Elián and the Cold War

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Elián González, a young Cuban boy found clinging to an inner tube off the Florida coast in Nov. 1999, became the subject of an international dispute between the U.S. and Cuba. The boy's American relatives and the U.S. Cuban community demanded that the six-year-old refugee remain in Miami rather than be returned to his father in Cuba, arguing that American democracy would benefit the boy more than life in Castro's Cuba. A dramatic raid by armed federal agents on April 22 ended the standoff, and the boy was reunited with his father. The influential Cuban-American community lost a good deal of public sympathy by pitting political ideology against familial bonds. For Castro it was a publicity bonanza, emphasizing the intransigence of the official U.S. policy toward Cuba, which has imposed a 38-year-old trade embargo and other cold war–era sanctions.

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