Former El Salvador General Charged with Torture Loses Deportation Appeal

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Top Story — The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals struck down Wednesday the request of a former high-ranking El Salvadoran official that he not be extradited back to his home country to stand trial for tortures and killings committed during El Salvador’s brutal civil war.

The appeals panel on Wednesday ruled that Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, 77, formerly the director of the Salvadoran National Guard, colluded with the torture and murder of thousands of civilians between the years of 1979 to 1989 — including the kidnapping, rape and execution of three U.S. nuns and a church laywoman in 1980. Five members of the Salvadoran National Guard were eventually convicted for the crimes against the four churchwomen, but no charges have been brought against higher-ranking officials until now.

The appeals panel agreed with an immigration judge’s earlier order that, because Vides Casanova knew about the crimes as they happened, did nothing to stop them and interfered with the investigations into them, he was accountable.

The former director reportedly entered the United States using an immigrant visa in 1989. Vides Casanova was one of two top El Salvadoran generals to be allowed to settle in the United States under President George Bush, who considered the men to be U.S. allies against communism. Vides Casanova settled in Florida and has lived there for almost 25 years. In 2004, he was given a deportation order under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which bans people who have committed human rights abuses from living in the United States.

Since he was ordered deported, Vides Casanova has argued that he was acting in accordance to U.S. policies at the time of the crimes — the United States having backed the government forces during El Salvador’s civil war — and thus should not be deported.

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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • A mayoral candidate was found decapitated on Wednesday in Mexico’s Guerrero state — the same state where 43 students were kidnapped and likely massacred last year — with a note next to the body that threatened similar violence for politicians who don’t “fall in line,” in what appears to be the work of the drug gang “Los Rojos.”
  • A new national poll released Wednesday shows that a majority of Americans across party lines support President Barack Obama’s recent change in diplomatic policy toward Cuba, and want to see an end to the 50-year-old embargo on the island.
  • Mexico has begun auctioning $52 million per day in an effort to support its quickly devaluing peso, a strategy the country has used twice already this year.

Caribbean

  • A telecommunications company building phone towers in Puerto Rico has been accused of destroying the habitat of the guabairo, an endangered bird endemic to the island’s southern region.

Central America

  • The Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero will be beatified on May 23 for the human rights work that led to his assassination in 1980, the Roman Catholic Church announced.

Andes

  • After a U.S. diplomat said recent sanctions against Venezuela were intended to change rather than topple its government, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez accused her of being “rude” and “petulant.”
  • Diplomatic tensions between the United States and Venezuela have spilled into the sphere of culture, as a prominent American jazz musician has cancelled a performance planned to take place in Caracas.
  • Colombia’s inspector general, a vocal critic of the government’s peace talks with the FARC, has publicly criticized the Tuesday announcement by President Juan Manuel Santos of a month-long halt to the aerial campaign against the guerrilla group, accusing Santos of paralyzing the armed forces before the peace process can be concluded.

Southern Cone

Image: New York Times Retro Report, screenshot

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