The trial for the murder of Salvadoran politicians in Guatemala in 2007 came to a conclusion last week. But the conviction of several suspects raises as many questions as it answers. An article in ContraPunto with the headline "Obscurity and Doubt Hang Over the Case" captures the state of information about the case.
Long time readers of this blog will remember the assassination of three Salvadoran members of the Central American parliament while they traveled in Guatemala in February 2007. The bodies of these three politicians and their driver were found in the burned out remains of the SUV they had been driving. One of the victims was Eduardo D'Aubuisson, the son of the founder of the ARENA party, the late Maj. Roberto D'Aubuisson. The initial investigation by authorities in Guatemala quickly arrested members of the organized crime division of Guatemala's national police. But in a brazen raid, unknown persons managed to penetrate Guatemala's high security prison and execute those suspects in their cells.
The prosecutors at the recent trial presented a tale of the motives and events which led to the murders. In late 2006, Salvadoran legislator Carlos Roberto Silva was kicked out of El Salvador's National Assembly and lost his immunity from criminal prosecution for money laundering. According to prosecutors, Silva sought vengeance on the politicians he blamed for his ouster, and arranged with an ex Guatemalan legislator, Manuel Castillo to procure the murder of the Salvadoran politicians and their driver when they were travelling in Guatemala.
This version of events has now been given credibility by the court in Guatemala which convicted Castillo and seven others for the crime and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms.
Meanwhile the purported mastermind Silva is in the US. He is currently in US custody for illegally entering the country, but is seeking political asylum claiming that he is being politically persecuted (and prosecuted) back in El Salvador. It was Silva who was heard on a tape discussing a bribe with another Salvadorna poltician.
But there's more. Perhaps Silva has nothing to do with the murder of the deputies. The UN-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has written a report with a different motive and different actors behind the 2007 murder of the deputies. The CICIG conclusions were reported in the Salvadoran paper El Mundo, and this post from the Voices from El Salvador blog has a summary of this alternate theory of the crime:
The CICIG investigation determined that the motive for the assassinations of the three diputados was robbery. William Pichinte, an ARENA diputado, was carrying $5 million dollars and 20 kilos of cocaine in a secret compartment of his vehicle. The parallel ‘security’ structure in Guatemala had identified the delegation, diverted them to La Parga farm, stripped the vehicle until they found the money and cocaine, and then assassinated the diputados and their driver.
The four Guatemalan police officers were not the only ones involved in the robbery/murder to be killed. The Venezuelan Victor Rivera, aka “Zacarias,” was one of the principles responsible for organizing the robbery. He arrived at La Parga farm, supposedly to confirm the orders to kill the diputados, and he also intervened during the arrests of the four police officers. Zacarias came to El Salvador in the early 1980’s as a CIA asset to work with former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles and Lt. Oliver North in the Ilopango Air Base “drug trafficking, kidnapping and training death squads.”(according to former DEA agent Celerino Castillo). He was later run out of the country for ‘creating and operating irregular structures from within the National Civilian Police,’ and was linked to the 1996 police killing of medical student Adriano Vilanova (published by the human rights office in 1996 ). Between 1997 and 2000 ‘Zacarias’ continued working with the private security sector in El Salvador and Guatemala, while picking up several public contracts with the Guatemalan government. He was assassinated in April of 2007. CICIG has implicated drug cartel kingpin Jorge Arturo Paredes Cordova and Rivera’s personal assistant María del Rosario Melgar for his murder.The list of unanswered questions is a mile long. Roberto D'Aubuisson, whose brother was murdered, called on the US this week to extradite Silva to El Salvador to be prosecuted, while members for El Salvador's National Assembly from the FMLN and PCN want more investigations into the theory in the CICIG report.