Several candidates for Attorney General in El Salvador, as well as some of the deputies responsible for selecting the position, have open cases pending, putting the advances made by the office over recent years in jeopardy.
Four out of the 33 candidates, amongst them a former attorney general and a former director of customs, have active cases in the government’s Court of Accounts (Corte de Cuentas), El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office for Human Rights (Procuradora para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos), the tax office or the Attorney General’s Office, reported El Mundo.
Despite these open cases, El Salvador’s Congress still put them through the initial selection, giving them the same opportunities as those for candidates without any record. The first interviews will start on Monday November 19.
Furthermore, four out of seven Congress members in charge of selecting El Salvador’s top prosecutor have themselves been accused of alleged illicit enrichment, obstruction of justice, misuse of public funds and war crimes.
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The replacement for current Attorney General Douglas Meléndez will be selected in December and will serve for a three-year period.
On November 13, Congress selected a six-member sub-commission that will interview the 33 candidates who filed the papers required by law. The list will then be sent to the house for a final vote.
InSight Crime Analysis
The selection of a weak attorney general by Congress members accused of corruption would put all the recent progress made by El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office at risk.
After a past plagued with corruption, the institution has managed to recover under the stewardship of Meléndez, the outgoing attorney general.
Meléndez managed to, among other things, jail a former president on corruption charges and open investigations against another two former heads of state.
He also brought charges against his predecessor, Luis Martínez. Prosecutors say Martínez shut down investigations against politicians and business people accused of tax fraud and other crimes. The result was the institution was turned over to criminal groups and corruption networks that paid to play.
Meléndez, however, was left without the resources and time to strengthen the Attorney General’s Office.