Inquiry gathers torture evidence
Mederos may lose U.S. citizenship
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Federal prosecutors in Miami are gathering evidence in a move to possibly strip Eriberto Mederos of his U.S. citizenship because of allegations he tortured Cuban political prisoners with electroshock treatment when he was an orderly at the Havana Psychiatric Hospital, Justice Department sources said Tuesday.
According to the sources, the prosecutors -- in coordination with
immigration agents -- are interviewing alleged victims of Mederos who are
living in the United States, particularly in South Florida. Eventually, the sources said, evidence gathered from the witnesses may be submitted
to grand jurors for a possible criminal indictment alleging that he concealed his background in applying for U.S. citizenship.
Mederos, who lives in Miami's Allapattah neighborhood, could not be reached for comment. In prior statements, Mederos has acknowledged giving electroshock treatment to inmates at the hospital in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s. But he has insisted that the treatment was a legitimate medical procedure -- not torture.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service granted Mederos
citizenship in 1993 after federal agents concluded they could not dispute
his contention that the
electroshock treatment was prescribed by doctors.
Aloyma Sánchez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami -- which sources said is handling the case -- declined comment. So did Rodney Germain, an INS spokesman. "We cannot comment on a pending investigation,'' he said.
But Eugenio de Sosa Chabau and José Ros, two of more than a dozen witnesses interviewed, said federal agents came to their homes in Miami-Dade County recently and asked them questions on the case.
De Sosa Chabau declined to say what he told the agents. But Ros
said the agents asked him to recount his allegations and then showed him
10 pictures of men from
which he picked out Mederos. Ros said the agents also told him that they were collecting evidence for "a grand jury investigation.''
Ros said he spent 30 days at the hospital in 1968 and identified Mederos as the man who shocked him daily with high-voltage current as he sat naked in a hospital cell.
In interviews with The Herald in March, de Sosa Chabau said that during the nine months he spent at the hospital in the 1970s, he underwent 14 sessions of electroshock treatment.
``He applied the electroshock after soaking the electrodes in water to heighten their power,'' de Sosa Chabau recalled in one interview. "He gave me 14 electroshocks, 10 in the testicles and four on the head.''
De Sosa Chabau was jailed in Cuba in late 1959 for allegedly plotting against Fidel Castro. He was transferred to the psychiatric hospital after Cuban officials learned that in 1962 he had smuggled out a note with a warning to then President John F. Kennedy that Moscow had shipped nuclear missiles to Cuba.
Kennedy and de Sosa Chabau were classmates at the exclusive, then all-boys prep school Choate -- now Choate Rosemary Hall -- in Wallingford, Conn.