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Furor over Elian now a faded memory

In this April 4 photo, Elian Gonzalez, 16, holds a Cuban flag during the Union of Young Communists congress in Havana.

Associated Press

In this April 4 photo, Elian Gonzalez, 16, holds a Cuban flag during the Union of Young Communists congress in Havana.

MIAMI — When federal agents stormed a home in the Little Havana community, snatched Elian Gonzalez from his father's relatives and put him on a path back to his father in Cuba, thousands of Cuban-Americans took to Miami's streets. Their anger helped give George W. Bush the White House months later and simmered long after that.

Ten years later, the Little Havana home — for weeks the epicenter of a standoff that divided the United States — is a museum dedicated to Elian's brief time in this country, but visitors are rare. Almost no one involved in the international custody case wants to talk about Elian, who is now a teenager in Cuba.

"It was a very sour taste left in their mouths," said Andy Gomez, a senior fellow at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. "But, realistically, it was a battle to be lost."

Elian was just shy of his sixth birthday when a fisherman found him floating in an inner tube off Fort Lauderdale on Thanksgiving 1999. His mother had drowned trying to reach the United States.

Elian's father, who was separated from his mother, remained in Cuba. He and Fidel Castro's government demanded the boy's return.

Elian was placed in the home of his great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, while the Miami relatives and other Cuban exiles went to court to fight an order by U.S. immigration officials to return him to Cuba.

Attorney General Janet Reno ordered the raid on April 22, 2000, the day before Easter.

This month, officials there released photos of now-16-year-old Elian wearing an olive-green military school uniform and attending a Young Communist Union congress.

Furor over Elian now a faded memory 04/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 9:02pm]
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