Elian Gonzalez Is Making Headlines Again

Boy seized in 2000 raid in Miami, deported to Cuba is set to become a lawmaker in his own land
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2023 9:06 AM CST
Boy Whose Pic Stunned World Is Set to Be a Lawmaker
Elian Gonzalez is seen in Havana on Aug. 13, 2016.   (Ismael Francisco, Cubadebate via AP, File)

More than 20 years ago, the terrified face of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez graced newspapers around the world when armed federal agents burst into his family's Miami home to retrieve him and return him to his father's custody in Cuba. Gonzalez, 29, is now making headlines again, this time in his native Cuba, where he's on the cusp of joining that country's National Assembly, reports the Guardian. Gonzalez has received a nomination to sit on the 470-member legislative body, as first reported in the Cuban newspaper Granma, via the Guardian. CNN notes that the nomination pretty much guarantees Gonzalez will land in the assembly, which convenes a few times a year to discuss and approve laws.

Gonzalez became the focal point of a high-stakes custody battle that started when he fled Cuba for Florida in November 1999 with his mother and nine other people. He was almost 6 at the time. The refugees' boat capsized, however, and everyone on board perished—except for little Elian, who was found clinging to an inner tube by a fisherman after drifting for two days and brought to the US, per NPR. The boy settled in with relatives in Miami, but his father, Juan Miguel, still in Cuba, wanted him back. It became an international incident, as Cuban leader Fidel Castro demanded Elian be returned to his homeland, putting then-US President Clinton in a bind amid the post-Cold War climate.

Elian's relatives in Miami thought he'd be brainwashed by the Castro regime if he went back, but the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of deportation—and on April 22, 2000, armed federal agents conducted a raid on the boy's Miami home and seized him at gunpoint. Elian received a hero's welcome when he arrived back in Cuba that June, and he later would say Castro was like a second father to him, per CNN, which notes the Cuban leader even attended Elian's seventh birthday party. He has also said he disagrees with his late mother trying to flee to the US. The official election to confirm Gonzalez, now an industrial engineer described by Granma as "representative of the most valuable of Cuban youth," will take place March 26. (More Elian Gonzalez stories.)

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