A project from the Florida-based Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba that works with activists and victims of political persecution in Cuba recently reported the presence of an alleged repressor of the Cuban communist regime in the United States.
Cuban Repressors, a program of the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FDHC), filed a formal complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Jan. 4, against 55-year old Cuban citizen Iran Septiem Suarez, accusing him of “advising and participating in the repressive political persecution of Cuban activists on the island,” according to former political prisoner and Florida Cuban Repressors Director Rolando Cartaya told ADN Cuba.
Cuban activists alerted social networks to Septiem Suarez’s presence in the United States, telling sources was spotted in the Tampa area since January 2023 after entering the U.S.
The program released the name in conjunction with the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), along with photos and names of three other purported Cuban violent repressors: Capt. Amparo Alvarez, First Non-Commissioned Officer Jorge Pedroza Machado and First Lieutenant Ernesto Placido Ibañes.
In the case of Iran Septiem Suarez, “Represores Cubanos” described him as a “violent repressor” who collaborated with the Cuban regime and a “human rights violator” who acted in the provinces of Cardenas, Matanzas.
Septiem could now be living in Tampa, Florida, after reportedly making the journey via Nicaragua to the southern U.S border, according to Ivan Hernandez Carillo, Secretary General of the Independent Trade Union Association of Cuba who exposed Septiem’s on social media and made a call to U.S. authorities.
Hernandez Carillo, who still resides in Cuba, told ADN Cuba he was a victim of Septiem Suarez in 2012 while peacefully protesting with members of Ladies in White.
On April 30, 2012, a group of Cuban activists and members of the opposition group, Ladies in White, held a protest rally in the vicinity of the state security headquarters in Cuba’s Colon municipality.
“They mobilized people in the work centers linked to the Party and the government. Iran, along with other officials of the political police, dragged me by my feet. He grabbed me by one foot and others by the hands and threw me into a patrol car. He also beat Lady in White Caridad María Burunate Gómez that day,” alleged Hernández Carrillo.
Every Sunday, the Ladies in White walk dressed in white and in silence on their way to mass in many Cuban cities. The group, which enjoys great international recognition, is composed of wives and relatives of political prisoners and in 2005 received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by the European Parliament. Its members are constantly persecuted by Cuban communist authorities, confined to their homes and frequently arrested.
Hernandez Carrillo was the original source who contacted “Cuban Repressors” about the case after he learned Septiem Suarez arrived in the U.S. at the end of 2022.
He contacted the organization after he learned the former regime official may have requested political asylum by blending in with the thousands of legitimate asylum seeking Cubans arriving at the border before January 5, 2023, the date which the Biden administration issued new measures to curb irregular migration.
He obtained several photographs of Septiem Suárez’s personal Facebook account, depicting himself in the United States before they were deleted.
#Cuba Irán Zeptiem Suárez testaferro violento de la dictadura vive ahora en #Tampa #EEUU luego de amenazar y golpear a opositores durante actos de repudio en #Colón contra él pesan graves denuncias por violaciones a #DDHH @StateDRL @SecBlinken @USEmbCuba @TheFHRC
— Iván Hdez Carrillo🇨🇺 (@ivanlibre) January 14, 2023
ADN Cuba sent several messages to Septiem Suarez on social media for fair comment but did not receive a response at the time of publishing. No confirmation of his whereabouts was received by other means.
In the municipality of Colón, Matanzas, Septiem Suárez worked as a driver for the president of the Assembly of People’s Power Amalia Dignora Zenea Sotolongo, according to activists testimonials.
Hernández Carrillo alleges that part of his job was to repress dissident voices in acts of repudiation, state sponsored acts of harassment that usually result in home invasions in the form of bullying, humiliation and violence against “counterrevolutionaries” and anyone deemed a regime critic.
Decades of documented instances however have demonstrated numerous acts of repudiation by so-called “neighborhood committees” depicting themselves as surveillance groups, but often act like local gangs, have terrorized innocent people being targeted for a wide variety of reasons.
It is unknown if Septiem Suárez was an actual a member of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), according to Hernández Carrillo. He did not hold any positions of political or public relevance in Cuba, and his name does not appear on the list of Cuban persons blocked by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Still, Hernández Carrillo says he is certain that Septiem Suarez repressed other activists on behalf of the Cuban regime for years by participating in acts of repudiation against innocents.
“He is a very violent person and a collaborator of the state security apparatus. He engaged in an act of repudiation against Caridad [Dama de Blanco]. He threw stones and sweet potatoes at her. He was one of those who painted Caridad’s house with chapapote [asphalt]” he added.
Caridad Maria Burunate Gómez, a member of Ladies in White confirmed to ADN Cuba she personally suffered from those acts of violence.
“On April 30, we were calling for the repression against us to cease and Iran pushed me and threw blows,” she told ADN Cuba. “When I got on a bus, I sat down and put my head out of the window. He slapped me and assaulted other opponents,” Burunate said in an interview from Cuba with our newsroom.
Burunate said she remembers Septiem participating “every Sunday” as part of the “repeated repressive actions” that were aimed at preventing her from going to mass” in 2013.
“That henchman shouted at us that we were worms and mercenaries,” she said.
In addition to using obscene words, Burunate said he “would grab his fly area when my daughter went out to the doorway, he shouted things at my daughters and he provoked me, and threw eggs and stones at my house.”
More than 200,000 Cubans arrived to the U.S. through border crossings in fiscal year 2022, and some Cuban activists have raised concerns about regime members and supporters blending in.
Some rumors have suggested that Cuban regime journalist and television presenter Yunior Smith may have arrived in the U.S. northeast.
In this regard, Cartaya told ADN Cuba that since the exodus of Cubans through Nicaragua began, his group has seen an increase in the number of complaints received about the presence of Cuban repressors appearing in the United States.
“Since the exodus began, a week hardly goes by without someone complaining that there are repressors here,” Cartaya said.
“Here [in Miami] we have either the same people who once were part of the Rapid Response Brigade, [parapolice groups] or judges, prosecutors, people who worked in government television. Unbelievably, they enjoyed communism and now they are enjoying capitalism,” he said.
For Cartaya, many of these people lie on immigration forms when asked if they were members of the Communist Party or if they participated in human rights violations.
As an example of this purported activity, Cartaya recalled the specific case of Saúl Santos Ferro, a security officer who worked at the Taco Taco prison in Artemisa, later targeted by law enforcement in 2019 for not disclosing his affiliation with the Cuban Department of State Security when he applied for permanent U.S. residency.
Santos Ferro was sentenced to six months in prison, plus two years of probation and payment of a $12,522.28 fine in restitution.
Cartaya emphasized that, “The denunciations can be made by the victim as well as by witnesses or in some cases we ourselves have identified, for example, the main leaders of the repressive bodies in Cuba, the Black Berets, the Red Berets, the Police.”
“Represores Cubanos” has been involved in identifying judges and prosecutors who handed down sentences against demonstrators of the July 11-12, 2021 protests, as well as revealing the faces of jailers in Cuban prisons and officials of the military emporium Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA).
ADN Cuba tried to contact Septiem Suarez on several occasions, but those messages remained unanswered.
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Written by staff reporters at ADN Cuba.
Photo “Cuban Refugees” by Coast Guard News. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.