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Elian Gonzalez Blames U.S. For Cuban Embargo

Fourteen years after being sent back to Cuba following an international custody dispute, Elian Gonzalez spoke against the U.S. at a left-wing conference in Ecuador on Tuesday, saying its “unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba.”

Gonzalez is notoriously remembered as the six-year-old boy who was found off the coast of Florida after the small boat that floated him all the way from Cuba sank, drowning his mother and nine others. He was kept with relatives until his father gained custody and brought him back to Cuba with much support from then-president Fidel Castro.

Gonzalez is now 20 years old and studies engineering at a Cuban military school. In his first trip abroad since 1999 at the World Festival of Youth and Students in Quito, he spoke of his experience as well as his mother’s death. “Just like her, many others have died attempting to go to the United States,” he said. “But it’s the U.S. government’s fault.”

Even withstanding the damage done by the embargo, Cuba “has progressed over the years,” according to Gonzalez. “The progress we’ve made is all thanks to Cuba’s courage, our dignity, our continued fight for a more just model,” he said, adding that he plans to address lifting the U.S. blockade as one of his topics at the conference.

Following his return to Cuba, Gonzalez’s life was mostly kept private, and was shaped considerably by the Cuban government. Fidel Castro attended his 7th birthday and his father, Juan Miguel, is now a member of Cuba’s national assembly.

Nevertheless, Gonzalez remains happy to be in Cuba. “I haven’t suffered any consequences because of what happened,” he said. “It has not affected me psychologically, but it has been hard for my family.”

About the author

Gary Bryan is an industrial marketing manager by daytime and political and social issues writer by night. You can also find his editorials at Mic.com.