Elian's Dad Thanks Castro for His Help in Bringing Elian Home

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Juan Miguel Gonzalez, father of Elian Gonzalez has publicly thanked Cuban leader Fidel Castro for his efforts in getting his son back to Cuba after a long legal battle in the United States. Gonzalez said Elian is doing well.

It was just a year ago that Elian was rescued off the Florida coast and taken to live with relatives in Miami.

"My family and I went through very difficult days because of the uncertainty of what was going to happen to our little Elian. Today, I feel like an average Cuban who can watch his son laugh, play and learn freely. Elian, as all other Cuban children, enjoys the security and immense well-being of living in this Socialist Revolution," Gonzalez wrote in a letter to the Cuban Communist Party newspaper "Granma."

Gonzalez continued, "After 12 months, seven of them a rough battle, we never felt alone. Our people made the demand for Elian's return and that gave us the strength and human warmth we so needed."

The fight began a year ago this week, when a boat carrying Elian to Florida and sank off the Florida coast, killing his mother and several others. Elian was rescued by fishermen while floating in an inner tube in the Atlantic Ocean.

After many months of legal battles, Gonzalez was allowed to enter the United States to get his son back. They were reunited on Easter weekend, after federal agents raided the Miami home where Elian was staying with relatives.

In concluding his letter, Juan Miguel Gonzalez said, "The suffering we have lived through is not easy to forget. But I am sure it cultivates in each Cuban a feeling of patriotism that makes us more worthy and unconquerable in the face of new battles."

The Elian saga still sparks resentment and anger among many Cuban exiles in Florida, many of whom blamed the Clinton administration for denying a child his freedom.

The Elian case also caused many Miami area Cuban exiles to switch their party registration from Democrat to either Republican or Independent in time for the November elections.

Recently, the Freedom Forum, based in Arlington, Virginia, announced it will begin awarding a $1 million prize in honor of Elian.

The prize, according to Freedom Forum officials, will be used to create the "Free Spirit Youth Refugee Fund" in order to provide humanitarian assistance and scholarship aid to needy refugee children from any country who are living in the United States.

The fund will be administered by Freedom Forum, which will select the individuals and/or organizations to receive the awarded funds.