Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:17am EDT
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban shipwreck survivor, turned international child
celebrity, Elian Gonzalez, is studying to become a military officer, the
official media said on Sunday as it marked a decade since his return to
the Caribbean island.
"A decade after being used as a toy by the enemies of the revolution, we
see him wearing an olive-green uniform as a student of the Camilo
Cienfuegos military school, where he is preparing to be a future officer
of the Revolutionary Armed Forces," The Communist youth newspaper,
Jeventud Rebelde, reported.
The Cuban military operates high-school level academies across the country.
"The boy of yesterday (today 16) is now an ordinary Cuban," the page
long article in Sunday's only newspaper said, but added he had recently
attended the Union of Young Communist Congress where he "shared
motivations, ideas and invited us to traverse the paths of the future."
The Cuban government has shielded Gonzalez from international
journalists, and he rarely appears in state-run media reports.
Gonzalez was a photogenic five-year-old when he was found floating on an
inner tube off the Florida coast in November 1999.
He had survived a shipwreck that killed his mother and other Cubans who
had left the communist island for the United States, but quickly became
caught up in the political rip-tide of Havana-Miami politics.
In the United States, Gonzalez became the center of an international
custody battle between Cuba's government and anti-Castro exiles in
Miami, his image a fixture on TV screens around the world.
Then President Fidel Castro launched an international campaign for the
return of the boy to his father and grandparents in Cuba, staging
rallies and marches across the country.
Cuban exiles camped out for months in front of the home where the boy
They lost a passionate legal battle to let Elian remain in Miami with
his great-uncle's family, who refused to give him up. Immigration agents
finally seized Gonzalez from their home at gunpoint and reunited him
with his father, who took him back to Cuba on June 28, 2000.
It was Castro's last major international campaign and political victory
against his nemeses in Miami and Washington before undergoing intestinal
surgery in 2006, officially passing the reins of power to his brother
Raul Castro in 2008.