Cuban president Fidel Castro talks with Elian Gonzalez, July 14, 2001, in Cardenas, Cuba. | Photo: AFP
Interviewed on Cuban state TV, Elian called Fidel a father-figure who became a friend.
Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who became the object of an international custody battle 16 years ago in Miami, mourned the death of Fidel Castro Saturday, a man he likened to a “father.”
“Fidel began to be that father like all who start off as fathers, but the difficult thing is for a father to become a friend,” he said, interviewed on Cuban state TV. “He is a father who like my father, I wanted to show him everything I achieved. That he would be proud of me — that’s how it was with Fidel — if I learned something, I wanted to show him. And there are still many things that I want to show him,” Elian added.
Elian was five years old when he was found floating on an inner tube off the Florida coast in November 1999. His mother and other Cubans accompanying the boy died on route from the island 90 miles to the south, Elian’s father had not been told of the voyage.
The right-wing Cuban community in Miami took the opportunity of his case to try to further their counter-revolutionary agenda, as his great-uncle’s family tried to keep him in the United States.
However, the whole scheme backfired when U.S. and international opinion instead insisted on the return of Elian to his father in Cuba.