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Ex-Cuban prison official, now in Miami, says allegations of abuse are lies

Posted on Friday, 11.02.12

Ex-Cuban official, now in Miami, says allegations of abuse are lies

A former top prison official in Cuba, now living in Miami, said he

treated everyone fairly and allegations of prison abuse are lies.

By Juan Carlos And Juan Tamayo

[email protected]

After two years of living anonymously in Miami, the former chief of the

Department of Prisons in Villa Clara, Cuba, broke his silence Thursday

and acknowledged that he had been a high-ranking official of that

country's Ministry of the Interior.

"I was the director of [the ministry's] Judiciary Department until

February 1996, and my job was to supervise and monitor the judicial

performance of chiefs and officials of the penal system in the province

of Villa Clara," said former Col. Crescencio Marino Rivero in an email

to El Nuevo Herald.

In an interview he later gave to the Channel 41 television program

América Tevé, he admitted that he had not informed U.S. authorities of

his position with the Cuban government.

"The paperwork was done by someone who dealt with this type of

documentation in the city of Santa Clara. At that moment I had been out

of [the ministry] for 14 years and working as an adjunct professor at

the ," Rivero said. "Here, nobody asked me. The documents that

I had to present to obtain residency were processed by an agency that

specialized in this type of paperwork."

Rivero denied that he abused and mistreated prisoners, and called three

former political prisoners and dissidents who made the accusations "liars."

"There are hundreds of honest and truthful people in this country who

served time in some of the prisons in Villa Clara. If they know me, they

would be aware of my ethical and moral behavior as chief of the

Department of Prisons. I helped hundreds of them to move on to better

prison conditions," Rivero told El Nuevo Herald.

Dissidents in Cuba such as Guillermo Fariñas, who won the 2010 Sakharov

Award of the European Parliament, and former political prisoners Rafael

Pérez and Benito Ortega accused Rivero of denying medical treatment to a

of conscience, making death threats and ordering the beating,

among other humiliating acts, of a pregnant woman.

The Rivero case emerged recently when two immigration attorneys in

Miami, Santiago Alpízar and Wilfredo Allen, contacted the U.S.

Department of Justice to find out how Rivero and his wife, Juana Ferrer,

a former immigration official in Cuba, could have entered the United

States in light of their backgrounds and the allegations of their accusers.

Rivero and Ferrer are legal U.S. residents and apparently receive

benefits paid by taxpayer money, the attorneys said.

Rivero accused Allen and Alpízar of seeking media exposure to gain

"fame" among Cuban immigrants in the United States for the purpose of

gaining new clients.

Rivero's wife was a lieutenant colonel at the Ministry of Interior.

Several dissidents say that she, with her husband, made threats and

worked against the peaceful opposition movement in Cuba.

Earlier this week, Rivero refused to respond to an El Nuevo Herald

reporter who knocked on the door of his modest apartment in southwest

Miami. A woman who identified herself as Rivero's daughter opened the

door and briefly said that her father would not make public statements

or have any contact with the news media.

Dissidents remember Rivero as an unpleasant man. Sources told El Nuevo

Herald that Rivero worked for Cuban State Security in the 1960s and

1970s. He was later promoted to director of reeducation in juvenile

prisons in the province of Villa Clara. By 1994, Rivero was in charge of

all prisons in the province, according to dissidents.

Rivero wrote in his email that his job was to uphold the law. "Not

applying personal criteria but only what the documents governing the

system [required], not establishing privileges or hardening the applied

sanctions to any detainee," he said.

He said he was a lawyer and an adjunct professor at the Central

University of Las Villas' Law .

"I will not make any more statements; the chapter is closed," Rivero

added at the end of the email. "I will also state what is pertinent to

the federal district attorney or the courts if they were to ask me

regarding the legal manner in which I entered this country and live in it."

In Miami, Wilfredo Allen, the immigration attorney, rejected Rivero's

arguments and said his motive was not to boost his law practice.

"I have never received one single penny from anyone for representing and

helping people abused and persecuted in Cuba," Allen said.

Fariñas said that Rivero must accept his past of repression and face the

consequences of his acts.

"Rivero demonstrates in that email that he is an excellent disciple of

," Fariñas, the Cuban , told El Nuevo Herald from

his home in Santa Clara. "He is a great demagogue and liar."

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