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Elian Gonzalez of Cuba says he's becoming a father

CNN logo CNN 6/21/2020 By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
a close up of Elian Gonzalez who is smiling and looking at the camera © Joe Raedle/Getty Images/Patrick Oppmann/CNN

Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy whose custody case sparked diplomatic tensions and attracted intense media coverage, will soon be a father himself, he announced on Facebook on Sunday.

Gonzalez, 26, made the announcement on Father's Day and said his own father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who brought him back from the US to Cuba, was his inspiration as he prepared to become a dad for the first time.

"Soon I will begin to understand what it means to be a father," Elian Gonzalez wrote on his Facebook page. "But what I know up until now is my father and I hope to do it as half as well as he did with me."

In a message to CNN on Sunday, Gonzalez said he and his fiancée were expecting to have a baby girl later this summer.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1999, a 5-year-old Gonzalez was found clinging to an inner tube off the Florida coast. His mother and nine others drowned after the rickety boat they were traveling in capsized while they attempted to reach the United States from Cuba.

Gonzalez went to live with relatives in Miami who refused to return him to his father in Cuba. Juan Miguel Gonzalez said he was unaware of his ex-wife's plan to take the boy on the dangerous journey to the US.

The case stoked Cold War-era tensions between the US and Cuba as Gonzalez's father and the Miami relatives battled in US court for custody of the little boy. US immigration officials eventually decided that Gonzalez should be returned to his father's custody, who came to the United States to argue for his son's return.

Eventually armed US federal agents stormed the Miami home where Gonzalez was staying with his uncle to reunite him with his father. A famous photograph of a terrified Gonzalez looking at an armed US agent won a Pulitzer Prize.

Rioting broke out in Cuban American communities in Miami, where many felt Gonzalez's return to Cuba would deliver a propaganda victory to Fidel Castro.

After the US Supreme Court refused to get involved in the case, father and son traveled back to Cuba.

Gonzalez grew up for the most part out of the spotlight in Cuba. In a rare interview in 2017, he told CNN that he agreed with what his father had done and was a strong supporter of the Cuban government. But he also said he hoped to one day reconcile with his Miami relatives.

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