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Cuban President Fidel Castro called up Elian Gonzalez on Thursday and wished him a happy birthday, shortly before the start of a ceremony in this city for the 8th anniversary of a nationwide ideological battle, which began with the Cuban people's demand for the return of the child to his father in Cuba, after he was held by the Miami-based mafia in US territory.

Elian told the Cuban News Agency that he felt very happy to have talked with Fidel, who wished him a happy birthday and asked him to let the Cuban people know that he is feeling fine. 'It was a very moving occasion,' said the young boy, who turned 14 years old on December 6.

'It has been a very exciting day today, I took part at a sports competition among different high schools and I took the first place in 25-meter swimming,' said Elian, who was given his prize by several times athletics champ Ana Fidelia Quiroz.

Elian Gonzalez said he has been getting good grades and that he is the leader of his student collective at the 'Esteban Hernandez' junior high, where he is on ninth grade.

Cubans marked on Thursday, in Cardenas city, the 8th anniversary of what is known on the island as 'The Battle of Ideas', an ideological struggle that began December 6, 1999, after Elian Gonzalez was held in Miami by the Cuban American mafia.

That same day Cuban President Fidel Castro assured that Cuba would move the world to achieve the return of the child to his homeland.

On June 28, 2000, Elian was brought back to Cuba by his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez and ever since, the young boy has lived happily in the environment of his family and his school.

(Cuban News Agency)

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