Miami attractive to exiled rulers
Some were deposed, some others fled homeland under cloud
By JUAN O. TAMAYO
Herald Staff Writer
Human rights activists searching for more targets after Gen. Augusto Pinochet's
arrest in Britain need look no further than Miami, which has long harbored Latin
American leaders who fled their homelands.
``This is a rest and recreation spot for corrupt government officials and
leaders on the run, said Charles Intriago, a Miami consultant on anti-money
Most of the Latin Americans on the run in South Florida are accused of
and other nonviolent crimes rather than human rights abuses -- looting banks,
defrauding insurance companies or being involved in paying or accepting bribes.
They include half a dozen former members and supporters of Ecuadorean
President Abdala Bucaram's government, toppled in 1997 amid charges of
widespread corruption; a couple of Salvadorans accused of bank fraud; and a
scattering of Venezuelans, Colombians and Peruvians allegedly involved in various
Frequent accusations on rights
But the most notorious residents have been politicians, military leaders
henchmen, virtually all right-wingers whose governments stand accused of human
Former Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia, head of El Salvador's armed forces in
1980s, when military-linked death squads killed thousands of people suspected of
being leftists, has lived in South Florida since the early 1990s.
Garcia's successor, Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, who also served
head of the much feared national guard, now lives in northern Florida. Both men
have denied any role in human rights abuses.
Living in the Miami area for many years is Luckner Cambronne, Haiti's minister
the interior and defense under the brutal Francois ``Papa Doc Duvalier regime and
advisor to his son Jean Claude, who assumed the presidency on his father's death
and held power until fleeing to European exile in 1986.
Escaped from Haiti
A more recent arrival is Haitian army Lt. Col. Paul Samuel Jeremie, convicted
1986 of torturing Duvalier opponents and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He
escaped in 1988 and moved quietly to Miami, Haitian sources said.
Refugees say several conservative Haitians who organized or financed loose-knit
death squads during the last military dictatorship from 1991 to 1994 are also living
discreetly in the Miami area.
At least two former members of the Honduran army's Battalion 316, a
CIA-trained intelligence unit alleged to have murdered more than 100 suspected
leftists in the 1980s, are also known to be living in South Florida.
Jose Lopez Rega, the Argentine social welfare minister accused of founding
country's Triple-A death squads in the 1970s, was captured in Miami and
extradited to Buenos Aires in 1986. He died in 1989.
Nicaragua's Anastasio Somoza, last of a family dynasty, lived briefly in
Florida after a Sandinista-led revolution toppled him in 1979. He later moved to
Paraguay, where he was assassinated by leftist Argentine guerrillas.
One former ruler came against his will: Panamanian strongman Gen. Manuel
Antonio Noriega, captured in the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 and brought
here to face drug charges. He is serving a 40-year jail term.
Other noted Latin American residents of South Florida are merely controversial.
Former Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello spent a couple of years
living in Miami Beach after he was forced to resign in 1992 amid charges of
corruption. He is now living in Brazil.
And former Honduran Defense Minister Luis Alfonso Discua, named deputy
ambassador to the United Nations in 1996 amid reports that he was plotting a
coup, has spent much of his time since then in Miami, friends say.
Venezuela's Gen. Marcos Perez Jimenez fled to Miami when his eight years
dictatorial rule ended in 1958.
A retirement locale
Some former leaders simply retired to South Florida, like Marcos Aurelio
Panama's elected president from 1964 to 1968, who died in Miami in 1990 at the
age of 84. Another Panamanian president, Arnulfo Arias, lived in exile in Miami
after each of the three coups against him -- in 1940, 1948 and 1968 -- and died in
the city in 1988, one week short of his 87th birthday.
Cuban President Carlos Prio Socarras, overthrown in 1952 by Fulgencio Batista,
spent his final years in Miami Beach, where he died in 1977.
Still living in South Florida are the widow and a son of Batista, who was
overthrown by Fidel Castro in 1959, and the widow of Gen. Rafael Leonidas
Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic with an iron hand until he was
assassinated in 1961.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald