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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 22:27 GMT 23:27 UK
Elian interview sparks Miami row
Elian and his father are greeted on their arrival in Havana, June 2000
Cubans celebrated when Elian was returned to his father
Relatives in Florida of the shipwrecked Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez have criticised an interview with him to be shown on US television on Sunday.

In excerpts from the CBS network's 60 Minutes show Elian, now 11, calls Cuban leader Fidel Castro his friend.

He also accuses his family in Miami of trying to turn him against his father during a custody battle in 2000 which culminated in his return to Cuba.

A spokesman for the Florida relatives said Elian had been brainwashed.

Elian turned six soon after he was discovered floating alone in the Florida Straits, tied to an inner tube, in November 1999.

His mother and 10 others had drowned trying to make the crossing from Cuba to Florida.

Castro 'my friend'

Elian's Miami relatives and Cuban exile groups lost a fierce legal battle to keep him in the US. He was finally seized by armed US immigration officers and reunited with his father.

In the interview, Elian said Mr Castro had attended his elementary school graduation and told the boy he was his friend.

"I also believe I am his friend," Elian said. He considers Mr Castro "not only as a friend but as a father".

Elian (centre) is seized from his Miami relatives' home
Elian was seized from his Miami relatives' home in an armed raid

He said his Miami relatives, with whom he spent five months, had tried to persuade him to stay.

"They were telling me bad things about [my father]," Elian is quoted by CBS as saying. "They were also telling me to tell [my father] that I did not want to go back to Cuba and I always told them I wanted to."

He said he would like to see his relatives in Miami again, however, adding: "Despite everything they did - the way they did it, it was wrong - they are my family."

Elian's aunt, Angela Gonzalez, told the Associated Press news agency she doubted whether the interview represented his true beliefs because of the controls imposed by Cuba on information.

Family members in Florida had been prevented from having any contact with Elian since he returned to Cuba, she said, but he "is always on our minds".

A spokesman for the relatives, Armando Gutierrez, said Elian had been brainwashed by the Cuban regime.

CBS said they had spoken to the boy, who is considered a hero in Cuba, in his hometown of Cardenas. His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, was present but there were no Cuban officials, the network said.



SEE ALSO:
What happened to Elian Gonzalez?
22 Apr 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Cuba
04 Jun 03 |  Country profiles
Court allows Reno case over Elian
04 Oct 01 |  Americas
Castro opens Elian museum
15 Jul 01 |  Americas
Cuban anger at court ruling
02 Jun 00 |  Americas


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