ELIAN GONZALEZ COUNTS FIDEL CASTRO AS A FRIEND AND "FATHER" AND STILL WANTS TO SEE HIS MIAMI RELATIVES, DESPITE CALLING THEIR ACTIONS "WRONG" -- "60 MINUTES"
Elian Gonzalez, now a seventh grader in Cuba who calls President Fidel Castro a friend and "father," would see his Miami relatives again, despite saying their treatment of him five years ago was wrong. Gonzalez is interviewed by Bob Simon for a 60 MINUTES report to be broadcast Sunday, Oct. 2 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Gonzalez, 11, is a hero in Cuba after what happened to him when he was just 6 years old: His mother died at sea and he was rescued two miles off Florida, after which he was repatriated following a months-long tug of war between Gonzalez' Miami relatives and his father and the Cuban government. In what Miami Cuban exiles would say is propaganda, Castro attended the boy's elementary school graduation and declared he was proud to have Gonzalez as his friend. The feeling is mutual. "It's also very moving to me and I also believe I am his friend," Gonzalez tells Simon. "Not only [do I think of Castro] as a friend, but also as a father," says Gonzalez. The boy believes that he could call the Cuban president on the phone if he wanted to.
Gonzalez gave a patriotic speech in front of Castro and cameras on the fifth anniversary of the day U.S. law enforcement officers raided his Miami relatives' house and removed him at gunpoint to be repatriated. It's all part of Castro's propagandist plans, says Ramon Sanchez, a Cuban-American who led demonstrations in Miami in support of keeping the boy in America five years ago. "[Gonzalez] is being brainwashed by the Cuban regime. When you see a child talking in the same exact way that the dictator has talked for 46 years, you know he has been indoctrinated," says Sanchez.
The boy says his Miami relatives, with whom he spent five months, tried to persuade him to stay in America. "They were telling me bad things about [my father]�They were also telling me to tell [my father] that I did not want to go back to Cuba and I always told them that I wanted to," he tells Simon. Gonzalez says he missed his father, school and his friends back in Cuba.
The worst parts of his Miami experience were the nights he found difficult to sleep through. "I would have nightmares and my uncles would talk to me about my mother�it was better not to remind me of that because that tormented me�I was very little," he recalls.
One of those great uncles who cared for him during that time, Delfin Gonzalez, denies that Elian was unhappy and says he doesn't believe anything he says in Cuba because the boy is a prisoner there.
Does Elian ever want to see those relatives again? "Yes," he tells Simon. "Despite everything they did, the way they did it, it was wrong, they are [still] my family�my uncles."
60 MINUTES is close-captioned in Spanish; the signal is on the "CC3" menu item.