Ex-President Flores Jailed, Legislative Commission Calls to Broaden Investigation
On Thursday, September 18th, the controversial order to place former president Francisco Flores (1999-2004) under house arrest was overturned, and in an historic moment in Salvadoran history, Flores was transferred to jail pending trial, where he faces charges of misappropriating at least $15 million in public funds during his tenure as head of state.
The much-disputed house arrest decision by San Salvador Judge Orellana was overruled by a higher court after enormous public outcry prompted an appeal by the Attorney General. Judge Orellana’s history of contentious decisions have prompted calls for judicial reform from both social movement leaders and top administration officials as well as demands to transfer Flores’ case to another judge.
While the former president awaits trial, the Legislative Commission whose initial report prompted the charges against him is releasing a second report that will recommend the addition of money laundering to Flores’ charges, call for investigations into top officials of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party as accomplices and accuse several of giving false testimony before the Commission. “This network of corruption is so powerful, this trafficking of influence, this criminal network, that today, after 10 years, money is still arriving to this network of corrupt recipients,” said legislator Guillermo Gallegos.
Testimony from ARENA leaders led the Legislative Commission to call on the Attorney General to open additional investigations into board members from the party’s Political Studies Center. They found that the Center’s former president, Gerardo Balzaretti Kriete—also a member of one of El Salvador’s most powerful families, with the Kriete Group owning 33% of Avianca airlines— opened a bank account in Costa Rica in which the funds misappropriated by Flores were deposited. Other former board members from ARENA’s Political Studies Center who could be subject to investigation include ex-president of the ARENA party Francisco Laínez, former ARENA leader Hugo Barrera and Guillermo Ávila Qüehl, former substitute legislator for the ARENA party.