US Sanctions El Salvador for Revealing Financial Corruption in Flores Case
The US government will no longer share confidential financial information with El Salvador in response to former president Mauricio Funes’ public revelation of a report that incriminated former Salvadoran president Francisco Flores in a multi-million dollar corruption scandal. “A decision has been made to stop the flow of confidential financial information from the Treasury Department to El Salvador,” pending further discussions, US Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte announced on December 5th.
In 2013, while still in office, Funes revealed a Report of Suspicious Operations from the US Treasury Department tracking a $10 million-dollar transfer by Flores from El Salvador through Miami to the Bahamas. The funds proved to be donations from the Taiwanese government to El Salvador for disaster relief. El Salvador’s conservative media accused Funes of exposing the document for the electoral gain of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, but the revelations prompted legislative hearings and widespread public outcry, which finally forced the conservative Attorney General to press charges against former president Flores amidst a broad and ongoing investigation into a host of former public officials and leaders within the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party.
On December 18th, Attorney General Luis Martínez announced that he would press criminal charges against the individual responsible for leaking the report from his office. “Right now we are in the process of punishment; we have begun to meet with the US Treasury Department Authorities and we have established a pathway forward, and we will use this to resolve whatever error we have committed,” said Martínez.
Funes objected to the US government’s decision to sanction El Salvador: “I remind Ambassador Aponte that no treaty exists that obliges the government not to reveal Reports of Suspicious Operations.” Coming several months after the close of the Funes administration and with the 2015 mid-term elections on the horizon, the decision’s timing and severity is unusual, and raises questions about the US’s professed commitment to combating money laundering in El Salvador, much of which involves channeling funds through US banks.