US detains accused South American rights abusers —on immigration charges

Agents of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have detained two former Peruvian military officers living in the US who are charged with human rights abuses in connection with an Aug. 14, 1985 military raid that killed 69 villagers—many of them tortured and raped—in the Peruvian Highlands village of Accomarca during the military’s war against Peruvian Communist Party (PCP, Shining Path) guerrillas.

ICE agents arrested Telmo Ricardo Hurtado Hurtado, a former army platoon commander who reportedly led the attack, on visa fraud charges on March 30. Juan Manuel Rivera Rondón, a former officer wanted by Peru for participation in the massacre, was arrested on March 23 in Baltimore for failing to tell immigration authorities that he had been convicted of a crime. Rivera Rondón, who has been living in an upscale suburb in Montgomery County, Maryland, was charged there in 2003 with the sexual abuse of a young relative; in 2005 the charge was reduced to “contributing to a minor child in need of assistance,” and Rivera Rondon was given a one-year suspended sentence.

Retired Argentine army major Ernesto Guillermo Barreiro, the chief interrogator in the La Perla torture center during Argentina’s brutal 1976 to 1983 military dictatorship, was detained by ICE on April 1 in The Plains, Virginia, where he and his wife were running an art and antiques store. He too is charged with visa fraud. Barreiro fled to the US in 2004 shortly before he was to face trial for his alleged role in the 1977 disappearance of the student Diego Hunziker.

Although the US is not formally extraditing the three men, ICE says they will be deported to their countries, where they will then face criminal charges. ICE says it has created a Human Rights Violators Unit in order to identify and deport human rights violators. “ICE will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those who have come to our country in an effort to evade prosecution and punishment for the crimes they have committed against others,” Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for ICE Julie Myers said when the arrests were made public. (ICE news release, April 2; Washington Post, April 4; Baltimore Sun, April 5)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 22

See our last posts on the Peru, Argentina and the immigration crackdown.