Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35), the sole Central American serving in Congress and Co-Chair of the Central Americans Caucus, today praised a list prepared and released at her request by the U.S. State Department identifying corrupt officials in the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The report provides names of officials for whom credible information exists about committing corrupt acts, including narcotics trafficking and the receipt or disbursement of political financing tied to narcotics trafficking.
Among the findings:
• The list includes current and former government officials from all three countries, exposing that this is an ongoing and pressing issue.
• Many of those included were already indicted or investigated by anti-corruption mechanisms. It is not surprising why they then fought so hard to obstruct and shut down these bodies.
• It also highlights the depths of corruption in the inner circles of those in power. Leadership cannot claim to fight corruption, while surrounding themselves with the corrupt.
“In the report I requested, which is now public, the U.S. government acknowledges the corruption that Central American authoritarians and their henchmen deny and try to hide,” Rep. Norma J. Torres said. “The truth is we already know that Central American governments are plagued by corruption – crooked officials in the region shut down successful anti-corruption mechanisms like CICIG and MACCIH, and weakened the role of CICIES; they continue to interfere with independent investigations and block oversight bodies; Guatemalan elites stacked the courts with cronies to cover their interests; and the President in El Salvador campaigned on anti-corruption while surrounding himself with corrupt actors.
“That is exactly why this list is so important – after four years of neglect under the previous administration, it publicly puts these actors on notice and advances the prospect of accountability,” Torres continued.
“U.S. support must only go to institutions and officials who are truly committed to the rule of law – anyone trying to enrich themselves should think twice if they hope to partner with us. I will be relentless in demanding accountability from our government – if we know someone is corrupt, I expect our government to use all levers at our disposal, including sanctions, visa restrictions, withholding support to deter future acts of corruption, and dismantling the systems that allow corruption to occur.
“We cannot expect the people of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to thrive at home while their elected officials are more focused on self-enrichment than serving the public,” Torres added. “This list is a strong step, but it is only the first step towards holding those officials accountable. I have had extensive conversations with the Biden Administration about centering our policy and support to the region around the importance of anti-corruption and rule of law. I look forward to working with State and Treasury to ensure we leverage these tools for strong actions. I will continue to fight for the people of the region until we can proudly say the rule of law stands in the Northern Triangle, and corruption does not.
“I will continue to work with the Biden Administration to deal with other obvious corrupt actors, such as the President of Honduras. I look forward to an expanded list in June.”