Viewing cable 07SANSALVADOR1764
Title: ALLEGATIONS OF CORRUPTION IN SACA INNER CIRCLE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07SANSALVADOR17642007-09-04 19:37:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy San Salvador
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DE RUEHSN #1764 2471937
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P 041937Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7674
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN SALVADOR 001764 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
WHA/CEN FOR SCRAIG 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/04/2017 
TAGS: ES PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: ALLEGATIONS OF CORRUPTION IN SACA INNER CIRCLE 
RESURFACE 
 
REF: SAN SALVADOR 01623 
 
Classified By: Classified by Ambassador Charles L. Glazer for reasons 1 
.4(b) and (d). 
 
¶1. (C/NF) Summary:  On August 28, Oscar Bonilla, the 
President of the cabinet-level National Council on Public 
Security, told the Ambassador that he has proof that key 
advisors to President Saca are corrupt, and offered details 
of an alleged multi-million dollar bribery scheme centering 
on electrical utility construction projects in La Union 
department.  Bonilla also offered his opinion on President 
Saca's preferences for the 2009 Presidential elections, and 
hinted at divisiveness within ARENA ranks over potential 
presidential candidates.  Although Bonilla is well placed to 
comment on issues in the energy industry, some aspects of his 
account seem off, and we await further evidence before 
arriving at conclusions.  End summary. 
 
¶2. (C/NF)  The Ambassador had a private, one-on-one lunch 
with National Council on Public Security President Oscar 
Bonilla on August 28.  During the lunch, Bonilla told the 
Ambassador that he has proof that two key members of 
President Saca's inner circle are involved in ongoing 
corruption.  Bonilla indicated that two Saca insiders 
accepted bribes of upwards of $2 million USD from a member of 
a prominent Salvadoran business family in return for awarding 
his company contracts for electrical utility construction 
work in La Union department.  (Note: Given the close, 
multi-layered, interlocking relationships between Salvadoran 
business clans, mission finds it a bit difficult to believe 
that individuals from one of these powerful groups would need 
to resort to something as clumsy as overt bribery to secure a 
contract award.  The movers and shakers in Salvadoran 
business clans have sophisticated, less obvious means at 
their disposal to cut deals and divide spoils.  End note.) 
After further discussion of the alleged corruption, Bonilla 
promised to pass along proof of his allegations in the near 
future.  Bonilla went on to indicate his strong concern that 
corruption close to President Saca could prove harmful not 
just to ARENA, but to the Salvadoran political process as 
well. 
 
¶3. (C/NF)  Bonilla also offered his opinion of President 
Saca's preferences in terms of ARENA candidates for the 2009 
Presidential elections.  He told the Ambassador that 
President Saca prefers current Minister of Public Security 
and Justice Rene Figueroa.  (Note: Recent local press 
reports, all to date unconfirmed, state that Figueroa has 
taken himself out of the running for the ARENA presidential 
candidacy.  End note).  Bonilla then noted that the 
Salvadoran business class favors Minister of Foreign Affairs 
Francisco Lainez.  Bonilla indicated that there is a strong 
divide within ARENA ranks over the party's candidate for the 
2009 elections, and offered his opinion that, if a clash 
comes, the business class will get their way.  (Note: 
Bonilla's take on preferred candidates tracks with what 
mission has heard from others.  His assertion that the 
business class will win an intra-ARENA clash with Saca over 
presidential candidates, however, appears to be a bit more 
speculative.  End note). 
 
¶4. (C/NF) Comment:  In the wake of the resignation of 
Technical Secretary Eduardo Zablah (see reftel), troubling 
allegations of high-level corruption continue to swirl around 
the Saca administration.  As a former board member of the 
energy-sector regulatory agency, CEL, Bonilla is well-placed 
to understand issues in that sector.  The fact that Bonilla, 
a well-respected center-left technocrat who is 
philosophically comfortable working with an ARENA government 
opted to personally share specific allegations of corruption 
with the Ambassador suggests that the persistent presence of 
smoke may well in this particular instance indicate fire. 
Regardless of the veracity of Bonilla's claims, lingering 
rumors of corruption within President Saca's inner circle 
feed growing public perceptions of arrogance and self-serving 
financial machinations within ARENA ranks.  Although ARENA's 
strong standing on public security issues and track-record of 
mutually-beneficial cooperation with the USG suggests that 
the upcoming Presidential elections are theirs to lose, 
persistent allegations of high-level Saca administration 
corruption cast a sobering shadow over ARENA's 2009 electoral 
prospects.  End comment. 
 
¶5. (C/NF) Embassy will follow up on Bonilla's allegations of 
corruption, examine any evidence he presents, and report 
accordingly. 
Glazer