One name stands out on the guest list of thousands of youth at a conference in Ecuador this week: Elian Gonzalez.
It’s his first trip abroad since the U.S. government removed him at gunpoint from his relatives’ home in Miami and, after a legal battle, sent him back to Cuba to live with his father.
Gonzalez, who turned 20 last week, was just six years old when he was found clinging to an inner tube after the tiny boat he was traveling in from Cuba sank on the way to the United States. Gonzalez’s mother and nine other people in the boat drowned.
He had harsh words for the United States on Tuesday as he recalled his mother’s deadly journey.
“Just like her, many others have died attempting to go to the United States. But it’s the U.S. government’s fault. Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba,” Gonzalez said.
“But despite that, Cuba, even with all its problems, has progressed over the years. The progress we’ve made is all thanks to Cuba’s courage, our dignity, our continued fight for a more just model.”
Gonzalez is in Quito, Ecuador, for the World Festival of Youth and Students, a left-wing conference attracting more than 10,000 people from all over the world to discuss global struggles against imperialism.