in power. Cuba has done nothing to us we love Germany 2 world wars we love Japan
pearl harbor. And what did Cuba do the Missle Crisis please.
We select our friends and enemies' as we see fit,
This is just a political game why do we care about Elian the media has nothing to right about so here we go, We have more important things then some Cuban and what he said,

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litter2000 December 11 2013 at 11:59 AM

I wish you a happy and successful life.

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landlhawk December 11 2013 at 11:19 AM

Elian,

I know you will never get this message. This is the way of your life (Castro will see to this). I hope you do well, but I also hold in my heart the desparate situation for your mother. Fathers are fine but Mothers carry you inside. They go through very hard birth, and your Mother gave up her life for you. The first place I would have visited in honor of my Mom is the USA to her relatives. Your Mom, gave her life to bring her son to a better place, and for all the women over the world speaks for itself. You are an adult now, and everything you hear has gone through the governmen of Cuba. Yes, I was there in Tampa, Florida for the Missle Crisis, and I saw all the people come in from Cuba. They are still here, and seem to be enjoying a wonderful life. My sister, is married to one of the Cuban people who came here. I am just an all American, I have part Cherokee, part this or that, but most importantly, I am who I am. This is Free to be whatever you wanted to be (my children can test to that). This is what your Mom wanted for you, and gave up her life for it.

If you get this message in non edited by the Cuban Government let me know.

I will always remember your Mother.

Lorriaine

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1 reply to landlhawk's comment
mc December 11 2013 at 11:51 AM

Very beautifully put, Lorriaine. Elian seems to have grown to be a very fine young man...but all you say regarding his mom has deep merit. I hope he realizes what you wrote some day, if he doesn't now. And i hope he knows that people in this country wanted only the best for him too. Best wishes to you always.

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teevnntt1 December 11 2013 at 10:52 AM

Even though the parents were divorced and the mother was on her way to my country illegally, the father had the parental rights, not the relatives. Doesn't sound like Elian suffered during his upbringing and turned out to be a productive, attractive young man in society. I do hope he has a good life and prospers.

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ET HOME December 11 2013 at 10:43 AM

I wish him well.

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Bill December 11 2013 at 9:26 AM

glad he turned out so well..

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wjs27skeet December 11 2013 at 9:41 AM

He was taken from freedom back to a dictatorship and put thru the re-education process. Then put into a Commie Military School which Castro took special interest in This all to make President Clinton look good. Yea, everything turned out so well.

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ftlshome December 11 2013 at 9:21 AM

i remember this whole incident in miami but i must say he seems happy and pretty well adjusted,but i don't agree with the way he was taken from his relatives home in 2000

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grrdpigeon December 11 2013 at 9:18 AM

When thiers tens off thousand people that want to come to USA, why bother with one that been brain wash, thiers some people you just can't help.

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bcrnbs2 December 11 2013 at 9:13 AM

another great clinton vicotory.. so whjy cant we do the same to all illegals.. we packed him up and send him back to cuba and now why not pack up the illegals and send them back to mexico..

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2 replies to bcrnbs2's comment
wjs27skeet December 11 2013 at 9:44 AM

Elian Gonzalas was not illegal. There is a special law which pertains to Cuban refugees, once they set foot on US soil they are citizens. But I agree with your question. I guess Elian was not old enough to vote Democratic.

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MatuArt December 11 2013 at 10:41 AM

go ahead and try it~yourself I'd like to send a lot of you people out of America for being bigots

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