Ex-Cuban Prisons Official Accused of Abuse Flees U.S. — Again 1

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

A former Cuban prisons official, who fled Miami after he was accused of abusing inmates and lying on his U.S. visa and residency documents, has apparently again left his latest U.S. home in a hurry, amid fresh news reports on his case.

Crescencio Marino Rivero, 71, and his wife, Juana Ferrer, lived in quiet retirement in Miami until October, when several dissidents accused him of abuses when he was a top prisons official in Villa Clara province. He rushed back to Cuba soon afterward.

Rivero quietly returned in late 2012 or early this year and was living with relatives in a three-story building in the New Jersey town of Kearny, next to Newark, according to knowledgeable persons in Miami and New Jersey.

But he rushed to the Newark airport last month, and apparently took a flight to Canada and went on to Cuba, just days after El Nuevo Herald and Miami’s Spanish-language TV stations reported that Rivero had returned from Cuba, the sources said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been investigating Rivero and Ferrer, partly for the human rights complaints — which Rivero flatly denies — but mostly because the couple allegedly lied on their U.S. visa and residency applications.

The couple, both former Ministry of Interior officers in Villa Clara, have said they retired from the ministry years ago and moved to Miami in 2010 to live with a daughter who has a young child.

Ferrer told El Nuevo Herald on July 10 that her husband was living in Cuba and accused the media of harassing her and her family and forcing the couple to live apart.

But people who know the family in Miami and New Jersey said he returned to the United States late last year or early this year and settled in with a relative in Kearny, believed to be a sister, in hopes of avoiding the glare of publicity in Miami.

Rivero applied for subsidized housing in New Jersey, added the sources, who requested anonymity. U.S. government officials in Miami halted their refugee assistance to Rivero and Ferrer in December, according to other sources.

But he grew nervous after the media picked up his trail again last month, said one of the sources. Four or five days after El Nuevo Herald published a story about him on July 11, he told relatives he was taking a flight to Canada and left for the airport.

Rivero flew on to Cuba, but his current whereabouts are unknown. Calls to the Kearny home went unanswered.

His daughter, Anabel Rivero, said her father does not face any U.S. immigration charges and that as a legal U.S. resident can “enter and leave this country whenever he feels like it.” She declined to comment further.

ICE has declined to confirm or deny that it is investigating Rivero and Ferrer, and a spokesman said Friday that it could not comment on the reports of Rivero’s departures and returns because of privacy regulations.

A half-dozen former political prisoners have accused Rivero of abusing them or ordering guards to abuse them when he served as a senior official in juvenile detention centers and later adult prisons in Villa Clara in the 1980s and 1990s.

One of the dissidents, Rafael Perez, said that he was more concerned about the former Cuban government official’s apparent ease in obtaining U.S. visas and entering, leaving and then returning to the United States despite the ICE inquiry. “I don’t understand it,” he said from his home in Houston. “Shouldn’t this be a matter of national security for this country?”

Cuba’s Ex-Prisons Chief — Accused of Human-Rights Abuses — is Back in the U.S. 14

By David Noriega and Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

A former Cuban prisons chief who was living in Miami and returned hastily to the island after he was accused of human-rights abuses is now back again in the United States, according to a knowledgeable source.

Interior Ministry Col. Crescencio Marino Rivero, 71, returned to Cuba in November after a half-dozen dissidents identified him as a former director of prisons in the central province of Villa Clara and accused him of abuses. But a person with direct knowledge of the case Wednesday confirmed reports last week that Rivero had returned to somewhere in the United States. The person declined comment on Rivero’s location and all other issues, and asked for anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Rivero’s wife, Juana Ferrer, who stayed in Miami when he returned to Cuba, insisted to an El Nuevo Herald reporter Wednesday that he remains in the island and accused the media of harassing her and her family. The report of Rivero’s return drew grumbles from Miami immigration lawyers William Allen and Santiago Alpizar, whose complaints about his presence in South Florida last year eventually prompted an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“I am disappointed that it’s been months since this information has been made public, and in those months this guy returns to Cuba, returns to this country and nothing has happened,” Allen said. He added that he was especially frustrated because the U.S. government at the same time has sought to deport other Cubans who, like Rivero and Ferrer, allegedly lied about their Communist Party membership and other issues when they applied for U.S. visas and residence.

The normal procedure for cases like Rivero and Ferro would be for ICE to submit the results of its investigation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami for a decision on whether to press criminal charges — most likely fraudulently obtaining visas and residence. If the federal prosecutors decline, ICE can then start removal procedures — in essence, deportation cases in which an immigration judge rules on whether the defendants committed fraud. Deportations to Cuba are rare, so the defendants face detention in immigration lockups like the one on Krome Avenue or can voluntarily return to the island. ICE and the U.S. Attorneys Office in Miami declined comment on the Rivero and Ferrer case.

Rivero retired in 1996 from the Interior Ministry, in charge of all prisons, and moved to Miami in 2010 with his wife, a former Interior Ministry passport officer who held at least the rank of captain. They moved in with a daughter, who has a young child. A half-dozen former Cuban political prisoners have accused him of abusing them or ordering prison guards to abuse them when he was in charge of juvenile detention centers and later adult prisons in Villa Clara in the 1980s and 1990s.

Dissident Guillermo Fariñas, like Rivero a resident of the city of Santa Clara, alleged that an angry Rivero ripped out two intravenous feeding tubes from his arms when he was in a hospital in 1998 carrying out one of his many hunger strikes. Farinas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize for freedom of conscience, said Rivero also shouted that “dissidents don’t need intravenous liquids. They need to be killed.”

Federal investigators obtained copies of Rivero and Ferrer’s applications for visas and residence, under the Cuban Adjustment Act, in November, around the same time that Rivero went back to their home in Santa Clara. Prosecuting Rivero for human rights abuses would be difficult, according to experts, but he and Ferrer could be put in removal procedures if they are found to have lied in their U.S. applications.

The forms ask if the applicants have ever worked in prisons, belonged to a Communist Party, received weapons training or served in a “paramilitary unit.” Interior Ministry officers hold military ranks and can carry weapons. Rivero has denied the allegations of human rights abuses and branded his accusers as “liars.” But he appeared to acknowledge possible problems with his visa application when he spoke with a handful of Miami reporters in November. When he applied for a U.S. visa, he said, “at that time I had been out of the Interior Ministry for 14 years. I didn’t give it any importance.”

U.S. Investigates Former Cuban Provincial Prisons Chief 1

Immigration authorities checking whether Crescencio Marino Rivero and his wife, now Miami residents, lied in their visa and residency applications

By Juan O. Tamayo, jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

U.S. immigration authorities have launched a formal investigation into whether a former Cuba provincial prisons chief and his wife, now living in Miami, lied in their sworn applications for U.S. visas and residency, sources said Tuesday. Copies of the applications filed by Crescencio Marino Rivero and Juana Ferrer were obtained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to determine whether they revealed their service in Cuba’s Interior Ministry as well as Communist Party membership. Half a dozen former Cuban prisoners on the island and in the United States 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. But the formal investigation so far focuses only on whether Rivero and Ferrer lied in two sworn U.S. forms, said an official who has direct knowledge of the case wasn’t authorized to comment publicly.

Rivero, 71, who retired from the Interior Ministry in 1996, moved to Miami with his wife about two years ago and they became residents under the Cuban Adjustment Act. He did not reply to El Nuevo Herald calls to his cell phone. The two key immigration documents that Rivero and Ferrer had to sign under oath were an Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, and an I-485 form, titled Application to Register Residence or Adjust Status. The I-485 form asks applicants if they have ever been a member of a Communist Party or served in “a prison, jail, prison camp, detention facility, labor camp or any other situation that involved detaining persons.” It also asks if they ever received weapons training or served in a “military unit, paramilitary unit (or) police unit.” Replying affirmatively to those questions might have sparked further inquiries by U.S. authorities and complicated or delayed the processing of the applications by Rivero and his wife, Miami migration lawyer Santiago Alpizar said. Most Interior Ministry members have military ranks, wear uniforms and receive weapons training. Rivero held the rank of colonel and Ferrer has been variously described as having been a captain or colonel in the ministry. Foreigners who lie in sworn U.S. forms can be charged with perjury, and if convicted, may be subject to deportation proceedings. Havana, however, does not accept most Cubans ordered deported from the United States.

Speaking to journalists shortly after El Nuevo Herald first reported his presence in Miami, Rivero denied the allegations of abuses but appeared to acknowledge that he had not told U.S. officials about his service in the Interior Ministry. The visa applications submitted to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana “were done for us by a person in Santa Clara who does paperwork. At that time I had been out of the Interior Ministry 14 years, so I didn’t think it was important,” Rivero said. As for the I-485 application, he added, “I was never asked that either. The documents for applying for the residency were filled out by an agency that does that sort of work.” It is not known whether Rivero and his wife were also interviewed in person by U.S. immigration officials in South Florida when they filed their I-485 forms, whether they were asked key questions at that interview and whether they answered truthfully. In an email to El Nuevo last month, Rivero said he would be willing to testify “before prosecutors, immigration or the courts, if they so request, about the legal way in which I entered this country and now reside in it.”