Elian Gonzalez, who once rose to international fame during the Clinton administration due to an immigration and child custody battle, is poised to become a representative in Cuba’s National Assembly.
Gonzalez, 29, was nominated to serve in Cuba’s 470 seat National Assembly in a move the island nation’s media hailed, describing him as “representing the most worthy of the Cuban youth,” CNN reported.
As a six-year-old, Gonzalez was rescued from the Florida straits after a boat carrying his mother and nine other people fleeing Cuba capsized. His mother drowned, and Gonzalez was taken in by distant relatives in Miami, leading to an international custody battle rife with political overtones, according to CNN. (RELATED: Cruise Ships Rescue Migrants Off South Florida Coast)
While Gonzalez’ pro-Castro father petitioned for his son’s return to Cuba, the child’s Miami, anti-Castro relatives maintained that if Gonzalez did return to Cuba he would become a “brainwashed trophy” for Cuba’s communist government, CNN reported.
As the court proceedings began, immigration officials determined to turn Gonzalez over to his father’s custody, which culminated in an infamous nighttime raid when the boy’s Miami relatives refused to turn him over, according to the outlet.
Gonzalez was welcomed back to Cuba with open arms amid massive demonstrations and surrounded by government bodyguards with even Fidel Castro, whom he later referred to as a second father, serving as the guest of honor at the boy’s seventh birthday, CNN reported.
For his part, Gonzalez told CNN in 2017 rejected the idea that he had been brainwashed. “I think the best way to show they didn’t brainwash me and no one influences my decisions is Fidel. Fidel put many things in my hands. Fidel told me if I wanted to be an athlete, he supported that; if I wanted to be a swimmer, he supported that. If I wanted to be an artist, he supported that and he did,” he told the outlet.