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In 1999, 5-year-old Elián González became the center of controversy when he was found floating on a raft near Miami after escaping Castro's Cuba.
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Born December 6, 1993, in Cuba, Elián González became the focus of an international political uproar in late 1999 and early 2000 after he was rescued from a boat accident that killed his mother and 10 other Cuban refugees trying to reach Florida in November of 1999.
Elián??s parents, Juan Miguel González and Elizabet Broton Rodríguez, were both natives of Cardenas, Cuba. The couple divorced in 1991 after six years of marriage but continued their efforts to have a child until 1993, when Elián was born. The couple separated for good in 1996, but both remained close with their son, who spent up to five nights a week with his father or one of his grandmothers and the rest of the time with his mother, who had moved in with her boyfriend, Lazaro Rafael Munero. Rodríguez took Elián with her when she and Munero decided to flee the harsh economic conditions of Cuba in a boat bound for America.
After two Florida fishermen found Elián stranded on a raft floating offshore some 60 miles north of Miami on Thanksgiving Day, members of his extended family took him into custody. By the time the youngster celebrated his sixth birthday in December of 1999, he had become a symbol for the long-running feud between the community of Cuban exiles living in the United States (particularly in Florida) and the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Even as Elián's Miami relatives, particularly his great-uncles Lázaro and Delfín González and his cousin, Marisleysis González, insisted that he stay in the U.S. and gain the new life his mother had wanted for him, Castro and the boy's family in Cuba--and eventually the U.S. government--stood behind Juan Miguel González, who wanted his son back.
After months of legal squabbling, endless press coverage, and heated demonstrations in both Miami and Cuba, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, with the full backing of President Bill Clinton, ordered that Elián's relatives in Miami surrender him to Justice Department custody. When they refused, Reno ordered a dramatic and controversial dawn rescue mission that unfolded in the early morning hours of April 22, when agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, armed with submachine guns, forced their way into the Miami home of Lazáro González and seized a terrified Elián. The boy was flown to Washington, D.C., immediately and reunited with his father. They subsequently returned to Cuba and were greeted with great fanfare.
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