A former chief of prisons in Cubas Villa Clara province is reported to be living in South Florida despite allegations that he denied medical treatment to one inmate and ripped out the intravenous feeding tubes of another on a hunger strike.
Marino Rivera, about 80 years old, and his wife, a former migration official in the provincial capital, Santa Clara, also are reported to have made more than one trip back to the island, although government defectors are usually blocked from returning.
Miami immigration lawyers Santiago Alpizar and Wilfredo Allen said they have contacted U.S. prosecutors to find out how Rivera could have been allowed into the United States with his background.
Rivera and his wife were both senior officials in the Interior Ministry, in charge of internal security, prisons and firefighters and members of the Communist Party. They could not be located to comment for this story.
Santa Clara dissident Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliaments Sakharov human rights prize in 2010, said Rivera yanked two intravenous needles from his arms in a fit of anger during one of his many hunger strikes in 1998.
Fariñas said he was serving a three-year sentence for incitement to crime when he started the hunger strike and after 35 days wound up at the Celestino Hernandez Hospital in Santa Clara, with intravenous feeding tubes on each arm.
I was in a bed in the penal wing and he came in, as the head of jails and prisons, to talk to me in a good way about stopping the hunger strike, Fariñas told El Nuevo Herald by phone from his home Thursday.
But then we argued and he exploded, he went into a rage. He tore out the two needles with one yank of the tubes. He just yanked them out, Fariñas said. He yelled that opposition people did not need intravenous tubes. That they needed to be killed.
Aides to Rivera pulled him away, Fariñas added, but that showed the criminal essence of this repressor.
Benito Ortega, a dissident who said he spent 22 years in Castros prisons and now lives in Virginia, said that Rivera was provincial prison chief in 1994 when he requested medical treatment for a badly infected anal fistula.
He told me that dissidents wanted to be jailed so they could receive better medical treatment, and that he wasnt going to approve that, Ortega told El Nuevo Herald. The fistula eventually cleared up by itself
And Rafael Pérez, a dissident now living in Houston, said he was harassed by Rivera and his wife many times when he lived across the street from the couple in Santa Clara. The wife was a lieutenant colonel in the Interior Ministry, he added.
Rivera burst into his home several times and told him that he would be arrested if he stepped outside his house, Perez added. The couple also participated in several acts of repudiation against him and other dissidents in Santa Clara, he said.
Rivera retired as an Interior Ministry colonel about seven years ago, said Fariñas. The couple made about three trips to a U.S. daughter in South Florida after the retirement, and decided to stay on their fourth visit.
All Cubans can stay once they set foot on U.S. territory, but they are required to declare whether they held top posts in the government or were members of the ruling Communist party, and can be expelled if they lie.
The three dissidents said they remember Rivera as a particularly aggressive and often nasty official of the communist government.
Fariñas, who served in the Interior Ministrys elite special forces until he broke with the government in the 1980s, said he first met Rivera when he worked in the feared state security department in the 1960s and 1970s. He does not know Riveras job there, he added, but Rivera did well enough for the government to reward him with a red Lada station wagon, a symbol of high status in Cuba.
Rivera was promoted in the early 1980s to director of reeducation for juvenile prisons in Villa Clara province, where Fariñas ran into him again. Fariñas said he wrote his psychology doctoral thesis on the abuses in that very system, such as officials demanding sex or money from the mothers of the inmates.
Rivera summoned him to his office pulled his pistol on me and threatened to put a bullet in me if I did not change the results of my thesis, Fariñas said. The thesis was later seized by the government and it was never published.
Ortega said he met Rivera in 1994, when he was already head of prisons in a province at the time notorious for abuses of inmates. Three inmates who suffered from asthma died from lack of care at the Alambradas de Manacas prison, he said.
Perez, the former neighbor, told El Nuevo Herald that he heard Rivera and his wife has returned to Santa Clara a few months ago and were not well received by their other neighbors.
The communists did not receive them well because of their move to the United States, Perez said. And those who oppose the Castros even less.