Tony Saca sentenced to 10 years in prison for corruption
Former president of El Salvador Antonio ("Tony") Saca was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for corruption pursuant to a plea deal with the country's attorney general. Saca governed the country from 2004-2009 after being elected on the ARENA party ticket and also made an unsuccessful bid for another term as president in 2014.
Today's sentence did not come as a surprise. Saca had already confessed and provided the details of the corruption scheme. The plead deal and confession allowed Attorney General Douglas Melendez to secure a conviction, something he has had a difficult time doing in high profile cases in the past two years.
The conviction of Saca comes at a bad time for ARENA leading up to the presidential elections. Saca's confessions include descriptions of how some of the embezzled funds were used to advance ARENA political campaigns. (In the same way, Saca's presidential bid had been aided by part of $10 million in earthquake relief funds from Taiwan, embezzled by his predecessor Francisco Flores). At a time in El Salvador where voters are clearly tired of corruption and entrenched political leaders, ARENA's nominee Carlos Calleja will have to fight through the stench of his party's prior corruption at the highest levels.
Next up are the corruption charges against former president Mauricio Funes, as well as his close associates and ex-wife Vanda Pignato. Funes has no intention of leaving Nicaragua where he has been granted asylum, but the case against the others is proceeding and will essentially try Funes in absentia. The charges are that Funes may have misappropriated even more public money than Saca.