Elian Gonzalez, forcibly returned to Cuba as a tot and now apparently a committed communist, slammed the U.S. embargo on Cuba in an interview with CNN en Español last week at a youth conference in Ecuador.
Gonzalez became a household name in the late 1990s when as a 6-year-old Cuban boy he was found floating off the coast of Florida in an inner tube after his mother and others fleeing Cuba drowned trying to reach the U.S.
"Just like her, many others have died attempting to go to the United States. But it's the U.S. government's fault. Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba," Gonzalez told CNN en Español
"But, despite that, Cuba, even with all its problems has progressed over the years," Gonzalez added. "The progress we've made is all thanks to Cuba's courage, our dignity, our continued fight for a more just model."
Gonzalez, now 20 and a cadet at a Cuban military academy, echoed the communist mantra as he spoke to the network at the World Festival of Youth and Students – a left-wing conference that attracted more than 10,000 people from all over, CNN reported.
Gonzalez is expected to speak at the conference though he couldn't say what topic he would tasked with discussing.
"My topic could range anywhere from the lifting of the unjust blockade on Cuba to the freedom of the 'Cuban Five.' The main reason we're here is because we want a revolutionary progressive movement that leads to socialism," he said.
The Cuban Five is a reference to the five Cuban intelligence agents convicted in 2001 of spying on U.S. military installations in South Florida, exile groups and politicians. They are regarded as heroes in Cuba.
After being rescued by U.S. officials from the waters off Florida's coast in November of 1999, Gonzalez was subsequently returned to his father in Cuba in June 2000 after U.S. immigration officials ruled the boy should return to Cuba over the objections of his Miami relatives and other Cuban exiles.
When asked by CNN en Español how his life has been in Cuba since leaving Miami, Gonzalez said, "I haven't suffered any consequences because of what happened. It has not affected me psychologically, but it has been hard for my family," adding, "those were tough times."
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