More than 15 years after Cuba’s Elian Gonzalez was rescued off the coast of Florida and later embroiled in an international custody battle, Gonzalez says he would like to return to the U.S. for a visit.
“To the American people, first I say thank you for the love they give me,” Gonzalez told ABC News in an interview that aired Monday.“I want the time to give my love to American people.”
In his first interview since he was 11 years old, Gonzalez, now age 21, said he would like to visit the United States as a tourist, see a baseball game, and talk to the 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.”
Gonzalez was rescued off the coast of Florida after the boat his mother and he were traveling in to flee Cuba capsized. His mother did not survive and Gonzalez was placed with relatives in Miami. The boy’s father soon sought to have him returned to Cuba.
Gonzalez was eventually returned to Cuba, after U.S. Marshals raided the Miami relative’s home to recover the boy — an event which culminated in the iconic photo of a terrified Gonzales looking down the barrel of a gun.
The interview comes as the Obama administration is in the process of working to normalize relations with the island dictatorship.