Obama Administration Lawyers Charge Salvadoran Ex-General With Human Rights Abuses

The city of San Salvador, El Salvador.
The city of San Salvador, El Salvador.
The city of San Salvador, El Salvador.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — A former Salvadoran general, who was a close ally to the United States during the 1980s, faces deportation from the U.S. on charges that he participated in torture during El Salvador’s civil war.

Eugenio Vides Casanova, a former general and defense minister during one of Central America’s most brutal civil wars, was charged Monday in a Florida immigration court and if convicted will be sent back to El Salvador to face justice.

The charges against Vides mark a major shift in U.S. policy toward his case and others like his. Vides, who received the Legion of Merit from U.S. President Ronald Reagan for his work combating Marxist guerrillas, is the first senior foreign military officer to face charges from a special human rights office under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“As a legal case, it will really put the Department of Homeland Security on the path to empowerment to go after people at the top level, or not,” said Carolyn Patty Blum, a lawyer for the Center for Justice and Accountability, according to The New York Times.

Vides has been living in Florida since 1989, when he retired after six years as El Salvador’s defense minister. In 2000, Vides and another Salvadoran general were acquitted of civil charges in the 1980 murder of four American church women.

However, in 2002 the two generals were found liable in a torture suit and ordered to pay $54.6 million to three torture victims. That verdict was upheld in 2006 and Vides was required to turn over some $300,000 in assets.

Highlighting the still-present divide in the U.S. over the Salvadoran conflict of the 1980s, Vides plans to call a former United States ambassador to El Salvador, Edwin G. Corr, who was investigated for involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. The government’s lawyers are expected to call another former ambassador, Robert E. White, a longtime critic of Washington’s role in that war.

Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch

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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Caribbean

  • Cubans on Monday reacted with hope, anxiety and resignation ahead of the Communist Party Congress’s adoption of economic reforms meant to save the country from bankruptcy.
  • A federal lawsuit seeking $20 million in damages was filed Monday against Fairfield University, the Society of Jesus and a Colorado man sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for sexually abusing children at a school he founded in Haiti.
  • A Dominican court has jailed the ex-wife of a reputed Caribbean drug kingpin for at least three months.

Central America

  • U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the Obama administration is ready to move forward with ratifying a stalled free trade agreement with Panama.

Andes

Southern Cone

Image: Ben Beiske @ Flickr.

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