It was 15 years ago Wednesday that federal agents, with weapons drawn, took 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from his aunt's Miami home to return him to his father in Cuba, and the little boy whose frightened face ended up in a Pulitzer-prize winning photograph
is all grown up.
The now-21-year-old returned not only to his father's home in Cuba, but since that time has become an avid fan of retired dictator Fidel Castro and an active member of Cuba's Militant Union of Young Communists, reports ABC News
He is also a college student studying industrial engineering at the University of Matanzas, located near his Cardenas home about 90 minutes out of Havana, and from all indications from the Cuban media, the young man is a typical college student: He enjoys karate, swimming, movies, and has a Facebook page.
His saga began in November 1999, when his mother fled Cuba with him and 10 others on a homemade raft for a better life in the United States. She and the other adults were killed when the raft sank, but a fisherman found Gonzalez floating alone on an innertube about 60 miles north of Miami.
After the Coast Guard brought the boy to shore, his Miami relatives and the exile community fought to keep him in the United States, but President Bill Clinton ordered that he be returned to his father in Cuba, and Gonzalez was seized during the early morning hours of April 22, 2000.
The once-terrified boy's case made him a hero to Cubans, who saw the case as an example of Castro's refusal to back down to the United States and to the Cuban exiles in Miami.
His father, Juan Miguel, since became a member of the National Congress, and Gonzalez has spoken out about the United States' embargo against his country, reports ABC.
He said at a Youth Congress in Ecuador in 2013 that the embargo and the desperate poverty experienced as a result caused his mother to risk their lives on a raft in 1999, and insisted that Cuba has "progressed over the years."
Gonzalez also became close to Castro, who came to his birthday parties for years, but he makes few public appearances. He is often seen at political events, and was recently seen at President Raul Castro's closing speech to the Council of States in December.
However, while Gonzalez has spoken out against the U.S. embargo, he has not made a comment about the agreement reached to restore diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba.
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