Elian Gonzalez Leaves Cuba, Slams the U.S.


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If you're thinking that it doesn't seem that long ago that young Elian Gonzalez was making headlines after being found in an inner tube off the coast of Florida, think again. It is now 14 years later and that cute little 6-year-old is a 20-year-old young man. He is now making headlines again after offering up a harsh criticism of the United States.

As you may remember, Gonzalez's mother tried to escape Cuba with her son and twelve others in November of 1999. Gonzalez's mother and all but two others perished. Two fishermen found Gonzalez and the two other survivors and turned them over to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Members of Gonzalez's family that lived in the U.S. took the young boy in, but it wasn't long before Gonzalez's father sought his return. Juan Miguel Gonzalez was separated from his son's mother and had no knowledge that she planned to take their son and flee the country. Juan Miguel wanted his son back and the Miami relatives fought to keep the boy.

It took months of going through the legal process before the Miami relatives were ordered to hand over Elian Gonzalez so he could return to his father in Cuba. When they refused, Immigration and Naturalization Service agents stormed the house in April 2000 and took the young boy at gunpoint:

Since that day, Gonzalez has mostly stayed out of the eye of the public until he left Cuba to travel to Ecuador this week. CNN caught up with him at a youth conference, which is when he slammed the United States and essentially blamed the country for his mother's death.

"Just like her, many others have died attempting to go to the United States. But it's the U.S. government's fault. Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba," Gonzalez said. The United States has had a trade embargo against Cuba since the 1960s. "But, despite that, Cuba, even with all its problems has progressed over the years. The progress we've made is all thanks to Cuba's courage, our dignity, our continued fight for a more just model."

Gonzalez further emphasized Cuba's troubles with the U.S. when he talked about people wanting to meet him. "Wherever I go there's always a child, an old woman that comes to me and wants to meet me," he said. "Not because I am famous but because they suffered with my family."

The young man also offered up a lot of praise for Fidel Castro, who was President of Cuba during the controversy and fully supported Juan Miguel's efforts in getting his son back. "Fidel Castro for me is like a father," Gonzalez said. "I don't profess to have any religion but if I did my God would be Fidel Castro. He is like a ship that knew to take his crew on the right path."

A photo of Elian Gonzalez now, all grown up:

[Image via Twitter]