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Fugitive Tico Priest Was in Honduras Village

July 2, 2004

A three-month investigation by CasaAlianza Honduras in tandem with theTexas-based newspaper the DallasMorning News discovered the formerwhereabouts of a fugitive priest wanted inCosta Rica to face charges of sexuallyabusing a child.Father Enrique Vásquez, 44, fled a ruralvillage in Honduras, where he had workedin a parish for six months, one week beforeCosta Rican authorities issued an arrestwarrant with the International PoliceAgency (INTERPOL).He was gone when authorities arrivedin the village, Guinope.Vásquez has been wanted since 1998when the family of the alleged victim filedcharges against him in Ciudad Quesada,also known as San Carlos, in Costa Rica’sNorthern Zone. The alleged abuses, thechild’s mother told The Tico Times thisweek, took place over a 10-month periodin the mid-1990s when her son, an acolytein Vásquez’s church at the time, was 10and 11 years old.THE Vicar of the Honduran Catholicchurch, Ovidio Rodríguez, defended thedecision to let the accused priest work inGuinope, and told AFP wire service lastweek “there was no reliable evidenceagainst him.”Bruce Harris, regional director of CasaAlianza, the children’s rights advocacygroup that assisted with the investigation,said, “The important thing is that, little bylittle, the circle is closed and we hope it ispossible to capture him quickly so he canconfront Costa Rican justice.”El Heraldo, a Honduras daily, reportedthat Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez wasresponsible for appointing Vásquez to theparish, but he was unavailable for commentas to whether he knew about the chargesagainst the priest. The Dallas MorningNews reported that Cardinal Rodríguez, aprominent candidate to succeed Pope JohnPaul II, assigned Vásquez to two remoteparishes from last year until March.A week of silence from the diocese ofSan Carlos, in Costa Rica, was broken thisweek after Bishop Ángel San Casimiroreturned from a trip out of the country.The bishop spoke to the press onMonday, saying he “did not lie” when hetold a state prosecutor that he did not knowwhere Vásquez was, though he admittedthat he later sent the priest money whenVásquez was in Mexico.“When the prosecutor sent me the twoletters (asking where Vásquez was) I, atthat time, responded that I didn’t knowwhere the father was. The prosecutor didnot ask me to tell him when I found out.”San Casimiro admitted that on twooccasions he sent Vásquez money whilehe was in a religious rehabilitation centerfor people with emotional problems inMexico and said he spoke with the fugitiveby phone.“I helped him not so that he can evadejustice, but so that he can face it with a littlemore dignity,” San Casimiro said.Casa Alianza’s coordinator of the LegalSupport Program, Rocío Rodríguez, said ina statement from the organization that thechurch knew where Vásquez was and didnot do anything.“The bishop cannot say that he did notknow that he should have supplied theinformation to the authorities. It’s a disrespectfulargument that does not take thesuffering of the (alleged) victims seriously,”Rodríguez said.Costa Rican authorities submitted theinternational arrest order for VásquezMarch 15 of this year – a tardy response,according to Casa Alianza. The family ofthe alleged victim requested CasaAlianza’s help in February of this year,which prompted the organization to call forthe arrest order.THE older brother of the alleged victimfiled an accusation of sexual abuse againstVásquez in March 1998, then withdrew itin July of that year upon receiving an out ofcourt settlement of ¢300,000 ($1,100using that month’s exchange rate) from thepriest’s family, his mother said.The alleged victim filed an accusationagainst the priest in December of that yearand received ¢1 million ($3,700 using thatmonth’s exchange rate) as a settlement, hismother said. However, the public prosecutorrejected the settlement, saying the accusationsare too serious.The mother of the two, whose name iswithheld to protect the identities of hersons, told The Tico Times, “I’m seekingjustice for myself, my child, and all thechildren in the world who are experiencingthe same. I want him to go to jail. I don’twant money, I want justice.”RAUL Muñoz, lawyer for the family,told The Tico Times, “They (the church)say he is innocent, but it’s an abuse, aninsult, because the only person capable ofsaying that is a Costa Rican judge. Thechurch should not hide people who arewanted.”He said his clients are looking into thepossibility of filing charges against thosein the church who may have been involvedin sheltering the priest.Since the family’s request, Casa Alianzahas been working with INTERPOL to findVásquez.“It’s odd that Vásquez left the villageshortly after Casa Alianza requested aninternational arrest order,” Harris said. “Itwould appear that someone is keeping himwell informed about what goes on in CostaRica.THIS is the second time authoritieshave discovered Vásquez’ whereabouts.He worked at a parish in Hartford, Conn.,in the United States, from 1999 untilOctober 2002, according to the DallasMorning News.At that time, however, no internationalarrest warrant had been issued.

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