Crescencio Marino Rivero, a former Cuba prisons chief who moved to Miami, has returned to the island amid charges that he abused prisoners and ahead of a federal immigration investigation that could land him in jail, according to reports.
Dissident journalist Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel said he saw Rivero Tuesday in their hometown of Santa Clara, at a grocery shop near where Rivero and his wife, Juana Ferrer, lived before leaving the country two years ago.
Rivero, 71, told acquaintances at the store that the couple returned to Cuba Monday “because the situation in Miami was very difficult,” Artiles told El Nuevo Herald. Rivero added that the couple planned to spend some time in Cuba and return to Miami later.
Their Miami telephone has been disconnected and a woman who answered the door at their apartment Friday said only that they were not there. Their daughter, Anabel Rivero, a Miami resident, denied her parents had returned to Cuba but declined further comment.
Miami immigration attorney Santiago Alpizar said two confidential sources told him Rivero was back in Santa Clara. And Artiles said another city resident who did not want to be identified also reported seeing him Thursday.
Artiles, a dissident journalist who writes for the independent Cubanacán news agency, said he spotted the former prison chief at the neighborhood grocery store where Rivero and Ferrer shopped before moving to Miami.
Artiles, who said he knew Rivero from his four prison stints totaling 13 years, later followed Rivero to the Cardoso neighborhood and was told the couple is staying with a relative in that area.
Rivera did not explain his reference to the “difficult” situation in Miami Artiles said, although several neighborhood residents have watched a Miami TV program on the accusations against him, being passed around on a USB flash drive.
Six former political prisoners on the island and abroad have accused Rivero of abusing them or ordering prison guards to abuse them when he was in charge of prisons in the central province of Villa Clara in the 1990s. Santa Clara is the capital of the province.
Rivero has denied the abuse allegations but seemed to admit to Miami journalists earlier this month that he and his wife had not revealed their full backgrounds in the sworn forms they submitted when the applied for U.S. visas and residency.
One form asks if applicants ever worked in "a prison, jail, prison camp, detention facility, labor camp or any other situation that involved detaining persons," belonged to any Communist Party, received weapons training or served in a "paramilitary unit.”
Rivero was a colonel and his wife either a captain or colonel in the Interior Ministry, in charge of domestic security. Ministry officers have military ranks, uniforms and sidearms. He retired from the ministry in 1996, moved to Miami with his wife about two years ago and they became residents under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have obtained copies of those forms to determine whether the couple revealed all the required details about their service in the Interior Ministry. Both also were Communist Party members.
After his controversial presence in Miami became public last month, Rivero declared that he was ready to testify to “prosecutors, immigration or the courts, if so requested, about the legal way in which I entered the country and obtained residency.”
The ICE investigation could have led to their arrest and trial if the inquiry showed that they lied in their sworn applications for U.S. visas and residency.
U.S. immigration investigations of foreigners accused of human rights abuse are not ordinarily ended if the targets leave the United States, just in case the targets return, said one official with a background on human rights investigations.
Rivero and his wife could be arrested and tried for perjury. But in the end, they would have to be released because Cuba does not accept most U.S. deportees and U.S. judges do not allow indefinite detentions.
Other subjects have faced detention.
Luis Enrique Daniel Rodríguez, detained in 2004 on suspicion of involvement in the torture of Cuban dissidents, was freed after 13 months in an immigration facility in Bradenton on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Jorge de Cárdenas Agostini, detained in June 2004 on allegations that he supervised a team of torturers in Cuba and held at the Krome detention center in West Miami-Dade, was put on supervised release the following February.
And in 2002, a federal jury in Miami found Cuban exile Eriberto Mederos guilty of lying in his citizenship application by concealing his participation in the torture of political dissidents with electroshocks when he worked as an orderly in a Havana psychiatric hospital.
Mederos died from cancer on the eve of his sentencing.