Crescencio Marino Rivero, a feared former officer in charge of Cuban prisons who recently moved to South Florida with his wife, a former immigration officer, appears to have ordered, only two years ago, an attack against the daughter of a peaceful dissident in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, sources have told El Nuevo Herald.
In Miami, however, he keeps a low profile that has allowed him to go unnoticed.
Cuban activists and former political prisoners have described Rivero, 71, as particularly aggressive. The allegations also characterize him as someone who took advantage of his high-ranking position in the Ministry of the Interior to impose cruel and inhumane treatment on dissidents.
“On two or three occasions he came to our house to threaten us,” recalled Magda Monteagudo Barrio, wife of opposition member Rafael Pérez González. “That is why we think it was Rivero who ordered the attack my daughter suffered when she was pregnant.”
The attack took place in June 2010. In September of that year, Rivero and his wife traveled to the United States, Monteagudo said.
Rivero retired approximately seven years ago as colonel of the Ministry of the Interior. After his retirement, he and his wife, Juana Ferrer, 65, made three trips from Cuba to visit a daughter who lives in Southwest Miami-Dade County. During their fourth visit, the couple decided to stay indefinitely, and filed the paperwork to obtain legal status. The former colonel is now a legal resident in the United States.
An El Nuevo Herald reporter tried to interview Rivero in person on Wednesday. When the reporter knocked on the door of his apartment, a woman who identified herself as Rivero’s daughter came to the door and briefly said that her father would not make any public statement or have any contact with the news media.
“He is not going to talk to the media,” the woman said. Then, the voice of an older man was heard from inside the apartment ordering the young woman to stop talking.
“Close that door immediately,” said the man.
At least two immigration attorneys, Santiago Alpízar and Wilfredo Allen, have questioned the way in which Rivero and his wife obtained U.S. residency permits. Both Rivero and his wife held posts with the Cuban government and were members of the Communist Party.
All Cubans have the possibility to stay once they set foot on U.S. territory. However, they can be expelled if they lie or distort with the purpose of obtaining residency and citizenship.
“People like Rivero cannot live in the United States in total impunity,” Alpízar said. “He is living comfortably in Miami at the expense of the taxes we pay.”
Neighbors in the area said they have seen Rivero “on rare occasions.” A woman who asked for anonymity said that the few times she saw Rivero, he was taking out the garbage very early in the morning. Another neighbor described him as aloof and uncommunicative.
Rivero’s background is known through testimonies given by several former Cuban political prisoners and activists who advocate for individual freedom in the island nation.
Rivero worked for Cuba’s State Security in the 1960s and 1970s. He was later promoted to director of re-education in juvenile prisons in Villa Clara province, a position of trust that can be reached only by career officials.
In 1994, Rivero was already the head of prisons in the province at a time when consistent abuses against political prisoners were reported.
It has been known that Rivero’s wife reached the rank of lieutenant colonel with the Ministry of the Interior. Several dissidents say she and her husband took action against the peaceful opposition movement.
Guillermo Fariñas, the winner of the 2010 Sakharov Award granted by the European Parliament, said that Rivero continued to work for the Cuban government after his retirement. He added that his leadership in the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution was well-known.
“Rivero was involved in acts against [Rafael] Pérez and his family,” Fariñas said in a telephone conversation from his house in the city of Santa Clara. “He and a group active in political repression were involved in beatings and threats. Rivero had the highest rank in that group because he is a retired colonel of the Ministry of the Interior.”