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Irony is not Just a River in Egypt: the Case of Raul Ernesto Morales Ramos


The furor has died down, so it is appropriate to revisit the case of Raul Ernesto Morales-Ramos, who died at the age of 44 on April 6, 2015, of “intestinal cancer.”  I’m sorry that I couldn’t quickly locate anything more specific, although “intestinal” could refer to colon or small intestine, which is a critical difference to a medical person.  He died after several weeks of diarrhea and inability to hold his urine; a medical evaluation was performed too late to save him or even operate on him.  An autopsy was performed but I couldn’t locate a reference to any report.

His extradition request (in Spanish) is here:

What happened is a black comedy of errors and greed.  First, four members of his family (his mother and three siblings) were killed in 2003 in an auto accident that was said to have occurred after the driver lost control of his vehicle on a highway.  His family was awarded over ten million dollars in compensation in 2006 by the government (state of California) supposedly because the retaining wall on the highway was inadequate or missing and that contributed to their deaths.

Second, Raul discovered that certain other members of his extended family were to share in the enormous award.  He resolved to avoid this by assassinating those family members (in El Salvador) and he hired three gang members to do the job.  This was extremely cost effective because you can have someone killed in El Salvador for $6000, assuming they don’t have any body guards.

Those murders were carried out, at least some of them; the murderers were caught and sentenced to 90 years in prison each.  The government of El Salvador then requested of the United States that Raul be extradited from the United States, and enlisted the support of Interpol.  Raul was arrested in 2011 and confined in the US until he died.  At the time of his death, the extradition request was under appeal in the Ninth Circuit of the federal courts.

Raul was confined in a privately-run detention center; for the last year of his life, this was in Adelanto, California.  The company is called Geo and is based in Florida.  It runs numerous detention facilities and there are stories (which the Immigration service refuses to confirm) that hundreds of detainees in Adelanto have started a hunger strike.  The facility has 400 beds but has been authorized to increase to 650.

Why did Raul spend four years in the US instead of El Salvador in detention?  His lawyers fought the extradition to the point of filing appeals.  Possibly the same lawyers who got the ten million compensation for the deaths of four people in a single-vehicle car crash.

Why is he dead instead of alive?  Partly because of privatized prisons and partly because he hired three gang members to kill members of his family so he wouldn’t have to share that huge award.  Who is really at fault?  The ones left holding the bag.

If he hadn’t been able to contest the extradition, he probably would have died in prison in El Salvador; whether he would have lived any longer is open to question.  Poor driving, Raul’s greed, and the systemic greed of the private prison industry, made his “intestinal cancer” fatal.  If he had simply shared the award, he would have had enough money to consult a doctor immediately when he started having symptoms, which might have extended his life.

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