By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
For ten years he is not known to have had even one steady job. It was only for two brief periods that he worked as a waiter, once in a hotel and once in a social club, where they soon discovered his penchant for theft and fraud. He kept looking for ways to lead a comfortable, parasitic life on easy money. Testimony: "I [name is omitted] born in Cárdenas, employed as a chambermaid in the hotel [name is omitted], in Varadero, had an intimate relationship with Lázaro Rafael Munero García, from 1991 to 1994, during which time he served a sentence for burglary. During the time I was with him, I knew him as a restless, whimsical, and socially irresponsible person. When he got an idea in his head, nothing would stop him till he had done it, even if it could cause problems." The burglary referred to in that testimony took place on May Day, 1993. Sentence No. 347, pronounced in the month of October 1993 by the Fifth Court of the People's Provincial Penal Court of Matanzas, indicates in its first paragraph that defendants Lázaro Rafael Munero García and Julio César González Caraballo, by common agreement, set off during the night of May Day, 1993, for the municipality of Varadero [...], for the hotel Siboney, and decided to break into room number 120 to take whatever they could from there. The German tourist Milhelen Kalan was a guest in that room with his granddaughter. Finding no one in the room at that time, they broke three panes of glass, which made up the window [...]."
A long narrative follows. After numerous paragraphs and whereas clauses, it concludes with the sentence stating that: "We should punish, and we will punish defendant Lázaro Rafael Munero García, to two years imprisonment, and defendant Julio César González Caraballo to three years imprisonment, both of them as perpetrators of the crime of burglary," with the corresponding accessories. Furthermore they are ordered to compensate Milhelen Kalan Van Hofe for the amount of 236 pesos and 55 cents in local currency [actually the amount is in dollars, at an exchange rate of 1 to 1]. Another significant testimony: "I [the name is omitted] was born in Jagüey Grande and I am employed as [position and workplace and municipality where she is based are omitted]. I met Lázaro Rafael Munero García in 1999, when we began a sexual relationship while I was visiting the village [name is omitted]. Regarding this relationship, I can say that it ended in the month of August that year since Lázaro no longer wanted to see me, and I then got involved in another relationship. "I remember that finding myself in that situation, and though I cannot remember the exact date although I am certain it was at the end of September, several people came up to my house to tell me that Lázaro was in the cafeteria [the name of the cafeteria and the street where it is located in the village are omitted], and wanted me to go and see him, which I did. However, when I arrived he asked me to walk with him out the back of [the name of the place is omitted, to not indicate the village]. Among other things, he said that I was betraying him and he slapped me on the face again and again while telling me that when he sent for me I had to come immediately, which I agreed to do so that he stopped the beating. When this was over, he took me back to the cafeteria [the name is omitted] and left. I have not seen him again."
Even when this and the previous statement are signed, and their authors, with moral courage worthy of praise, are prepared to expose themselves, it does not seem to us appropriate to do it due to the sensitive nature of the issue and the advisability to preserve their identities in circumstances that could lead to more disgraceful personal situations.
The important thing about that last statement is that it refers to events that took place relatively far away from Cárdenas, eight weeks before the fatal journey in which Lázaro Munero left the country in a fragile boat, taking Elizabeth and Elián with him.
During that period he showed his aggressive, threatening, and abusive nature more than ever, in this case directed at a young, modest, and helpless girl, simply because she refused to give in to the passing whim of someone who was about to leave the country and would very soon stop seeing her all together.
How did he treat Elizabeth during that period and what threats was he making to her, resigned, docile, and almost certainly terrified as she was?
The investigators have managed to gather all the material and documents, police files and legal proceedings, accusations, fines, convictions for armed robberies, fist-fighting, felonies, swindle, the crime of buying and selling stolen goods, all sorts of illegal activities, alcohol abuse and others; a long list of common crimes of various degrees of seriousness accumulated in his short and troubled life as a criminal; whole pages of fingerprints and evidence that describe and demonstrate Lázaro Munero's illegal and immoral conduct.