FIVE OF SALVADORAN PRESIDENT’S ALLIES ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION BY US STATE DEPARTMENT

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A US State Department has released a list of several politicians and officials in Guatamela, Honduras and El Salvador, Central America who are alleged to be corrupt. The list includes five Salvadoran officials with ties to President Nayib Bukele, six sitting Honduran lawmakers and two Guatemalan legislators, according to a list released by the office of US Representative Norma Torres.

The list emerged after the US special envoy for Central America, Ricardo Zuniga, visited El Salvador and met Bukele amid a push from the administration of US President Joe Biden to confront corruption and bolster the rule of law in the region.

The US said that it has made strengthening democracy one of the pillars of its policy towards Central America, adding that rampant corruption is one of the root causes of illegal immigration.

The US noted that the people of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras cannot be expected to thrive at home while their elected officials are more focused on self-enrichment than serving the public. The list was therefore a strong step towards holding those officials accountable.

The most prominent official on the list is Bukele’s cabinet chief, Carolina Recinos, who has worked alongside the president since his entry into politics. Second, is Rogelio Rivas, who allegedly awarded his own construction company several non-competitive, unadvertised contracts to build police stations and other buildings that fell under his official capacity and then inflated the cost of materials. Third, is lawmaker Guillermo Gallegos, a founder of the GANA party that broke with El Salvador’s bipartisan system to support Bukele’s presidential run in 2019. Lastly, are two former FMLN lawmakers – Sigfrido Reyes and Jose Luis Merino, the latter a former vice minister of foreign relations in the FMLN government that preceded Bukele’s administration.

The fight against graft is a global effort and the move by the US State department is a step in the right direction towards eliminating graft. Similar pressure should be extended to African countries, particularly Kenya to give renewed impetus to the anti-graft war.

It also shows that no one should be above the law when it comes to fighting corruption and the accompanying impunity; even close associates of those in power should be held accountable if and when found to be perpetrating the vice.

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