By Jim Burns. CNSNews.com
Senior Staff Writer. December 06, 2001
(CNSNews.com) - Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who received international
attention during a lengthy custody battle between Cuba and the United States,
turned eight years old Thursday.
Wire service reports out of Havana said the Cuban state-run media
commemorated his birthday saying he "will happily celebrate in his homeland
his eight years of life" with a small party in his hometown of Cardenas,
where he lives with his natural father.
Reports said a group of Castro government officials led by Cuban Parliament
President Ricardo Alarcon would be visiting Cardenas Thursday in what was being
billed as a media tour of government recuperation efforts.
The group had scheduled a stop at Elian's school for a birthday celebration.
No one would say if Fidel Castro had planned a trip to Cardenas for a
celebration. He did travel there to celebrate Elian's 6th and 7th birthdays.
However, Elian's Miami relatives were not allowed to telephone him to wish
him a happy birthday, according to family spokesman Armando Gutierrez.
"They (the Castro government) don't allow them to contact him. The
Cuban government will not put the call through," said Gutierrez in an
interview with CNSNews.com.
But his American relatives are planning a celebration at their home in "Little
Havana" on Saturday.
Many of Elian's relatives and at least one Miami city commissioner are
expected to attend.
Gonzalez became the subject of a tug of war between the United States and
Cuba during the Clinton administration after being rescued from the Atlantic
Ocean and being temporarily placed with relatives in Miami.
The boy was ultimately taken by armed federal agents during an Easter
weekend raid in April 2000 and later returned to Cuba to live with his father
after the custody battle went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
Former Attorney General Janet Reno, who was instrumental in returning Elian
to Cuba, still carries resentment with much of the Florida Cuban-American
On Thursday, Reno, now a Democratic candidate for governor visited the
Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee. Several Cuban-American members
of the Florida House walked out of the chamber after she was introduced as a
Reports said the Cuban-American lawmakers, all Republicans, left the House
chamber. Three Republicans who are not Cuban-Americans also walked out.
"We decided that we had to demonstrate, that we did not welcome Ms.
Reno to the House of Representatives considering the manner in which she treated
Elian Gonzalez," Rep. Carlos Lacasa of Miami told reporters in Tallahassee.
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