A human rights advocate in Havana criticized U.S. immigration over the detention of two Cuban nationals in Miami for alleged human rights violations in the island.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
A prominent human rights advocate in Cuba says the U.S. immigration service has made a mistake in detaining two Cuban exiles in Miami over alleged past persecution of dissidents in Cuba.
Elizardo Sánchez Santacrúz, president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said one of the Cubans -- accused of raiding Sanchez's home more than 10 years ago -- did not participate in the raid, and that his office has no record linking the second Cuban to persecution of dissidents.
''It's very likely that injustices have been committed,'' Sánchez told The Herald in a telephone interview.
Jorge de Cárdenas Agostini was detained June 8 and Luis Enrique Daniel Rodríguez July 2. Both men live in Miami-Dade County. Both also once worked for Cuban state security. Their lawyers say their clients are defectors, not persecutors.
Both men are in detention awaiting deportation or supervised release.
Cubans ordered removed generally are not deported because the Cuban government normally refuses to take them back. Most are released under supervision.
Barbara González, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined comment on Sanchez's contention.
''It is government policy to not discuss cases that are still in litigation,'' she said.
Sánchez is one of the island's recognized human rights advocates. He spent 8 ½ years in prison and has opposed the Fidel Castro regime for 37 years.
However, critics say Sánchez lacks credibility because he is suspected of having collaborated with Cuban state security, providing information about fellow dissidents -- an allegation he strongly denies.
In September, Sánchez acknowledged receiving a medal from the Cuban secret police but insisted the ceremony -- caught on tape and made public -- was a setup to smear his reputation.
Friends of the detained de Cárdenas Agostini say he left Cuba because he was associated with Gen. Antonio de la Guardia, executed after a drug-trafficking trial, when he worked at the Ministry of the Interior.
Cuba experts have said de la Guardia and Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, also executed after a drug trial, were perceived as Castro foes.
De Cárdenas Agostini is the nephew of Jorge de Cárdenas Loredo, a longtime lobbyist and political strategist in Miami who was charged with embezzlement, witness tampering and bribery in the 1990s.
De Cárdenas Loredo pleaded guilty in 1997 to one count of obstructing justice and was sentenced to one year in federal prison. After his release, he was sent to Krome detention center to face possible deportation, but was released in 1999.
During deportation proceedings for de Cárdenas Loredo, de Cárdenas Agostini testified about political conditions in Cuba in a bid to prevent his uncle's deportation.
It was during that proceeding, federal officials say, that de Cárdenas Agostini himself indicated he had supervised a team of torturers who targeted dissidents -- an allegation denied by his lawyer.
Sánchez told The Herald that he knew de Cárdenas Agostini and never received information he persecuted dissidents.
''His work had nothing to do with internal repression, according to information in our files,'' Sánchez said. ``He was an aide and driver to Tony de la Guardia.''
One of the main allegations against Daniel Rodríguez, according to his lawyer, Leonardo Viota Sesin, came during a court hearing earlier this year when a Homeland Security prosecutor suggested Rodriguez had raided the homes of two Cuban dissidents in Havana, one of whom was Sánchez.
The other dissident, Yndamiro Restano, who now lives in Miami Beach, was arrested during the raid.
The allegation, said Viota Sesin, was based on a passage in a 1991 report published by Human Rights Watch that mentioned a ''Lt. Daniel'' as having been involved in the raids.
The Herald obtained a photograph of Daniel Rodríguez from Viota Sesin and asked Sánchez and Restano if they could identify him.
''Definitely, the person in the photograph and the officer who intruded into my house are two completely different people,'' Sánchez said during a phone conversation Thursday after receiving the photo via e-mail.
''I have never seen this man before,'' Restano said Wednesday at his home.
Neither detainee has given an interview. Viota Sesin said Daniel Rodríguez was willing to talk, but the immigration service said it would not authorize interviews with suspected human rights violators.
Linda Osberg-Braun, the attorney for de Cárdenas, said her client would not talk to the media.