U.S. quietly goes after Archbishop Romero's murderers
- Ver fuenteALLEGED RIGHTS VIOLATORS SOUGHT: U.S. DEVELOPS SPECIAL UNIT
«Federal officials familiar with the the new unit said [the human-
rights abuse suspects being targeted] include Fernández Larios and
Alvaro Rafael Saravia Marino, a former Miami-Dade County resident
implicated in the 1980 assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Posted on Fri, Aug. 08, 2003
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has created a special unit to
speed the arrest and deportation of hundreds of accused foreign human-
rights abusers living in the United States, including a Miami-Dade
County man implicated in the 1976 assassination of a former Chilean
The human-rights violators unit was created without much fanfare in
early June as part of the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The unit's creation will intensify the hunt begun three years ago in
Florida for as many as 1,000 accused human-rights violators
About 100 to 150 are believed to be in Florida, including Armando
Fernández Larios, a former Chilean military officer who admitted
playing a role in the car-bomb murders in Washington, D.C. of former
Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his American assistant
In the three years since the government launched its ''persecutor
program,'' nearly 50 suspects, about 46 in Florida, have been
arrested. Most have been deported or placed in deportation
Michael Doughtery, director of operations for the Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to provide details
about the number of personnel to be assigned to the new unit.
''We want to make sure we put in the appropriate management and
investigative and legal resources into the program, and we expect to
increase our commitment in terms of the agents actually working on
these cases,'' Dougherty said in an interview Tuesday in Washington,
The establishment of a separate unit to track down accused
persecutors was lauded by human-rights advocates who say foreign
suspects should not be able to find haven in the United States.
''I'm delighted to see that Homeland Security is taking the issue of
foreign perpetrators of human-rights abusers and atrocities that have
come into our country seriously,'' said Richard Krieger, a Boynton
Beach activist who has helped lead the effort to press the federal
government to pursue torture suspects.
But recently retired federal immigration supervisor Bill West, who
helped oversee the capture of torture suspects in Florida, questioned
the U.S. government's commitment to aggressively target accused human-
West told The Herald in a telephone interview this week that
following his retirement, only two federal officials were assigned
full-time to finding alleged torturers -- one in Washington and the
other in Miami. Aides to Dougherty declined to specifically
corroborate West's claim about the two agents. But they said that
even if there were only two agents, they serve as supervisors and can
forward tips and evidence to hundreds of federal immigration
officials across the country.
Dougherty would not identify the human-rights abuse suspects being
targeted, but federal officials familiar with the the new unit said
they include Fernández Larios and Alvaro Rafael Saravia Marino, a
former Miami-Dade County resident implicated in the 1980
assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. He is believed
to be in the San Francisco area.
Immigration investigators for the past three years have wanted to
detain and deport Fernández Larios but reportedly have been prevented
by prosecutors in the Justice Department. Trying to expel Fernández
Larios, prosecutors argue, would essentially violate assurances given
to him by federal officials that he would be protected from
deportation in exchange for cooperating in the Letelier case.
But federal immigration officials said those promises did not extend
beyond the Letelier murder investigation, and that they would seek to
deport Fernández Larios based on an Argentine court's request to have
him extradited in connection with a 1974 car-bombing that killed
Chilean General Carlos Pratts in Argentina.
A Justice Department spokesman said he was not familiar with the
Fernández Larios case but would find out the department's official
position and call back. He did not.
Fernández Larios' attorney, Steven Davis, said his client, who is
believed to live in Kendall, did not want to comment.