April 6th, 2010
08:27 PM ET

Cuba releases photos of 16-year-old Elian Gonzalez

Cuba has published photos of Elian Gonzalez, the boy who sparked a political battle with the U.S. in 2000, attending a gathering of the Union of Communist Youth.

Gonzalez, 16, appears in the olive-green uniform of the military school he attends, waving a Cuban flag, in photos posted on an official Cuban Web site, Cubadebate.cu.

Gonzalez was picked up in an inner tube off the coast of Florida when he was 5 years old. His mother drowned trying to reach the U.S. on a raft, and a bitter custody battle ensued between his father in Cuba and relatives in South Florida.

Fidel Castro, then Cuba’s leader, led massive marches demanding his return, and when the boy finally did fly back to Cuba, he was received as a hero.

The photos were taken during the annual meeting of the Union of Communist Youth held over the weekend; Gonzalez joined in 2008. The headline over the photos reads: “Elian Gonzalez, a look 10 years later.”

Post by:
Filed under: Cuba • World
soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. jo an

    I think he looks very handsome and very together. I wish him well. There are a lot of Americans who would be much better off in Cuba....the people on the street!! for instance.

    And there are lots of Cubans who would be better of in the U. S. A. all depends on intelligence, talent and circumstances.

    Neither country is the answer. Each has some of the answers.

    I want to visit Cuba before the Capitalists get hold of it. I think it has soul.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  2. Audrey

    The bottom line is, the father of this child wanted him, loved him, and had a right to raise him as he saw fit. Who are we to decide that, because communism isn't the government style we would choose, no one should have the right to choose it, or to choose to raise their children within it? Elian's dad has been a staunch supporter of the Castro government for a very long time. He was also Elian's custodial parent at the time that the mother chose to "flee with him" to the U.S. (if she'd been fleeing FROM the U.S. with him, we'd be calling it parental kidnap...we actually have laws in place here to keep that from happening. How come it's wrong for a parent to take a child, without the custodial parent's OK, from the U.S. to Iran, but it's somehow perfectly fine if the parent is taking the child from Cuba to the U.S.?).

    When Elian's mother died, his father was the only family he had left (sorry, but relatives you've only known for a few weeks do NOT count as "family"). Further, he was the family with which he'd grown up...the father who had raised him and who he loved. How could it have possibly been right for him to be kept here, away from his family...a six-year-old boy? Returning him to his father was the only right thing to do.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tyler Durden

    First off, the kid belonged with his father. The right decision was made by the US Courts. As for you US detractors posting... his mother died to get her son out of Cuba and into the US. I also know plenty of Canadians who had it so good in Canada, they decided to moved to the US and worked their way towards citizenship. Frankly, if you don't understand what makes the US worth dying for, then you really don't need to be there. And yes, my opinion is formed in the context of my travels abroad.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. Geoff

    That the Castro regime would parade this handsome young man as a propaganda piece is to be expected. His Fla relatives would have done the same thing with him if he had remained here just as they did when he was here before..

    Sooner or later the Castro Bros will die and because they have trusted no one to succeed them their experiment will fade away. They might also be a haven for reasonably priced health care for uninsured Americans if the tea baggers and GOP get their way and dismantle health care reform. Ironically this could have happened a lot sooner if we had normalized relations with the Cuba the way we did with China, the USSR and most of Eastern Europe. We have Elian's Miami relatives, the Cuban American community and cowardly politicians in both parties to thank for that.

    I predict that we have not heard the last of Elian Gonzales. I would guess is that in 5-10years Elian will be living in a moderately socialized country with a thriving tourist industry and hustling his auto biography in true capitalist style.

    In the end reuniting him with his Father was the just and appropriate thing to do.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ian

    John, the right thing was for him to be back with his father, but if you've ever been to Cuba you would realize that both the healthcare and educational system is light years behind the United States. Don't confuse free healthcare and a high literacy rate in Cuba with a higher standard of care and greater educational ipportunities offered in the USA.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. jerzeme

    He looks good, I am glad the US did the right thing in sending him back to his homeland.

    April 7, 2010 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. Travis

    It appears that Cuba's dictatorial style has some strong allies here in the US. If you believe things are better there than they are in the US, I would highly recommend you go spend some time there or talk to many that had left there as I have. Do you honestly believe people would risk their lives (and those of their families) to come to the US on rafts, skiffs, or other means, if Cuba was as great as some of you suggest. That dose of reality, may do all you pro-Cuba supporters well.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. David

    Sad to see a young boy who made it out – and whose mother died to make that happen – get sent back to Cuba to grow up with the communist indoctrination she tried to free him from in the first place.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lynn Prestia

    A Huge piece to this story was entirely not mentioned. Attorney General Janet Reno under Clinton had a S.W.A.T. Team storm the little Miami residence where Elian was staying with his reletives. They were law abiding citizens, that were living peacefully, caring for the boy. While waiting for an international dicision to be made in the case. Their home was unlawfully stormmed and violated. But Cnn News did not mentioning it at all. Such a key and tramatic element to the whole sequence of events is quite pecular. Why would they just leave that out? Do you think they just forgot? Sometimes the best spin is the absense of facts. Cnn is betting on forgetful public. One with amnesia.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. Carlos

    As a member of the Cuban-American community, I find your comment, John, very ignorant and almost offensive. Over one million Cubans have left their homeland to come to this country for the betterment of their own lives and the lives of their families. Health care may be free in Cuba, but there is no modern treatment or drugs, despite what demagogues like Michael Moore say. To say that anyone is better off under a totalitarian Communist regime shows you have no appreciation for the freedom you have of speech, private ownership, and the ability to elect your government representatives. Just try to imagine everything you have and have worked for to not belong to you. Your home, your cars.....even your children. Because the most ironic thing about the Elian Gonzalez fiasco 10 years ago is the fact that we were giving this boy's father parental rights in this country so that he could then take his son to Cuba, where he has no parental rights. All children in Cuba are wards of the state.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. David

    I can't believe how uneducated Americans are about Cuba. They either are ignorant of, or simply don't care about, the fact that people are arrested, tortured, and killed without due process for political speech and art. The people live in squalor for the most part, with the elite taking in most of the income from foreign trade. It's a brutal dictatorship. It would be wonderful if all who spoke out in such praiseworthy terms about Cuba could be made to live there, as ordinary Cubans do.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. Nicholas

    As a Cuban-American, I can tell you that life in the US is head and shoulders above what ever the Castro's could ever achieve. Ok...free universal health care- free education...Cuba's got it. So what, we're supposed to model our system off theirs? Get real. The only way that the doctors perform is that they are entirely subsidized by the government. You think that there is such a thing as Medical Malpractice? Hah! If we go that way, then kiss good bye the way for half of Americans to get rich quick. Please tell me why, that if life is so great in the Communist worker's paradise, why on earth would people risk their lives crossing the strait and die trying to leave? The fact of the matter is that as with all communist countries..civil liberties don't exist, and your life is structured to produce for the state. When you can't produce anymore, do you think you still have free health care??? No. you think that you'll have a voice to criticize the Castros? Their own sister left the Island! My mother left Cuba in 1963, and I can say that I am glad she did. Look up the Peter Pan kids, its an interesting story. Better yet, look up the story of Orestes Lorenzo Perez...a well off Cuban pilot in their Air Force under the new Cuban President, Raul Castro. All you bleeding hearts and America bashers need to realize that until you speak from personal experience, you're just as clueless as anyone else

    April 7, 2010 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tom

    It's good to see this kid again. I remember how happy I was when he was reunited with his father...and I can't believe it's been 10 years. Good for Janet Reno, good for Bill Clinton and good that a Republican wasn't president at the time; otherwise, he surely would have been a victim of state sponsored kidnapping.

    April 7, 2010 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. Teriander

    Good for him. If he stayed in Florida this picture would be him throwing up gang signs, wearing a white tank-top, full of tats of his gang and probably a red or blue bandana. Stay in Cuba Elian!

    April 7, 2010 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    I wonder if the politicians who bestowed gifts and the like on him back then even remember who the hell he is now. He's isn't all cuddly and cute and they can't use him as a political tool.

    April 7, 2010 at 4:11 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7