Elian Gonzalez was only six-years-old when a heated custody battle turned into an international conflict.
In the decade-and-a-half since U.S. federal agents broke into his aunt’s Miami home and seized the young Cuban boy, he’s grown into an accomplished and passionate young man!
Today, he’s a 21-year-old engineering student, an avid supporter of Fidel Castro and an enthusiastic member of Cuba’s Militant Union of Young Communists.
Elian Gonzalez at the Cuban parliament in December 2014. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
'ABC News' reports the University of Matanzas scholar enjoys karate, swimming, going to the movies and hanging out with friends.
Cuban foreigner minister Bruno Rodriguez tells the network Elian is “a terrific student right now, having a very happy and normal life...like any other university student in Cuba.”
The young man was at the center of an international scandal when his mother died while fleeing Cuba on a homemade raft with 10 adults and Elian. The young boy, who was the sole survivor of the journey, was found floating on an inner tube by himself 60 miles off the coast of Miami.
Elian in 2001 (left) vs. 2014 (right). (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The U.S. Coast Guard brought Elian to live with an aunt in Miami, while his father — at home in Cuba — demanded he be returned to the island.
While his relatives who lived in the Southern Florida city fought to keep him in the States, President Bill Clinton ordered he be returned to his father, Juan Miguel, in Cuba.
Tensions peaked when he, asleep at the time, was taken from his aunt’s home in the early hours of the night on April 22, 2000.
A picture of a hysterical young Elian being seized from his aunt’s home sparked outrage and protest in the Cuban refugee community. (Photo Credit: Getty Images).
Elian and his father shortly after their reunion in 2000. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Despite his controversial childhood, the 21-year-old has always insisted that he’s a normal kid.
“I haven’t suffered any consequences because of what happened,” he previously told 'CNN.' “It has not affected me psychologically, but it has been hard for my family. Those were tough times.”