As Cuba rolled out 3G service for mobile phones Thursday, Elian González, who as a boy was caught up in a bitter custody battle between his father in Cuba and relatives in Miami, joined Twitter.
González, who turned 25 on Thursday, said he opened his Twitter account @BrotonsElian to acknowledge a birthday tweet from Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s president. Via the Twitter platform, González, an industrial engineer, said he would be able to follow and support Díaz-Canel.
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Brotons was González’s mother Elizabeth’s maiden name. Just after dawn on Thanksgiving Day 1999, two South Florida men found González floating in an inner tube off the Florida coast. His mother and 10 others died at sea when the small aluminum boat a group of 14 used to flee the island began to take on water.
Soon the boy was caught up in a custody feud between his relatives in Miami who said it was his mother’s wish that her son live in freedom in the United States and his father who wanted him back in Cuba with him. The custody battle polarized the Cuban-American community.
Ultimately, the Miami relatives lost their fight to keep González and the six-year-old was returned to his father who took him back to the island.
By Thursday evening, González had attracted more than 180 Twitter followers and was following 29 people and institutions, including Díaz-Canel, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the United Nations and the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
Earlier in the day, Díaz-Canel, who only joined Twitter himself in August, tweeted: “Congratulations on his 25th birthday to engineer Elián González Brotons, son and grandson of dignified Cubans and of all the people of #Cuba. The battle for his liberty, led by #Fidel [Castro], demonstrates how many challenges we can overcome together.”
Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi