El Salvador prosecutors turned a blind eye to corruption, says report

el salvador corruption
Government building in El Salvador. Photo: Milosz Maslanka/Shutterstock

According to a new report published this week by investigative news website El Faro, the contentious decision by President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador to replace the country’s prosecutor general in 2021 led to the shutting down of an investigation regarding possible irregularities in millionaire food contracts signed by the government during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the Prosecution Office’s shake-up, a special anti-mafia task force was looking into businessman Munir Miguel Bendeck, owner of the company Negocios y Servicios Bursátiles (NSB).

The Salvadoran company was responsible for selling the highest number of food baskets to the Bukele administration during the health crisis; food contracts, the investigation showed, were worth USD 22.7 million.

El Faro mentioned that Mr. Bendeck’s purchase of a USD 1 million apartment in Miami was one of the first factors to raise suspicions about possible corruption.

However, prosecutors’ efforts to charge Mr. Bendek — as well as several other government officials — for alleged conflict of interest and crimes of contract overcharging benefiting NSB went down the drain after the change of leadership in the Prosecution Office. The entire task force on the case was later dismissed. 

This is not the first sensitive case involving President Bukele published by El Faro. In 2021, the outlet brought evidence of negotiations between the government and Salvadoran gangs (the so-called pandillas), something Mr. Bukele accused his adversaries of having done in the past. 

The head of state is also accused of having used the pandemic as justification for human rights violations, promoting controversial mass detentions ever since.