According to Granma

Threats and Violence Lead to Tragedy

In his irresponsible adventure to Florida, Lázaro Munero sacrificed his own mother, who was convalescing from a recent heart attack. Everybody knows that people like Lázaro Rafael Munero García would never have been given a visa by the U.S. Interests Section to live in the United States. The U.S. society would have indignantly rejected him, there would have been a huge scandal. However, if he traveled illegally, he received all honors, no matter who dies as a result of such adventures. How noble and humanitarian is the Cuban Adjustment Act!

When the boat sank, apart from the child, two adults survived: a young woman of 22 and a man of 33 who were traveling as a couple. Their names: ARIANNE HORTA ALFONSO and NIVALDO VLADIMIR FERNANDEZ FERRAN. They were the only ones who could know the secret about what exactly happened. Both of them had vanished after the news of their arrival broke out and they had been released by the police. While in Cuba not a single word was heard from these people, American sources reported that the authorities were considering it a smuggling of people operation. They could only have found that out from the two surviving adults, who were immediately questioned.

As early as November 26, two days after the possible time of wreckage, the well-known El Nuevo Herald, well connected in [Cuban American National] Foundation circles, published the following text:

According to Granma, Elizabeth and Juan Miguel were teen sweethearts
Corbis Sygma
According to Granma, Elizabeth and Juan Miguel were teen sweethearts

"The authorities are considering the crossing by the Cubans as an illegal smuggling operation. After questioning the survivors, the authorities have a first idea of what happened from the time the boat left Cárdenas on Sunday.

"Presumably the operation was planned by Lázaro Moreno [that is how they described him], Elián's stepfather, who was trying to take his family, along with seven other people, who would have paid a thousand dollars for the journey to the United States."

Nobody heard another word about what they had found out. For the moment it was clear that they had both paid a thousand dollars each for that fatal journey. People were being smuggled, a crime severely punished by the United States' own laws and international conventions. Nothing else was said about the matter. It is unknown whether or not the survivors told Immigration about the criminal record and appalling conduct of the journey's organizer. They certainly did not tell everything they knew about Elián, and if they did, nobody repeated a word of it.

Then the powerful mob and their allies launched a propaganda campaign against our country based on the drama of the child who survived after so many hours in an inner-tube. Of course, Cuba would be entirely to blame for what had happened. Yet there were too many ugly sides to that affair. It was better that no journalist contacted the two survivors. Both of them mysteriously vanished from the scene and not a word was heard from them until almost two months later. The battle to free Elián had still not begun, nor did the mobsters, the terrorists, and their allies have any idea of the tremendous force that that battle would take on when our strong, courageous, and militant people mobilized.

However, the influential Los Angeles Times had stirred up something in its search for information, and 39 days later, on January 4 this year, it published a report from Cárdenas, reproduced by a Florida publication under the heading: "The lucrative business of smuggling Cubans," which tells how "Nivaldo Fernandez Ferran walked away from his life: a decade-long marriage, a new house, and a coveted job at a five-star hotel.... So did his girlfriend, 22-year-old Arianne Horta Alfonso, who even walked away from her five-year-old daughter.... [T]hey told the Miami-Dade police investigators that they had paid $2000 to a smuggler for the journey."

Shortly afterwards, it refers to a "growing for-profit smuggling trade that authorities in Havana believe has at least tacit support among the Cuban-American community in South Florida. U.S. Border Patrol agents say the smugglers are operating with near-impunity, charging Cuban migrants up to $8000 apiece."

Further on it states: "Fernandez's mother, Antonia Ferran, is a legal U.S. resident, having left Cárdenas ten years ago to join her sister in Chicago, and she had returned every year since with gifts and cash to add to the Fernandezes' income.

"The family had planned an elaborate 10th anniversary ceremony for the couple to renew their vows December 13. Yet, without a word to his wife, family, or friends, they say, Fernandez suddenly left three weeks before the party with his girlfriend, Arianne, and her five-year-old daughter Esthefany and together they set off towards the U.S. Then, soon after they left Cuba, their boat's engine broke down and the 13 adults decided that the five-year-old girl should not travel with them. So while the Muneros fixed the engine, Horta took Esthefany to her mother's three-room home, fearing that the journey was too dangerous for the child."

At one point the article explains: "These are among the few known facts and lingering mysteries of an illegal voyage that investigators on both sides of the Straits say typifies what has brought thousands of illegal Cuban migrants to the United States during the past two years, and claimed more than 60 Cuban lives in 1999 alone."

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