“The agents corralled the frightened family inside at gunpoint,” read a Washington Post report on the operation. “Elian was found in a bedroom, halfway inside a small closet, in the arms of one of the Florida fishermen who had rescued him from the Atlantic Ocean on Thanksgiving Day. A female agent bundled the boy into a blanket and rushed him out the door and into a van that quickly backed away from the home.”
The operation, which involved more than 100 Immigration and Naturalization Service agents, came after fierce debate over who should raise the boy and triggered outrage in Miami’s Cuban American community.
Gonzalez has been in Cuba ever since; Fidel Castro attended his birthday celebration when the boy turned 7.
Five years ago, the Cuban government released photos of Gonzalez — then aged 16 — wearing a military school uniform and attending a Young Communist Union congress, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Here’s what Gonzalez has to say about visiting the United States now, according to ABC News:
Today, Gonzalez says he’d like to come back to the United States, but only as a tourist, telling ABC News he’d like to see a baseball game, visit Washington museums and talk to Americans.“For my family it has always been, we always have the desire to say to the American people, to say to each household our gratitude, appreciation and love that we have,” he said. “Perhaps one day we could pay a visit to the United States. I could personally thank those people who helped us, who were there by our side. Because we’re so grateful for what they did.”
In the interview, Gonzalez also discussed his mother, who died during the attempt to reach U.S. soil.
“I believe that if today she is not here with me it is because she fought until the very last minute for me to survive,” he said, according to ABC. “After giving life to me, I believe she was the one who saved me. She was the one who gave life back to me at a time of danger.”