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Argentine Man Arrested in Mexico

August 24, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ An Argentine was arrested Thursday after a newspaper reported that five former Argentine political prisoners identified him as their torturer during their country’s military dictatorship, the head of Interpol in Mexico said.

Interpol and Mexico’s federal police detained Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, an Argentine who is the director of Mexico’s private National Registry of Motor Vehicles, during a stopover in Cancun, Interpol’s Juan Miguel Ponce said. He said officials want to question Cavallo about his identity.

Before leaving on his flight, Cavallo had told several media organizations that he was flying to Argentina to obtain evidence to prove his innocence.

Under an Argentine amnesty law, military officials responsible for human rights violations during the military dictatorship cannot be prosecuted.

Mexico City’s daily Reforma newspaper reported Thursday that Ricardo Miguel Cavallo was identified by five former political prisoners in Argentina as being Miguel Angel Cavallo, listed as one of the torturers at the infamous Navy Mechanical School during Argentina’s military dictatorship.

Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who issued the warrant that kept former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet under house arrest in London for 16 months, has accused Miguel Angel Cavallo of torture, falsification of documents, terrorism and car theft, according to the Argentine human rights group Center for Social and Legal Studies.

However, Ponce said officials had no information on the alleged Spanish investigation.

Garzon, who is investigating human rights abuses under the former military dictatorships of Chile and Argentina, has brought charges against officials for the deaths of Spaniards in both countries.

At least 9,000 Argentines vanished during Argentina’s 7-year military dictatorship, which ended in 1983. Human rights groups put the figure closer to 30,000.

An official Chilean report says 3,197 people died or disappeared during Chile’s 17-year dictatorship, which started when he ousted elected Marxist President Salvador Allende in a military coup.

In an interview with Reforma, Ricardo Miguel Cavallo denied that he was the Argentine torturer.

However, the newspaper published a 1971 photo of Miguel Angel Cavallo and a current photo of Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, pointing out the similar facial features between two pictures.

It also said Miguel Angel Cavallo often used the alias Ricardo, and that both the torturer and the man who was arrested Thursday had used the same identification number.

``This is a result of a great international effort involving many countries,″ said Adriana Calvo, a member of the Argentine human rights group Association of the Former Detained and Disappeared, whose members were among those who identified Ricardo Miguel Cavallo as a former torturer. ``I can’t describe my immense joy, it’s great news. There is one less killer walking free in the world.″

Earlier this month, a retired army officer wanted for questioning in the 1976 disappearance of a French woman during Argentina’s military dictatorship was detained in Italy. Jorge Antonio Olivera is being held in Rome, while officials await word on a possible French extradition request.

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