Henchmen of Castroism Are Taking Advantage of the U.S. Border Crisis (Part 4)
The United States has opened its arms to Cuban exiles since 1959, but the current crisis on the southern border and the lack of control in legal migration processes attract servants of the socialist tyranny and violators of human rights to the same country where the regime’s victims found refuge.
On September 27, 2019, Judge Darrin P. Gayles cracked the gavel in a historic sentence: six months in prison, two years of probation, and the restitution of $12,522 for Saúl Santos Ferro, among other charges, for failing to indicate his ties to Castro’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT) when completing his application to reside in the United States.
The Southern District of Florida also ordered that the former prison officer in Cuba be deported after serving his time and paying the indicated amount. In Santos Ferro’s exposure before the courts, fortuitousness and constancy converged. Someone recognized the ex-soldier in a market, took a photo of him, and sent it to the Cuba Repressor ID website, which has been online since 2011, and which publishes profiles of the servers of the socialist tyranny.
The FBI’s International Human Rights Unit, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General confirmed that Santos Ferro had been a major in the political police “for decades” and had been “involved in arrest[ing] and detain[ing] dissidents.”
Through the Cuban Adjustment Act (1996), which gives refuge to the persecuted, Cubans can apply for permanent residence one year and one day after legally entering U.S. territory. The I-485 form includes problematic questions for the henchmen who seek to regularize their immigration status through this route. In answering at least four of them, the repressors would lie:
“Have you been a member or associated in any way with the Communist Party? Were you ever involved in any way in activities such as genocide, torture, killing or attempting to kill someone, seriously hurting or trying to hurt someone on purpose? Have you ever directly or indirectly persecuted anyone because of their race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion? Have you ever been a member of, served, aided, or otherwise participated in … military, paramilitary, police, or vigilante groups?”
Answering falsely is a federal crime. On the other hand, although crimes against humanity would be tried in a free Cuba, in the United States the repressors could only go to court for lying to the authorities.
Crescencio Marino Rivero fled to Miami in 2010. In 2012, he made headlines when several victims accused him of abuses he committed when he was head of prisons in Villa Clara. Jorge Luis García “Antúnez” remembers his orders well: “He ordered me to break my head in 1991 when I stand up because I was not going to wear common prisoner clothes. And he told me: ‘I am racist.’” On another occasion Marino Rivero had him locked up in a cell with pedophiles.
“He tortured me, [yet] here in the United States, they gave him asylum,” lamented Antúnez, known as “the Cuban Nelson Mandela.” Following the complaints, the federal government began to investigate Marino Rivero for hiding his MININT membership in his application forms. At the end of 2012, he fled back to Cuba.
Antúnez today is “very outraged that confessed thugs still enter the border.” He also questions the humanitarian parole program, which he considers a “double standard, because it opens the door to regime collaborators, while the Refugee Program in Havana continues to be detained.”
Juan O. Tamayo reported in the Miami Herald on November 18, 2012 that human rights violators from Cuba are not only getting visas but residency in the United States.
And apparently, henchmen of other leftist dictatorships, like the Chavista “chameleons,” are looking for the same thing. The former mayor of Guanta, Venezuela, Jhonnathan Marín, was recently arrested, who until 2018 moved $1.2 million between Miami and Panama in bribes in the oil industry. According to the Tampa Bay Times, most of the “chameleons” enter the country by air, legally, and once they are known to be investigated “they turn themselves in in exchange for lesser penalties.”
But Chavismo’s exiles have also organized. Through the Organization of Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile (VEPPEX), socialists who intend to live and do business in the United States are detected. In addition, the NGO makes public complaints in court or in security agencies such as the FBI. José Antonio Colina, president of the organization, pointed out that the former Chavistas now “don’t go so much to Miami, but to cities and states where they are less visible,” such as Utah, Atlanta, or Texas.
The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) recalled for this report the existence of mechanisms such as the Magnitsky Law, which persecutes human rights violators globally. The institution has publicly and repeatedly called for the inclusion of Castroites in programs of individual sanctions. “But so far no one from the repressive structure has been included,” an OCDH spokesperson told The Washington Stand.
“The repression must have a response from the international community, the democracies; otherwise, they would fail in their obligation to defend human rights beyond their borders and these actions would be normalizing,” the spokesperson elaborated. The OCDH notes that effectiveness is associated with the political will of the states, “and that is where everything from national interest to ideological affinities come into play.”
In a recent public appearance, the Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States, Alejandro Mayorkas, said that meetings at ports of entry to the United States fell by 95% for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans due to the possibly unconstitutional humanitarian parole program — in force since January of this year — and with which, according to prosecutors from 20 states, the Department of Homeland Security abuses its authority to grant humanitarian permits. Still, this program doesn’t seem effective for filtering out Cuban repressors.
In the United States, there are currently at least 35 henchmen and spokesmen for the Cuban regime, according to what this investigation has been able to compile, based on personal sources, cases identified by the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FDHC), the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (ICLEP), and the press. The 21 henchmen (military, violent or white-collar repressors, whistleblowers, among other collaborators) and 14 spokesmen (trolls on social networks, communicators, or officials of the state media system), for the most part, entered during the current crisis on the southern border.
Are torturing your neighbor and singing the praises of tyranny on television equivalent before the law? How about beating people up and lying to perpetuate Castroism? The responsibility of each individual in the repressive machinery of the island has gradations, as would social repudiation or sentences in a future Cuba. All these immoral positions, however, could lead henchmen and spokesmen in the present-day United States to face legal consequences for lying about their membership in the totalitarian repressive-propaganda complex.
Luis Domínguez, an expert from the FDHC, affirms that the presence of the Castro repressors is “a potential danger for the victims of abuses in Cuba and for US national security.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for his part, believes that “the border crisis under President Biden continues to put Americans at great risk.” In a statement to TWS, he observed that an assortment of individuals “from convicted criminals to individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list, and now human rights violators from bloody regimes” such as the Cuban one are gaining entry into the U.S. due to the crisis.
“We are facing an immigration nightmare that is unsustainable on our southern border,” he stressed. “This administration must be held accountable and explain to the American people why it does not uphold the laws of the United States.”
In March of this year, Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas received a letter from Florida state legislators in which they expressed alarm over the entry into the United States of henchmen, spokesmen, and collaborators of the Cuban tyranny. State Senator Ana María Rodríguez, one of the signatories, said that they would take her concern to Congress and the Secretary of Homeland Security so that these people are not granted asylum.
The authorities seem to mean business, but how much? How far will the Biden administration go in perpetuating the human stream of victims, perpetrators, accomplices, and refugees that flock to the southern border?
** The author would like to thank the Cuban Studies Institute and Cultura Democrática for their contributions to this investigation.
Yoe Suárez is a writer, producer, and journalist, exiled from Cuba due to his investigative reporting about themes like torture, political prisoners, government black lists, cybersurveillance, and freedom of expression and conscience. He is the author of the books “Leviathan: Political Police and Socialist Terror” and “El Soplo del Demonio: Violence and Gangsterism in Havana”.