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2000: Swat team grabs tug-of-love Cuban boy

VIDEO : Cuban-Americans protest over Elian

US federal agents have seized six-year-old Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez in an early morning raid on the home of his relatives in Miami.

About 25 officers broke down the door of the house and re-emerged minutes later with Elian wrapped in a blanket.

They bundled the screaming boy into a vehicle and drove him away, as the crowd outside the house shouted protests.

Chaotic scenes followed as the officers retreated and pepper spray was used to keep back the crowd.

Elian was put on a plane and flown to Andrews Air force base outside Washington where he was reunited with his father for the first time in five months.

Elian has been at the centre of a bitter custody battle between his Miami relatives and his father in Cuba since being shipwrecked off the Florida coast last November.

His mother, and 10 other people attempting to enter the US as illegal immigrants, drowned.

'Right thing to do'

One of the fishermen who rescued Elian, Donato Dalrymple, was in the house when he was taken.

Mr Dalrymple said agents pointed guns at the family and shouted: "Give me the boy or I'll shoot you!"

But Attorney-General Janet Reno, who ordered the raid after the failure of negotiations with Elian's relatives about surrendering him, defended the use of armed officers.

She said they had had information that there could have been guns in the house and among the crowd outside.

Ms Reno confirmed Elian would remain in the US in accordance with the appeal court injunction against the boy being taken to Cuba.

In a brief statement, President Bill Clinton said that he supported Janet Reno's decision.

"The law was upheld and that was the right thing to do," he said.

The affair has greatly strained US/Cuban relations with accusations from Cuba that the delay in returning Elian is politically motivated.

In Context
After a series of court hearings Elian was allowed to return home to Cuba with his father in June 2000.

They received a rapturous welcome and Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, attended Elian's seventh birthday party.

In an interview broadcast on US television a year after Elian's return his father said their life had gone back to normal and Elian was enjoying school in the small town of Cardenas, in central Cuba.

In spite of the fate of Elian's mother, thousands of other Cuban would-be illegal immigrants still attempt the dangerous crossing to the United States each year.


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