Cuba’s Elian Gonzalez, former castaway, wants to visit US

May 18, 2015, 6:30 PM
FILE – In this Dec. 20, 2014, file photo, Elian Gonzalez, the young Cuban rafter who was at t...
FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2014, file photo, Elian Gonzalez, the young Cuban rafter who was at the center of a bitter custody battle in 2000 between relatives in Miami and his father in Cuba, attends the closing ceremony of the legislative session at the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba. Gonzalez said during an ABC News interview that aired Monday, May 18, 2015, that if he could visit anywhere, it would be the United States so he could "give my love to (the) American people." (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)
(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

HAVANA (AP) — Elian Gonzalez, who spent months with his Florida relatives as a Cuban child at the center of an international custody dispute, said in an interview broadcast Monday that he’d like to return to the United States for a visit.

Now 21, Gonzalez told ABC News in an interview that if he could visit anywhere, it would be the U.S.

Gonzalez thanked the American people for the love they showed him during the custody battle 15 years ago, and said he would like to go back “to give my love to the American people.”

He said he’d like to see a baseball game, visit Washington museums and talk to Americans.

“I could personally thank those people who helped us, who were there by our side. Because we’re so grateful for what they did.”

ABC’s images of Gonzalez captured over several days showed him first with a beard, then clean-shaven.

Gonzalez is a local celebrity on the island and was a military cadet when he was in his late teens. He is now studying industrial engineering at the university in the Cuban province of Matanzas, west of the capital. According to the interview, he recently became engaged to be married.

He was just a few weeks shy of 6 when his mother, Elizabeth Brotons, died at sea in 1999 while trying to take him to the U.S.

Gonazlez survived by clinging to an inner tube and was rescued on the high sea, eventually ending up with Florida relatives who fought to keep him in the United States.

“I was alone in the middle of the sea, that’s the last thing I remember,” Gonzalez said. He said he was moved by his mother’s efforts to keep him afloat while he drowned.

“She fought until the very last minute to keep me alive,” he said.

The tug-of-war between Gonzalez’s U.S. relatives and his father ensued, with then-president Fidel Castro siding with the boy’s surviving parent Juan Gonzalez and the Miami-based Cuban exile community backing family members in Florida.

For months, Cuba’s Communist government organized almost daily marches of thousands of people demanding that the child be returned to the island.

News media camped outside the home where Gonzalez was staying in Miami, with cameras constantly trained on him and his relatives.

The case sparked a debate about parental rights that raged on both sides of the Florida Straits.

President Bill Clinton’s administration ultimately backed the father’s rights and allowed him to take his son back to Cuba in mid-2000.

The ABC report said Gonzalez said he had no regrets about his father’s decision to stay in Cuba, and he’s not angry with his Miami relatives and open to reconciliation.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

World News

Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin with the remains of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek during a f...
Associated Press

As Ukraine loses troops, how long can it keep up the fight?

ZHYTOMYR (AP) — As soon as they had finished burying a veteran colonel killed by Russian shelling, the cemetery workers readied the next hole. Inevitably, given how quickly death is felling Ukrainian troops on the front lines, the empty grave won’t stay that way for long. Col. Oleksandr Makhachek left behind a widow, Elena, and […]
21 days ago
(Instagram photo/@Clayton.Wolfe)...
Wills Rice

Arizona realtor announces new listing on ‘the top-floor’ of Mount Everest

Arizona realtor Clayton Wolfe scaled the treacherous 29,035-foot heights of Mount Everest in Nepal and announced a new listing at the summit.
22 days ago
(Photo by: Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

‘Tiger King’ star ‘Doc’ Antle arrested for money laundering charges

“Tiger King” star “Doc” Antle was arrested by the FBI and expected to appear in court Monday to face federal money laundering charges.
22 days ago
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
Associated Press

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in Israel for talks with political and business leaders

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is in Israel for five days of talks with political and business leaders of the Middle Eastern country.
28 days ago
A man rides a bicycle in front of a building ruined by shelling in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of ...
Associated Press

Russia takes steps to bolster army, tighten grip on Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an order Wednesday to fast track Russian citizenship for residents of parts of southern Ukraine largely held by his forces, while lawmakers in Moscow passed a bill to strengthen the stretched Russian army. Putin’s decree applying to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions could allow Russia to […]
1 month ago
FILE - McDonald's restaurant is seen in the center of Dmitrov, a Russian town 75 km., (47 miles) no...
Associated Press

De-Arching: McDonald’s to sell Russia business, exit country

McDonald’s is closing its doors in Russia, ending an era of optimism and increasing the country’s isolation over its war in Ukraine. The Chicago burger giant confirmed Monday that it is selling its 850 restaurants in Russia. McDonald’s said it will seek a buyer who will employ its 62,000 workers in Russia, and will continue […]
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Cuba’s Elian Gonzalez, former castaway, wants to visit US