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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Elian timeline in pictures
The story of six-year-old shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez has caused a storm in US-Cuban relations, but he is also a vulnerable child whose mother drowned before his eyes and who found himself at the centre of a bitter custody dispute.

On 25 November 1999 - Thanksgiving Day in the USA - Elian was found floating on an inner tube off the Florida coast after the boat taking him from Cuba sank killing his mother and 10 other people.

Following his rescue Elian lived with his great-uncle in Miami's Little Havana district. His relatives in the US said he was better off with them than returning to Cuba.

The dispute over Elian sparked mass demonstrations in Cuba and the USA. In Cuba the government led one of the largest mass campaigns in the country's recent history.

The international media took a huge interest in Elian's plight. Pictures showed a bright, happy six-year-old, but psychologists feared Elian could suffer long-term emotional problems.

Both sides accused the other of using Elian as a propaganda tool for their own political purposes.

Elian's grandmothers, Mariela Quintana (left) and Raquel Rodriguez, spent nine days in the US unsuccessfully lobbying for his return to Cuba.

Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, flew to the US on 6 April, accompanied by his wife and baby son, to take Elian back home. President Fidel Castro bid farewell to him at the airport in Havana.

Anti-Castro supporters formed a human chain around Elian's great-uncle's house in Little Havana, determined to stop the boy being taken away.

But in the early hours of Saturday 22 April, US federal agents stormed the Little Havana house and seized Elian. He had been hiding in a cupboard with the fisherman who rescued him from the sea.

Elian was taken away crying and screaming, after five months in Little Havana.

Elian was finally reunited with his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Smiling photos were released but critics said they were fake.

A freelance photographer was allowed exclusive access to the Maryland retreat where Elian and his family moved to escape the media spotlight. But the family were not free to return to Cuba until appeals and counter appeals had run their course.

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27 Jan 00 | Americas
Elian battle on Capitol Hill
27 Nov 99 | Americas
Cubans survive shipwreck ordeal
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