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U.S. quietly goes after Archbishop Romero's murderers

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    ALLEGED RIGHTS VIOLATORS SOUGHT: U.S. DEVELOPS SPECIAL UNIT «Federal officials familiar with the the new unit said [the human- rights abuse suspects being
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      ALLEGED 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
      Romero.»

      BY ALFONSO CHARDY
      <achardy@...>
      MIAMI HERALD
      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
      foreign minister.

      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
      nationwide.

      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
      Ronni Moffitt.

      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
      proceedings.

      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,
      D.C.

      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-
      rights violators.

      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.
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