A former president in court

Salvadorans saw a historic event this week as ex-president Francisco Flores sat in a courtroom in San Salvador for a preliminary hearing on corruption charges.   Flores was president from 1999-2004.

The hearing lasted two days and was covered by swarms of media.

The prosecutor outlined his case.   In 2003, $15 million was received in checks made out to Flores form the Taiwan embassy,   The checks were taken to Costa Rica, where they were deposited in a newly created account for a supposed institute for political studies.   Of the $15 million, $10 was later distributed to Flores' political party, ARENA.    The other $5 million went into Flores own pockets.  The investigative reporters at El Faro published an exhaustive studying tracing the path of all the funds in October 2014 which you can read here.

One of the checks from the Embassy of Taiwan to ex-President Francisco Flores

One aspect of the hearing with an interesting twist was the conflict between certain private complainants and the public prosecutor.   The private complainants want a count of money laundering added to the trial.   The public prosecutor (FGR) objects saying there is not enough evidence, and the hearing had the odd moment where both the prosecutor and Flores' attorneys were making the same arguments against the money laundering allegations.

The judge must now decide whether Flores will be set free or whether he must face trial on the corruption charges.  The judge will announce his decision  December 3.

Ex-president Flores is from the right-wing ARENA party and participated on the campaign team of ARENA candidate Norman Quijano in the presidential elections in 2014. The corruption allegations became one of the central themes leading up to the victory of the left wing FMLN in March.

In 2005, the Bush administration in the US backed Flores to become the Secretary General of the Organization of American States. Flores failed to win the post over the opposition of many Latin American nations.

Presidents George W. Bush and Francisco Flores in 2004.