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Argentine Detained in Mexico

August 26, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ An Argentine living in Mexico is the same man accused of torturing people during Argentina’s military dictatorship, Interpol said Friday.

After former Argentine political prisoners identified the ex-director of Mexico’s private National Registry of Motor Vehicles as their torturer, Interpol detained him Thursday when the airplane he was flying on stopped briefly in Cancun.

Mexican officials said they had not decided whether they would formally arrest Ricardo Miguel Cavallo despite the fact that they had confirmed he was the same person whom the political prisoners knew as Miguel Angel Cavallo. The 48-hour detention order expires Saturday.

``It’s the same person,″ Interpol’s Juan Miguel Ponce said at a news conference here.

Outside the building, a half dozen protesters held a banner calling for Cavallo’s extradition to Spain.

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, terrorism, car theft and forgery.

While admitting he served in Argentina’s military, Cavallo denied the charges.

On Friday, a judge in Spain issued an arrest warrant for Cavallo, sending the orders to Interpol and asking the agency to start extradition proceedings.

In addition, investigators in France have asked Mexican officials to investigate whether Cavallo had anything to do with the death of several French citizens in Argentina, including two nuns.

Cavallo was serving as director of Mexico’s private National Registry of Motor Vehicles, but the company _ criticized by many in Mexico for charging too much to register cars _ announced his replacement after his detention and urged authorities to investigate the former director’s identity.

Cavallo’s arrest came after five former political prisoners identified Cavallo as Miguel Angel Cavallo, their torturer at the infamous Naval Mechanical School detention center. Ponce said Cavallo used the name Miguel Angel as a false name while in the army.

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

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

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

``This is another historical decision by the Spanish justice, the same as with Pinochet,″ Carlos Slepoy, a lawyer who is working with Garzon, said Friday.

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