A Family Portrait

Meet Luis and José Cid, Elian Gonzalez's cousins, just a couple of good, old-fashioned American criminals

The scene outside Elian Gonzalez's Little Havana home was rather subdued this past Saturday afternoon. A few network news crews staked out the house from a neighbor's yard, huddled around a television set atop a milk crate, watching an NFL playoff game. In the street a stream of cars drove up and down the block, slowing to a crawl so the passengers could stare at the modest house.

A dozen or so people milled in front of the home, hoping to catch a glimpse of the world's most famous six-year-old. "Where is he?" a young boy asked his mother as they passed the fenced yard where Elian often plays. "Where's the puppy?"

"I don't know," the mother replied. "It doesn't look like anyone is home."

José Cid at play with cousin Elian Gonzalez
Bill Cooke
José Cid at play with cousin Elian Gonzalez

She was right. On this day Elian was at the circus.

At about 5:30 p.m. a dilapidated 1987 Honda Civic pulled up to the house, and a young man in his early thirties stepped out. Several people in the crowd recognized him and walked over to shake his hand. He was one of Elian's cousins, Luis Cid. His sister, Georgina Cid Cruz, has recently been representing the family before the media. Last week, for instance, she appeared on CNN's Larry King Live.

The worldwide attention being paid to Elian's case has transformed nearly all his local relatives into celebrities. An older woman came forward and asked if she could have her photograph taken with Cid. He graciously complied. The woman quickly stood next to him and smiled broadly as her husband took a snapshot.

With any luck it will turn out to be a better picture than the unflattering mug shot taken of Luis Cid by county jailers four months ago. According to police reports and court records, the 32-year-old was arrested by Miami police on September 7 and charged with strong-arm robbery after he and an accomplice assaulted and robbed a tourist in Little Havana. The robbery took place about a half-mile from where Elian is now living. Cid is free on bond while awaiting trial next month.

This isn't Luis Cid's first encounter with law enforcement and the courts. In 1994 he was arrested on felony charges of carrying a concealed weapon and resisting arrest with violence. Also that year his ex-wife sought a permanent injunction against him, alleging domestic violence, according to court records. In 1995 she sued him for child support. In 1998 he was arrested once more, this time on felony firearms and prowling charges.

Cid's twin brother also visits his uncle's Little Havana home to socialize with Elian. José Cid, like his brother, has a lengthy history of encounters with police. Between 1986 and 1990 he was arrested at least five times on felony charges including burglary, grand theft, and robbery with force, according to court records. In 1994 he was arrested on charges of petit larceny. (New Times was unable to confirm before press time the judicial outcomes of the various criminal charges brought against the Cid brothers. Efforts to interview the brothers for this story also were unsuccessful.)

Men with multiple felony arrests casually mingling with Elian and his caretakers -- hardly the image the Miami relatives have sought to project to the world.

Family spokesman Armando Gutierrez says neither Luis Cid nor twin brother José lives at the house where Elian stays, and the two don't spend significant time with him. "They are not involved in anything to do with the care or the well-being of the boy," Gutierrez insists. "They are not around Elian. They may come and go after a few minutes, but they are not part of the immediate family that is taking care of Elian."

Elian lives with his great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez; Lazaro's wife, Angela; and their daughter, Marisleysis. Gutierrez claims Lazaro learned of the criminal histories of Luis and José Cid only after New Times raised the issue earlier this week. "Lazaro is just shocked," Gutierrez reports. "He knew nothing about this." (Lazaro Gonzalez's sister, who lives in Miami, is the mother of Luis and José Cid. The Cid family left Cuba and came to the United States via Costa Rica in 1983. The twins were 15 years old at the time.)

Gutierrez argues it would be "an injustice" for the problems of a couple of cousins to tarnish the reputation of the entire family. "Everybody has somebody in their family who was a troublemaker. But this is not a criminal family."

The revelation that some of Elian's Miami relatives may be unsavory characters serves to highlight the fact that little is known about the people who have encircled the boy. The media has reported only the barest details: Lazaro Gonzalez is a 49-year-old mechanic, his 47-year-old wife Angela works in a factory, 21-year-old Marisleysis is a loan officer at a bank.

And the rest of the family? Even less is known about them. Lazaro's older brother Delfin is a fisherman who also sells lobster traps in the Florida Keys. According to Gutierrez, Delfin has been providing the bulk of the family's financial support since the Immigration and Naturalization Service released Elian to them in late November. Lazaro has another brother in Miami, Manuel, who is reportedly estranged from the clan because he has advocated Elian's return to Cuba.

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