For decades, Cuba’s State Security officer Saul Santos Ferro applied himself to keep the enemies of the Revolution at bay in the prisons of western Cuba. They were sent to penitentiaries like Taco-Taco, located in the township of San Cristóbal and one of the most infamous on the island. There they were confined and tormented so that they paid dearly for daring to write on the walls “Down with Fidel” or “Down with Raúl”, for organizing counterrevolutionary cells, or for protesting loudly because of the scarcity of food or the lack of running water.
Thus, Santos Ferro amassed a loyal resume of services to the Revolution; and when he reached retirement age he thought it best to retire in Miami, a city that, although it was the Mecca of Cuban counterrevolutionaries, it was a place where there’s no lack of water or food is ever scarce.
That was something the high ranking State Security officer was able to see with his own eyes when, after obtaining a visitor’s U.S. visa (with the veiled intention of staying), he visited for the first time a supermarket in the second city with the most Cubans in the world. He should have calculated though that among those hundreds of thousands of countrymen some might recognize him, perhaps even as a well-known face from Taco-Taco, and that they might casually take a picture of him with a cell phone.
But the retired military man continued with his plan, and in December 2013, after one year and one day of his “legal” arrival in the U.S. ─as required by the Cuban Adjustment Act created in 1966 for those fleeing the regime that he supported─, he filled out his I-485 Application for Permanent Residence. Of course, to the questions on the form about having worked with police agencies or in detention facilities, or having participated in human rights abuses, Santos Ferro always answered with a “No”. Just like that, after his U.S. visa, he obtained the coveted U.S. Permanent Resident “green card”.
Yet sooner than later, a day came up when someone actually recognized him as he was exiting a Miami supermarket. This old acquaintance took his picture and uploaded it to social media, where others also recognized him. Some of them were even willing to endorse with their signatures a complaint, which they handed over to the organization of Cuban American lawyers Cuba Repressor ID, which in turn sent it to the FBI.
In February 2019, while enjoying at 73 his Miami retirement ─including a supplementary financial assistance check from the US Social Security Administration that he began receiving every month since 2016─ Santos Ferro was arrested by the FBI and charged in a South Florida District Federal Court with making a False Statement under Penalty of Perjury in an Immigration Document.
Since then, another charge for Social Security fraud has also been filed, and now he could face a maximum of 20 years in prison, although perhaps what worries him most is the possibility of being deported to Cuba. By the end of June 2019 he appeared in court and pleaded guilty, but said he did not reveal his record as a political police officer because he had retired a few years ago.
As the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba has reiterated on several occasions in regard to its Cuban Repressors program, those responsible of repression acts in Cuba must be aware that human rights abuses do not prescribe with the passage of time.
And if you lied about your past to U.S. officials, you should keep in mind that, although slow, justice does exist in the United States, and it is effective. Any lie, in addition to having very short legs, usually ends up being costly.
Besides, make no mistake: someday these human rights abusers will be held accountable before a legitimate justice system in Cuba. By then, the excuse that they were only following orders is not going to help them.