Cicilia, a large, sturdily built Cuban immigrant, had played an intimate role in Rubio’s early life. But as the future senator from Florida was finishing high school and preparing to go to college, his brother-in-law’s illicit career as a cocaine dealer was exposed in a major trial. Cicilia was eventually sentenced to a lengthy prison term in one of the biggest drug cases of Miami’s baroque cocaine-cowboys era.
Rubio, who was 16 at the time of the arrest, does not mention the ordeal as he runs for president, casting his family’s Cuban American immigrant story as the embodiment of the American Dream.
There is no evidence that Rubio or his parents were aware of Cicilia’s drug dealing, and Rubio’s sister was not suspected of any crime. But a deep look at those turbulent years — drawing on previously unreported Drug Enforcement Administration field reports and grand jury testimony, interviews with federal task force agents, and the senator’s writings — reveals that Cicilia was a central figure in the smuggling operation at the same time that he was integrated in the life of the Rubio family.