MIAMI (CBSMiami) - In his first trip outside of Cuba since 2000, Elian Gonzalez denounced the U.S. embargo against Cuba at a youth conference in Quito, Ecuador.
"It is the American government itself that, with an unfair blockade, causes a critical economic situation inside of Cuba," Gonzalez, 20, said in an interview with CNN.
The young man who gained worldwide notoriety in the midst of an international custody dispute said life has been wonderful since his departure from the United States.
"I haven't had any long-lasting psychological trauma. It hasn't affected me, but it has been hard on my family because those were difficult moments," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez was seized at gunpoint by federal agents from relatives in Miami who fought to keep him, even though his father wanted him back in Cuba.
The pre-dawn raid in April 2000 happened 5 months after Elian left Cuba bound for the United States.
The boat sank, his mother drowned and Elian, then 6-years-old, was found clinging to an inner-tube.
A bitter custody struggled followed, and ultimately, the boy was returned to his father and a hero's welcome in Cuba.
Since then, he has lived a guarded life.
In a recent interview published to coincide with his 20th birthday, Elian described himself as a shy person who would clam up around Fidel Castro.
He did refer to Castro as a father figure who only ever wanted him to do his best.
"In spite of everything, I'm in Cuba, and that's great, because it has been 15 wonderful years which I have experienced great growth without precedence as a Cuban Revolutionary youth espousing the cause of the Cuban Revolution," he said.
Gonzalez is a military cadet currently studying industrial engineering.
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