Young shipwreck survivor joins military

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The Independent US

Elian Gonzalez, the young shipwreck survivor who became the centre of a battle between Cuba's government and anti-Castro exiles in Miami a decade ago, is studying to become a military officer, the official media said yesterday.

"A decade after being used as a toy by the enemies of the revolution, we see him wearing an olive-green uniform as a student of the Camilo Cienfuegos military school, where he is preparing to be a future officer of the Revolutionary Armed Forces," The Communist youth newspaper, Jeventud Rebelde, reported. The Cuban military operates high-school level academies across the country.

"The boy of yesterday (today 16) is now an ordinary Cuban," the newspaper said, but added that he had attended the Union of Young Communist Congress where he "shared motivations, ideas and invited us to traverse the paths of the future".

The Cuban government has shielded Elian from international journalists, and he rarely appears in state-run media reports. He was a photogenic five-year-old when he was found floating on an inner tube off the Florida coast in November 1999.

He had survived a shipwreck that killed his mother and other Cubans who had left the island for the United States, but quickly became caught up in the political rip-tide of Havana-Miami politics. His image became a fixture on TV screens around the world.