One name stands out on the guest list of thousands of youth at a conference in Ecuador this week: Elian Gonzalez.
Fourteen years after he made headlines as the subject of a bitter international custody battle, Gonzalez spoke to CNN on Tuesday.
It's his first trip abroad since the U.S. government removed him at gunpoint from his relatives' home in Miami and, after a legal battle, sent him back to Cuba to live with his father.
Gonzalez, who turned 20 last week, was just 6 years old when he was found clinging to an inner tube after the tiny boat he was traveling in from Cuba sank on the way to the United States. Gonzalez's mother and nine other people in the boat drowned.
A cadet in military school in Cuba studying engineering now, Gonzales is speaking out for himself, not only about how he's doing but about the U.S. embargo on Cuba, reports CNN's Rosa Flores.
He had harsh words for the United States on Tuesday as he recalled his mother's deadly journey.
"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.
"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 is in Quito, Ecuador, for the World Festival of Youth and Students, a left-wing conference attracting more than 10,000 people from all over the world to discuss global struggles against imperialism.
What happened to him was surely devastating and it should have been handled so differently – a horrible experience for any child. However, his mother risked her life, and lost her life, trying to escape Cuba, so his defense of Cuba is just a slap in the face to her sacrifice to try and find him a better life. If he had not become a "celebrity" – due to his mother's sacrifice – what would his life in Cuba be like right now?
I can't count the times I have been snubbed in a Cuban market here.
I take it with a grain of salt, do my shopping and move on. I suggest you do the same.
Elian was a wake-up call for me, a Cuban Exile who thought she was an American–that is until Elian when Americans saw me as Cuban and humiliated me. Elian is the inspiration for my book to be published soon...I may dedicate it to him.
Reblogged this on White Rabbit's Gallery and commented:
The Elian Gonzalez saga back in 1999-2000 was a wake-up call for me...my novel, Taking Exit 13 was inspired by Elian. I may dedicate the book to him.