[This is a corrected version of my earlier blog post on this topic]
A story of corruption, drug-trafficking, bribery, international relations, murder and suicide is unfolding in El Salvador and the United States.
Carlos Roberto Silva Pereira was a fugitive from justice in El Salvador when he was arrested in southern California in October 2007. He had fled El Salvador where he faces corruption and money-laundering charges. Silva has been held by US authorities since that time and has not yet been extradited back to El Salvador. He has also allegedly been linked by Guatemalan authorities to the murder of three Salvadoran deputies to the Central American Parliament and their driver in February 2007.
A US immigration court has now apparently granted the political asyluym request of Silva who asserted that his prosecution in El Salvador was politically motivated. According to Inside Costa Rica:
Several Salvadorean sectors rejected on Friday the US [immigration court] decision to grant political asylum to former Deputy Roberto Carlos Silva, accused of money laundry and of killing three legislators of the Central American Parliament and their driver.
"Silva is not a politically persecuted person, but a criminal," said Acting Attorney General Astor Escalante, who recalled that the former legislator is facing here a trial for money laundry and bribing.
He is also wanted in Guatemala for his alleged involvement in the killing of Salvadorean legislators of the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) Eduardo D' Aubisson, William Pichinte and Ramon Gonzalez, as well as driver Gerardo Ramirez.
..."As relatives and people, we lament this decision because he is not a politically persecuted person, but a criminal," said legislator Roberto D' Aubisson, the brother of one of the PARLACEN legislators killed in Guatemala.
The immigration court ruling is subject to appeal.
The extradition request from El Salvador, where El Salvador seeks to have Silva returned to face criminal charges, is a separate proceeding. A foreign country can seek to have extradited someone who is lawfully in the US -- immigration status is not determinative of an extradition decision. The proceedings to have Silva extradited to El Salvador to face the money-laundering and corruption charges are still ongoing.
In April of this year, I wrote about a tape-recording disclosed by the online publication El Faro which recorded Silva speaking with an ARENA party official, Adolfo Tórrez. On the tape, Torrez suggests that he can make the charges in El Salvador go away for $500,000. The leaking of the tape and an accompanying FBI memorandum seemed to have been done with the acquiescence of US officials. According to El Faro, the tape recording was a key piece of evidence in Silva's asylum claim and his attempt to show that the proceedings against him in El Salvador were illegitimate.
To add another twist to the story, Torrez died of a gunshot on June 2 of this year. The Attorney General's office ruled that the death was a suicide.
I have no idea what the true facts of this situation are. It seems clear, however, that there is much more going on than meets the eye.
[Thanks to Griselda for pointing out the story originally and some conflicting news reports]