Elián González, face of Cuban refugees (and tensions with the United States) becomes Member of Parliament – Corriere.it

Elián González, face of Cuban refugees (and tensions with the United States) becomes Member of Parliament – Corriere.it

When he was six years old, his terrified face—photographed during a raid by armed immigration officers on his family’s Miami home—became one of the most memorable images of Cold War tensions between the United States and Cuba. Now Elián Gonzalez is 29, and more than two decades after he was forcibly returned from Florida to his homeland at the direction of the US Supreme Court, he is one of the 470 members of Cuba’s National Assembly, the country’s legislature.

His appointment, announced on Tuesday by the government newspaper “Granma”, is seen as a great honor for Gonzalez at a young age, whom the newspaper described as “representative of the best Cuban youth.” The custody battle for Elyan lasted for months. It began in 1999, when he, aged 5, survived the sinking of an aluminum boat carrying Cuban refugees in Florida. His mother, Elisabeth, died in the sea, three or four meters high. Elyan was cared for by his relatives, including his great-uncle Lázaro, in their home in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

A tug-of-war between the boy’s father – still in Cuba – and relatives in Florida for custody soon developed into a full-scale diplomatic standoff. Fidel Castro threatens to send guerrilla teams to retrieve Elian. The tense situation also embarrassed the Clinton White House: the attorney who pursued the case, Janet Reno, sided with her father and, despite negotiating a voluntary extradition with her uncles in Miami, “transferred” the child to the authorities, and his extradition to Cuba was thus dealt with. It was a military-style raid, with armed men storming in at dawn.

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Upon his return to his home country, Elian González was treated like a hero and quickly became a symbol of the Castro regime. Fidel Castro himself attended Gonzalez’s seventh birthday party. For many years his family was in Cuba under the care of government bodyguards.

Growing up, González joined the Communist Youth Union of Cuba and entered military service at the age of 15. He rejected claims by his relatives in Miami that he had been brainwashed. In a 2017 CNN interview, a year after he graduated from a military academy with an industrial engineering degree, Gonzalez said that if he was forced to stay in Miami, he would be “exploited” by the expatriate population. “I think I was going to be the star boy for that group of Cubans in Miami who are trying to destroy the revolution, who are trying to make Cuba look bad.” Now appointment as Member of Parliament.

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