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Sunday, 15 July, 2001, 01:50 GMT 02:50 UK
Castro opens Elian museum
Hianny and Elian Gonzalez, Fidel Castro
Castro waves the flag for Elian and baby brother Hianny
By Daniel Schweimler in Cardenas

Cuban President Fidel Castro has opened a museum where the central theme is the story of the young Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez.

Elian Gonzalez and Fidel Castro in Cardenas
Right behind you, son
Elian was shipwrecked trying to reach the United States and became the subject of a long and bitter custody battle between his relatives in Miami, backed by the anti-Castro Cuban American community there, and his father, supported by the Cuban Government.

The Oscar Maria Rojas Museum in his hometown, Cardenas, 135km (85 miles) east of the capital Havana, is known as the Museum for the Battle of Ideas and focuses on the fight for the return of Elian.

It shows pictures of the boy reunited with his father, the Cuban flag that flew outside his grandparents' house during the ordeal and letters of support from both the United States and Cuba.

Jubilation

When the courts in the United States ruled that Elian Gonzalez could go home there was jubilation in Cuba.

Fidel Castro with Elian's younger brother, Hianny
Castro has befriended the Gonzalez family
Elian returned to his home town of Cardenas in central Cuba in June 2000 to in theory lead a normal life.

But he is accompanied by bodyguards, Cubans still wear t-shirts bearing his face and the slogan 'We saved Elian', and President Castro attended his seventh birthday party.

On Saturday Fidel Castro addressed a crowd, made up mostly of flag-waving schoolchildren, in a square behind the new museum.

Elian's family were guests of honour.

Ellian Gonzalez
Elian has become a national hero
President Castro praised their bravery and dignity and spoke of how close he has grown to them.

Elian's return to Cuba after a long and highly publicised custody battle in Miami was seen by the Cuban authorities as a huge moral victory over the United States.

Elian, now seven years old, survived the shipwreck which killed his mother, and was taken in by his family in Miami who tried to prevent him returning to his father in Cuba.

They failed and Cuba's most famous child became a symbol of what the Cuban authorities hail as the latest in a long list of victories over their old enemy, the United States.

See also:

28 Jun 01 | Americas
Elian prospers, one year on
01 Jul 00 | Americas
Cuba rally celebrates Elian's return
29 Jun 00 | Americas
Politicians exploit the Elian factor
28 Jun 00 | Americas
Analysis: Castro's victory?
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