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Torres is the only Central American serving in Congress. She is co-Chair of the Central Americans Caucus. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Torres is the only Central American serving in Congress. She is co-Chair of the Central Americans Caucus. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Rep. Norma Torres’ call for investigation into corrupt Central American leaders delivers President Bukele

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele and some of his allies were named in a recent State Department report on drug trafficking and corruption.

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Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele is among at least five top Salvadoran officials and allies who have been named in a confidential U.S. State Department report as suspects in drug trafficking or corruption schemes. 

Among those also named are Bukele’s chief of cabinet and his former minister of security. The report was sent to Congress this week at the request of Representative Norma Torres, a longtime advocate for raising awareness on the root causes of migration that go beyond the border. 

Torres is the only Central American serving in Congress. She is co-Chair of the Central Americans Caucus. The list was 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.

It 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, according to Torres’ office. This is the second report to Congress about corrupt Central American officials that’s come at her request.

Among the findings, the unclassified list includes current and former government officials from all three countries. Many of those included were already indicted or investigated by anti-corruption mechanisms. 

After the release, Bukele took to Twitter to say the list was about "geopolitics," not fighting corruption. He then praised China's $500 million investment in public investments in El Salvador "without conditions," contrasting the move with Washington and the U.S.-affiliated lenders, who have withheld aid on conditions of good governance.

“It is not surprising why they then fought so hard to obstruct and shut down these bodies,” Torres wrote in a press release.

In Torres’ letter, she highlights that the depth of corruption in these power circles is troubling because leaders can’t claim to fight corruption while being among the corrupt themselves. 

“In the report I requested, which is now public, the U.S govt [sic] acknowledges the corruption that Central American authoritarians and their allies deny & try to hide. 

The #NorthernTriangle cannot thrive while its officials are more focused on self-enrichment than serving the public,” Torres wrote on Twitter.

She later wrote that his list is the beginning of a process that will continue to add accountability, especially on the tail-end of the previous administration, which she said was “looking the other way.” 

Torres said the immigration issue has largely stemmed from failing to address the root causes of immigration in the Northern Triangle, and the U.S.’s own part in the matter. 

While she has claimed that the Obama administration made strides in Central American intervention (years later, it has little to show for), she has addressed the many reasons why people from the region made the difficult decision to leave their countries. 

Corruption being one of them. 

The unclassified list requested by Rep. Torres is available in two parts here and here.

It comes after Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been tasked with spearheading diplomatic efforts in the Northern Triangle to get to the “root causes” of migration, met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Monday, May 17 to further discuss the issue. 

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