The Miami Herald
Sat, Jul. 03, 2004

Torture suspect arrested

Federal agents arrest yet another Cuban torture suspect in Miami, accusing him of having persecuted dissidents opposed to Fidel Castro in the 1990s.


Federal immigration agents raided a west Miami-Dade apartment early Friday and arrested a Cuban national that a judge ordered deported on suspicion of having persecuted dissidents in the early 1990s before leaving the island for the United States.

His attorney categorically denied the allegation and said Luis Enrique Daniel Rodríguez, 37, was a defector.

During immigration proceedings in Miami, Daniel Rodríguez acknowledged he was a Cuban government officer, people familiar with the case said.

Barbara González, a spokeswoman in Miami for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed the arrest. Court records showed the judge ordered him deported on Wednesday.

''An immigration judge made a finding that he was a persecutor or involved in human rights violations based on his work for the Ministry of the Interior in Cuba,'' she said. ``Based on the findings, the judge issued an order of removal.''


Leonardo Viota Sesin, Daniel Rodríguez's attorney, denied his client is a human rights violator.

''Hogwash,'' he said. ``He is no persecutor. He may have worked for the Ministry of the Interior but many other defectors did as well and they are living under the protection of the United States. My client is a defector. There is no proof he was ever a persecutor. It's guilt by association of the worst kind.''

People familiar with the investigation said that after Daniel Rodríguez was arrested in the 8900 block of Southwest 25th Street, he was transported to the Krome detention center in west Miami-Dade County to await deportation.

Cuban nationals are rarely deported because the Cuban government generally does not take back exiles living in the United States. In general, Cuban nationals detained by immigration and ordered deported are released under supervision.

But immigration law also allows federal authorities to detain indefinitely a foreigner who cannot be deported and is deemed a security threat.


Daniel Rodríguez is the third Cuban arrested as a foreign torture suspect since immigration authorities began arresting such subjects under a so-called ''persecutor program'' started in 2000.

Daniel Rodríguez, who crossed into the United States from Mexico in 2000, lived in a one-room studio at the rear of a ranch-style house subdivided into apartments. The place looked as if the tenant had left in a hurry. A fan was still whirring.

In a letter found discarded outside, dated Thursday, Daniel Rodríguez requested five days off from his employer, a furniture store, so he could meet his wife and child, about to arrive from Cuba.

José Luis Gil was surprised when told his neighbor had been arrested as a suspected Cuban agent and torturer.

''He seemed normal,'' Gil said. ``I never noticed anything odd or unusual about him.''

During immigration proceedings, Daniel Rodríguez denied having violated human rights. But the government trial lawyer said he likely was the ''lieutenant Daniel'' mentioned in a 1991 Human Rights Watch report titled ``Cuba Behind a Sporting Facade, Stepped Up Repression.''

According to the report, Lt. Daniel was one of four Cuban military officers who raided the home of human rights activists in 1991 to confiscate documents, reports and cassette tapes. It also said Lt. Daniel was seen among a group of pro-Castro demonstrators in a rally known as an ''act of repudiation'' outside the home of another dissident in 1991.

Viota Sesin said his client is not the man in the report.