The story of torture and other human rights abuses committed by Salvadoran armed forces during that country's bloody civil war is again being recounted in a Florida courtroom. This time the site is an immigration court where the US is presenting evidence as it seeks to deport General Eugenio Vides Casanova, former head of the Salvadoran National Guard and former Defense Minister.
An article in The Guardian describes the proceeding:
He was honoured by Ronald Reagan as a cold war ally and even retired to Florida, but Eugenio Vides Casanova's US welcome has evaporated as he faces deportation to El Salvador over torture accusations.The New York Times is also covering the proceeding.
Vides, a former general and defence minister during one of central America's most vicious civil wars, was due to be charged on Monday in a Florida immigration court with grave crimes and should be sent home to face justice.
The case, which marks a departure in US policy, was welcomed as evidence that the Obama administration was dealing with the "scandal" of alleged human rights abusers from abroad enjoying retirement on US soil.
Vides, who received the Legion of Merit from President Reagan, is the first senior foreign military commander to face immigration charges brought by a special human rights office at the department of homeland security.
The general's role in human rights abuses was first brought to court in the US in an action seeking to have him and retired general Jose Guillermo García held responsible for the murder of the 4 US churchwomen. A South Florida jury did not find them liable. But another set of plaintiffs, including torture victim Juan Romagoza Arce, obtained a $54 million judgment against the same two generals in 2002. Many of the witnesses from those earlier cases, including Romagoza, and former US Ambassador Robert White are expected to testify in this newest legal proceeding.
The action against Vides Casanova is being brought by the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of a policy to not allow the US to be a safe haven for human rights violators. The Center is also pursuimg general Garcia for immigration fraud and seeking to deport him as well.