Social Organizations Question Even Handedness of Attorney General’s Anti-corruption Efforts
On September 5th, the Social Alliance for Governability and Justice (ASGOJU), a coalition of more than thirty social movement organizations, delivered a letter to Attorney General Douglas Meléndez demanding he re-open and fully investigate more than 150 cases of corruption dating back to previous administrations of the right-wing National Republican Alliance (ARENA) party.The ASGOJU argued that pursuing long-ignored corruption cases should be a priority of the Attorney General given that many cases are nearing the 10-year statute of limitations for prosecution.
One of the most notable cases they want re-opened is the embezzlement of $15 million in earthquake relief funds from the government of Taiwan, allegedly taken by now deceased ex-President Francisco Flores of the ARENA party. The path of these $15 million in relief funds has been extremely well documented; and there is proof thatat least $10 million were laundered and redirected to ARENA party coffers where they were used to fund the party’s 2004 presidential campaign in which ARENA candidate Antonio Saca was elected President.
Another high profile case noted by ASGOJU involves the Special Trust Fund for the Creation of Employment in Strategic Productive Sectors (FECEPE), a $38.7 million government-managed fund created during the Saca administration to support private business in creating employment. Ana Vilma de Escobar, Saca’s Vice President and a current ARENA Legislative Deputy, was at the head of the Approval Committee managing the fund. An audit identified a number of irregularities in the creation and management of the fund that led the current Secretary of Transparency Marcos Rodríguez to request an investigation into misuse of funds and conflicts of interest between those managing the fund and the beneficiary companies.
The ASGOJU also called for serious investigation into the numerous cases of tax evasion, both by businesses and individuals. A recent study carried out by the Economics Department of the University of Central America (UCA) disclosed that tax evasion could be costing the state up to $1.5 billion dollars. The study showed that businesses in the country alone evade 50% of their income taxes, adding up to some $800 million dollars in lost income for the State.
Leonel Herrera of the Association of Participative Radios and Programs (ARPAS) and part of the ASGOJU delegation that delivered the letter told the press:“We are seeing that the Attorney General has applied the law to some and not to others; this is a call to the Attorney General to be consistent, and we would like to remind him that if he does not investigate all of these cases he will be committing the crime of neglect in investigation, which is one of the crimes that the ex-Attorney General Luis Martínez has been accused of.”
US Ambassador Jean Manes has repeatedly voiced support for Attorney General Meléndez, and has publically congratulated him for tackling impunity and corruption in the country; nevertheless, there remain extremely high profile cases of corruption, embezzlement and tax evasion that have gone uninvestigated for years. The social organizations who presented this letter are expressing a growing frustration and concern that the Attorney General’s investigative focus may be politically biased.