No Asylum for Salvadoran Politician Tied to Murder

     (CN) — A former professional soccer player and Salvadoran politician accused of corruption and murder cannot claim asylum in the U.S., the Ninth Circuit ruled on Thursday.
     Roberto Carlos Silva-Pereira is a former Salvadoran professional soccer player.
     After retiring from soccer, he became involved in Salvadoran politics, running for president opposite the country’s right-wing ARENA party.
     However, he was soon embroiled in a corruption scandal. Silva was accused of money laundering and bribing government officials in a scheme that allegedly steered $1.6 million in contracts to his construction business.
     Eighty-two of El Salvador’s 84 legislators voted to suspend Silva’s legislative immunity, but he claims the ruling party made him a scapegoat to demonstrate its commitment against corruption to secure aid from the U.S.
     Silva fled to the U.S. shortly after the vote. His wife remained behind, convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to seven years in prison. A former mayor and member of the ruling party who forged documents to facilitate Silva’s government contracts was also convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. Silva’s mother-in-law was acquitted on similar charges.
     The FBI caught Silva in California in 2007. He applied for asylum, claiming he is likely to be tortured if returned to El Salvador.
     During the proceedings, the Guatemalan government also sought to extradite Silva for the murders of Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) representatives tied to drug cartels, but Silva says the murder charges are a sham to cover up the Guatemalan government’s own ties to drug trafficking.
     The Ninth Circuit rejected Silva’s claims, affirming the immigration judge’s finding that Silva was not truthful in his asylum application.
     The immigration board found it “implausible” that Silva would have “forgotten” to tell his attorney that he was allegedly brutally beaten by police in El Salvador, when these events were crucial to establish his eligibility for asylum.
     His application is also riddled with inconsistencies regarding his date of exiting El Salvador, his travel timeline and his entry into the U.S., according to the Ninth Circuit’s review.
     “Silva’s varying testimony on this point was significant not for its own sake, but instead because it related directly to Silva’s efforts to avoid criminal charges,” U.S. Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain said, writing for a three-judge panel.
     Silva claims it is impossible to get a fair trial in El Salvador, but his own experts also “recognized that justice can be had — an assertion further supported by the fact that Silva’s mother-in-law was acquitted of all charges against her, and his wife acquitted of several,” O’Scannlain said.
     The panel also ruled that Guatemala provided probable cause to believe Silva was involved in the accused murders, rendering him ineligible for asylum.
     “The record suggests that although there is corruption in Guatemala, there have been improvements especially related to that government’s investigation of the PARLACEN murders, making it unlikely that the charges against Silva were pretextual,” the court found.
     Because the Ninth Circuit denied Silva’s petition, an order from the Board of Immigration Appeals that Silva be removed to Nicaragua, where he has been unable to prove he would suffer persecution or torture, still stands.

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