As one of an estimated 3.6 million senior citizens living in Florida, Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova found the perfect place to hide in plain sight. From shopping trips with his wife Lourdes in the upscale malls of Daytona Beach to gourmet meals at popular restaurants, he appeared to be just another septuagenerian enjoying the good life in the country’s favourite retirement playground.

Vides, however, was guarding a secret. The smartly dressed pensioner was once an army general and defence minister in El Salvador during a bloody 12-year civil war in the 1980s, and he stands accused of covering up a series of atrocities, including the rape and murder of four American churchwomen.

The former Cold War ally of the US had been quietly welcomed in as a lawful permanent resident in 1989, seen as a friend to the conservative Reagan and Bush adminstrations in an era of leftist insurgency in several south and central American countries.

Now, partly due to the shift in attitudes by Barack Obama’s White House toward the pursuit of war criminals, Vides, 77, is a pariah. He suffered a significant blow to his hopes of remaining in Florida last week when a strongly worded ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals confirmed a 2012 federal court decision ordering his deportation (pdf).

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