Wealthy Salvadoran Politico Denied Asylum

A former Salvadoran pro soccer player and deputy to a congressman there was barred fro seeking asylum in the U.S. because of his alleged complicity in the murder of three Salvadoran representatives to the Central American Parliament.

Roberto Carlos Silva-Pereira was barred from receiving asylum protection and may be removed from the U.S., the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Thursday.

Substantial evidence supported the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision that Silva could not remain in the U.S. for his alleged role in a triple murder in Guatemala of the three Salvadorans, the court said.

Silva, a professional soccer player in El Salvador until 2000, entered the construction business when his sports career ended.  His companies bid for government contracts that yielded 30 to 40 percent profit, making him one of the wealthiest individuals in El Salvador, according to the court.

He has denied he ever bribed government officials to secure the contracts, the court reported.

Silva said he become a member of the national liberation party, FMLN, in 2000, but by 2006 he changed parties when he was elected a deputy to Congressman Gonzales Lovo, a member of the Partido de Conciliacion Nacional, PCN.

Although both parties shared ideology opposing the ruling, ARENA party, Silva claimed the FMLN members were jealous of his switch.

Six months after election as deputy to Lovo, Silva faced legislative hearings on allegations he engaged in bribery and money laundering through his construction business. His legislative immunity was eventually suspended by a vote of 82 of the 84 lawmakers who voted, the court said.

He claimed the vote was orchestrated by the ARENA party, which wanted to demonstrate to the U.S. its opposition to corruption. Silva fled the country in 2007 while a court was reviewing evidence against him.

Silva’s wife was charged separately and sentenced to seven years in prison.  Silva was arrested in California by the FBI in late 2007. He told immigration authorities that he was the victim of police assaults and threats by the ARENA party and thus he sought asylum in the U.S.

His claims were first ruled non-credible by an immigration judge in 2008, but remanded by the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2009. At this point, federal authorities in the U.S. introduced new allegations that Silva had been charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Guatemala in 2007.

Three Salvadoran representatives to the Central American Parliament were found murdered in a charred van outside Guatemala City. Two of the three were relatives of the founder and the current leader of ARENA, according to the court. International investigators concluded they were carrying $5 million and 20 kilos of cocaine.

Four Guatemalan police officers were arrested in the belief they carried out the killings on behalf of a drug gang. But they too were gunned down inside a Guatemalan prison within two weeks, prompting Guatemala to seek FBI help.

A Guatemalan congressman was eventually tried for the killings and evidence produced suggested that Silva cooperated with Castillo and the drug gang in planning the killings, the court said.

A separate indictment against Silva indicated he acted “as the intellectual author’ behind the Guatemalan murders,” according to the court.

In 2013, Silva was denied asylum and in this instance it was upheld by the immigration court and by the 9th Circuit.

Case: Silva-Pereira v. Lynch, No. 14-70276


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