15 years later, Elian Gonzalez raid remains powerful image of U.S.-Cuba relations

Cuban boy taken from family's Miami home during pre-dawn raid April 22, 2000

This iconic image shows a federal agent with his gun drawn as a terrified Elian Gonzalez is taken from his great-uncle's Little Havana home early in the morning on April 22, 2000. (AP)

MIAMI – Wednesday marked 15 years since armed federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the center of an international custody dispute, from his great-uncle's home in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood.

In the early-morning hours of April 22, 2000, U.S. immigration agents burst into his room, guns drawn, and took the 6-year-old boy away.

Elian was the focus of a battle between the United States and Cuba over where the boy should live.

In November 1999, Elian, his mother and 12 others left Cuba in an overcrowded boat seeking asylum in the U.S. Elian's mother and 10 others died trying to make it to Florida, but Elian was found floating on an inner-tube by himself.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued him and brought him to Florida, where his relatives fought to keep him in the country, but after months of protests in Cuba and his father's demands that he be reunited with his son, Attorney General Janet Reno ordered that Elian be returned to the island country by April 13.

Elian's Miami relatives defied the order, leading to the pre-dawn raid on the day before Easter.

Hours later, Elian was reunited with his father at Andrews Air Force Base. The next day, the White House released a photograph showing a smiling Elian with his father.

The saga stirred controversy amid those in the Cuban exile community who believed Elian belonged in South Florida and those who stood behind then-Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Elian is now 21 and openly supports the Castro regime.

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