Special Report: Ex-President Flees Country Facing Corruption Charges; US Embassy, Right Collude in Damage Control
On Wednesday, December 11, former Salvadoran president Francisco Flores resigned as campaign advisor to the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party presidential candidate Norman Quijano and fled the country in the midst of an international scandal regarding the possible embezzlement of a $10 million donation made to his administration (1999-2004) by Taiwan. The US Embassy, meanwhile, has joined the Salvadoran right wing to deflect attention from the case and onto the Funes administration. Over the last two weeks, President Funes has publicly revealed documents sent by the US Treasury Department to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Office tracking a suspicious $10 million-dollar money transfer by Flores from El Salvador through Miami to the Bahamas. The Attorney General’s office had requested the information as part of its investigation into the Flores administration’s role in the corruption case surrounding the contract that effectively -and illegally- privatized El Salvador's public geothermal energy company, LaGeo. ARENA has responded by accusing Funes of political persecution. In further evidence of close collusion between the US and Salvadoran right, on December 5, Foreign Policy Magazine published an article by José Cárdenas—a former Bush administration State Department official—demanding US sanctions against the Funes administration for revealing the correspondence between the US and Salvadoran governments, which he termed politically-motivated “dirty tricks.” The piece was promptly republished in the right-wing Salvadoran newspaper El Diario de Hoy. US Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte has joined the campaign to divert attention from Flores’ possible theft of $10 million, by smearing the Funes administration. On December 8, Aponte told the media that she had grave concerns about the confidentiality of the documents made public by Funes, and that the Treasury Department was investigating possible leaks of the information. Funes dismissed the Ambassador’s comments, saying that the bottom line was “that each official commenting on the matter, whether in El Salvador or now in the United States, as in the case of the Madame Ambassador, only serves to confirm the existence of this suspicious operations report” sent from the US to the Salvadoran government. Despite its efforts to distract from the corruption scandal, the ARENA party soon began to distance themselves from their former leader as international media including Fox News, The Washington Post, and ABC News increasingly took up the story. On December 11, the Legislative Assembly convened a commission to investigate the possible $10 million-dollar theft, the results of which will be submitted to the Attorney General’s office for its ongoing investigation. When ARENA finally announced Flores’ removal from the campaign, the party also revealed that Flores would be leaving the country. On December 16, the Attorney General announced he would be calling Flores in for questioning, but the former President’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Indeed, it appears that Flores has fled the country in an effort to avoid standing trial as the evidence against him mounts.