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Elián González, who as a young boy sat at the center a controversial international custody battle between Cuba and the United States, remembered Fidel Castro as a father figure in an emotional interview that aired on Cuban state TV on Saturday.

Castro, whose death at 90 was announced late Friday, was still in power when a 5-year-old González was rescued off the coast of Florida on Thanksgiving Day 1999.He had survived a shipwreck that had killed his mother, her boyfriend and several others when he was found adrift at sea holding onto an inner tube.

But a castaway rescue turned into a heated custody battle when González’s father in Cuba demanded the United States return the boy to the island. His relatives in Miami, however, wanted to raise the child in Florida.

Read more at HuffPost Latino Voices.