WASHINGTON — A suspect in the 1980 assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was arrested in Miami on Monday and is being held for likely extradition, the U.S. Marshals Service announced today.
A spokesman said Alvaro Rafael Saravia-Merino is wanted in El Salvador for the murder. President Jose Napoleon Duarte announced Monday that a witness had implicated both right-wing National Assembly member Roberto D'Aubuisson and Saravia, a former army captain, in the slaying. (Story, Page 4.)
Saravia is being held in Krome Avenue detention center west of Miami in isolation for his own protection, immigration officials said.
No Question on Identity
U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Bill Dempsey said there was no question that the detained man is the one sought in El Salvador.
"We had photos and identification and specifics," Dempsey said. "We expect to receive the paper work on extradition from El Salvador on those (assassination) charges. We don't know how soon."
The Marshals Service also said Saravia "was believed to have been intimately associated with the so-called death squads responsible for thousands of politically motivated killings in El Salvador in the late 1970s and early 1980s."
Dempsey said the Marshals Service, which makes arrests and handles suspects for federal law enforcement agencies, detained Saravia for the Immigration and Naturalization Service only on charges of violating immigration regulations.
Permit Has Expired
He said that Saravia entered the United States legally but that his temporary permit had expired 10 months ago.
Duarte said in El Salvador Monday that a witness, Amado Antonio Garay, said in an affidavit that Saravia had ordered him to drive a bearded man to the cancer clinic chapel where Romero, a vocal supporter of human rights and constant critic of right-wing death squads, was shot dead as he said Mass on March 24, 1980.
The man went inside, telling Garay to act as though he were repairing the car, according to the affidavit. The witness said he heard shots and the man came out holding a rifle.
Three days later, Garay and Saravia went to D'Aubuisson's house, the affidavit said. Garay said he heard Saravia say D'Aubuisson's orders had been carried out and heard D'Aubisson reply that it had been done too soon.
Duarte said Garay had been tracked down in the United States and was now in protective custody outside the country after giving the affidavit.
The Marshal's Service said it had tentatively located Saravia earlier this month and 10 days ago had placed under surveillance the house outside which he was arrested today.