WTVJ 70th Anniversary: Covering the Elian Gonzalez Saga

WTVJ is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2019 with a look back at the station's rich history as well as some of the biggest stories and biggest personalities we've covered.

Elian Gonzalez was just 5 years old when he was taken by U.S. federal agents at gunpoint in Miami and returned to his father in Cuba.

The young Cuban rafter was at the center of a bitter custody battle between his relatives in Miami who wished to keep him in the United States and his father in Cuba. The international custody battle became a hot button issue during the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign and a central focus for the U.S. and Cuban governments alike.

The boy was just shy of his sixth birthday when the small boat that was carrying him, his mother and a dozen others went down near Florida. Gonzalez's mother was among those who perished. Little Elian was found floating in an inner tube and rescued by fishermen who then turned the small boy over to U.S. officials.

The Cuban government organized mass marches proclaiming the boy's right to be with his father in Cuba. Meanwhile, the child's Miami relatives, supported by members of Miami's Cuban community, insisted that the child should not be returned to the island nation, and that his mother's dying wish to bring the boy to the U.S. should be honored.

Then-Attorney General Janet Reno ultimately ordered that the boy be returned to Cuba with his father and set a deadline of April 13. Miami relatives defied the order, leading to the house becoming surrounded by police and protesters as continued negotiations took place.

The months-long saga culminated with a dramatic raid on the Miami house, where U.S. federal agents retrieved Gonzalez at gunpoint in the early morning hours and he was flown back to the island in June of 2000.

The iconic photo of that historic moment, taken by Alan Diaz for the Associated Press, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.

Gonzalez's great uncle, Delfin Gonzalez was inside the home when authorities stormed in with guns drawn. He says it's a day he'll never forget.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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