El Salvador’s past three presidents have now been accused of corruption, a possible sign the Supreme Court is ready to take on the nation’s highest political office.
Former El Salvador President Mauricio Funes (2009-2014) is likely to face three separate investigations into his assets, including a money laundering case, an unnamed source close to the Supreme Court told Diario Latino.
Funes is already embroiled in an illicit enrichment case and has had certain assets frozen, including four bank accounts, El Faro reported. Accusations against the former president revolve around his inability to account for millions of dollars in personal income and assets. Funes has maintained his innocence and claimed he is being persecuted by his political rivals.
Meanwhile the Supreme Court has informed Funes’ predecessor, Elías Antonio Saca (2004-2009), that he must account for over $6 million in personal income, according to a separate Diario Latino report. Saca’s financial records show a personal gain of over $13 million during his presidential term, much of which Saca has labeled simply as “other activities and investments,” the report added.
Saca was accused of money laundering in 2013, and a US Embassy cable divulged on WikiLeaks went so far as to say his corruption “went beyond the pale,” which earned him criticism even from members of his own conservative party ARENA.
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In addition to Funes and Saca, deceased former President Francisco Flores (1999-2004) was also entangled in corruption cases. This means El Salvador’s last three presidential administrations, which span 15 years, have been marred by corruption allegations.
While this is a worrying indication of how rampant and systemic corruption has become at the highest levels of government in El Salvador, there is a silver lining. El Salvador’s Supreme Court may be starting to crack down on these powerful political figures.
Flores was accused of embezzling $15 million dollars donated by Taiwan to help victims of a devastating 2001 earthquake. The former president was eventually ordered to stand trial in December 2015, but died of a brain hemorrhage the following month.
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Although Salvadoran authorities can no longer prosecute Flores, the Supreme Court seems prepared to go after Funes and Saca, based on the speed with which investigations are proceeding against Funes.
The Supreme Court is likely aware of how the United Nations-backed anti-impunity body CICIG’s high-profile victories against corruption in neighboring Guatemala have sparked calls for similar interventions in El Salvador and Honduras. A strong effort now on the part of Salvadoran authorities to investigate corruption cases could be a way of demonstrating their willingness and ability to handle matters without outside interference.