- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2015

Elian Gonzalez, who was at the center of the 2000 custody battle between the United States and Cuba, would like to someday return to America to thank those who supported him and his family.

“To the American people, first I say thank you for the love they give me,” Mr. Gonzalez, now 21, said in an interview with ABC News. “I want the time to give my love to American people.”

“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.”

Six-year-old Gonzalez was found floating off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in 1999, after his mother drowned when their raft capsized. The boy stayed with extended family in Miami, but he soon became embroiled in an international custody battle. An iconic 2000 photo showed the child looking frightened at gunpoint as he was removed by federal agents from the home and returned to his father in Cuba.

“I remember when the boat capsized, when we fell on the sea. I remember when I was put on the raft and my mom was covering me, and I was raising my head, looking around … and at some point I raised my head and I didn’t see her again,” he told ABC News. “There was no one else. I was alone in the middle of the sea … and that’s the last thing I remember.”

Today, Mr. Gonzalez is studying engineering at the University of Matanzas in Cuba His fiancée, 22-year-old Ilianet Escaño, is studying toward her bachelor’s degree in chemical biology, ABC News reported.

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