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Chile Says France Decision not to Extradite Leftist Rebel

The Chilean justice will still be unable to get their hands on Ricardo Palma Salamanca. The Paris appeals court on Wednesday denied the ex-guerrilla extradition to Chile, which the South American country had been looking for since his spectacular escape in 1996 from a high-security prison where he was serving a life sentence for the murder five years before senator Jaime Guzman.

Considered the main ideologist of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. He also has another pending sentence for the kidnapping, also in 1991, of Cristián Edwards del Río, son of the owner of El Mercurio, a newspaper close to the dictatorship ended a year earlier.

Chile had requested the extradition of Palma Salamanca upon learning of his arrest in Paris in February 2018. The trial began shortly after. The case was complicated when, last November, the French Office for Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) granted him the status of political refugee, giving credibility to his allegations that he had been tortured when he was arrested in Chile to confess the murder of Guzman, as his defense during the trial also affirmed.

A decision that outraged the Chilean government. Only a month before, during a visit to Paris, President Sebastián Piñera had declared: “What Chile wants is very simple, that he can return to where he was tried and convicted of a terrorist crime.”

The refusal of the judges, who also ordered to lift the judicial control that weighed on Palma Salamanca, is in line, stresses Efe, with the position of the prosecution, which during the trial was manifested against the extradition of the ex-guerrilla.

The lawyer of the Chilean State, Vincent Courcelle Labrousse, claimed, on the contrary, the extradition alleging that when Palma Salamanca was condemned, Chile was already a democracy and that for that reason it had to return to purge its pain.

The decision of the court puts, at least for the moment, a final point to a bizarre story from the moment the track of Palma Salamanca was lost and that did not end with his arrest, 22 years later, in Paris.

The 49-year-old gray-haired man staged a spectacular escape from the High-Security Prison in Santiago de Chile on December 30, 1996. That day Negro, as his colleagues called him, and three other members of the Marxist armed group Manuel Patriotic Front Rodríguez (FPMR) fled by jumping aboard a basket that hung from a helicopter that approached the prison. His track would be lost for two decades. Until, in 2017, his trail reappeared.

It was during operation of the Mexican intelligence services in cooperation with the Spanish. The Mexicans suspected that after a series of long-term kidnappings, very similar to those carried out by ETA, there could be escaped ETAs seeking to finance themselves in that way in the American country.

However, after an operation, came the great surprise among the detainees, there were no extras, but a former Chilean guerrilla: Raúl Escobar Poblete, commander Emilio, the leader of the FPMR who was in the helicopter in which two decades before he fled Palma Salamanca.

Following that track, it was discovered that Palma Salamanca had lived in Mexico under a false identity, that of Esteban Manuel Solís Tamayo had married and had two children. According to police sources explained to this newspaper, the family flew on May 31 from Mexico to Cuba, where they stayed almost two weeks before leaving for Paris, where he would end up being arrested and subjected to the trial that has now left him, in the words of his lawyer, “totally free”.

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