Of foreign trips and transparency

Nayib Bukele traveled to Asia in the past week for state visits to Japan and China.  Under the FMLN, El Salvador dumped diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2018 and established them with mainland China.  Bukele said he'd review diplomatic ties when he became president, and on April 1, blasted China for extending an invitation to outgoing officials of the FMLN to visit Beijing.

The visit to China would seem to go outside of Bukele's typical path of hewing to the desires of the US.   The US strongly criticized El Salvador when it broke off relations with Taiwan last year.   But Bukele is looking for investment partners wherever he can find them, and China remains interested in Central America.   In China, leaders of the countries announced that China will participate in infrastructure developments including a stadium and water treatment plant.    It is not clear if this is the same or different money from the $150 million China pledged to the FMLN government of Salvador Sanchez Ceren in 2018. 

The flights of Bukele are not the only air travel making the news.   The head of El Salvador's prison system, Osiris Luna, made official trips to Los Angeles and Mexico earlier this year.  At least part of that travel was on a private jet.  Osiris Luna, however, refuses to say who paid for the trips.    In response to public inquiries, he has asserted that no public funds were used for his travel and therefore there is nothing else to disclose.  Advocates for transparency in government, would argue that the public has a right to know who is loaning their private jet to a public official so he can make his official trips in luxury.

Transparency advocates were also concerned to learn that the Institute for Access to Public Information ("IAIP") had been involving in quietly sending to the office of the president the personal identifying information of persons who submitted public information requests on IAIP's online portal.   This could let the executive branch track who was investigating it.  The head of the IAIP resigned as a result.  (Well I guess Nayib now has my personal identifying information...)

There are also concerns about a lack of transparency over CICIES, the anti-corruption commission being formed by El Salvador and the Organization of American States.    Civil society groups held a press conference to highlight concerns and to call for a commission which would do more than provide technical assistance to Salvadoran prosecutors but would be robust, independent, and have the backing of the United Nations.

We did learn one thing about the CICIES: so far it is little more than a rental of shared office space and a spokesman from the OAS.  Despite claims to the contrary by Nayib Bukele, the CICIES has not commenced any investigations to date.