Bukele created CICIES, now it investigates his government
While the Ministry of Health was the primary focus, investigators also showed up at the Ministry of the Treasury, the Ministry of Agriculture and the water authority ANDA, as well as several businesses tied to government officials or their families.
When agents of the FGR arrived at the Ministry of Health offices, officers of the National Civilian Police (PNC) appeared to block their entrance. The Ministry of Health complained that the raid was threatening the ministry's ability to save lives in the pandemic. At one point, the head of the anti-corruption unit of the FGR, German Arriaza, arrived and simply pushed his way past the burly police officer standing guard at the entrance. The police, normally responsible for acting at the direction of the FGR in its operations, instead played a security role for the files of the Ministry of Health and threatened to block the operation.
Attorney General Raul Melara told the public that this investigation was performed in coordination with the International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador or the "CICIES." Creation of the CICIES was a major campaign promise of Bukele in 2019. This anti-corruption body was formed under an agreement between the Organization of American States and the Bukele government and operates to provide technical expertise and consultation to the FGR. Only the FGR can actually bring a prosecution, however.
The counter-attack by Nayib Bukele and his allies against the FGR was immediate. Although Bukele has regularly highlighted prosecutions by Melara when officials from previous governments were brought to court for corruption, now that his own government was being investigated Bukele accused Melara of being a member of ARENA who was only acting to further partisan political interests.
Bukele pointed to Melara’s appointment three years ago in a negotiated deal between ARENA and the FMLN:
No es noticia. Hasta su hermano es concejal por ARENA en la alcaldía de Santa Tecla.— �� (@nayibbukele) November 11, 2020
Todos sabemos que @MelaraRaul es un fiscal arenero y por lo tanto inconstitucional.
La única noticia es que ya empezó la campaña electoral.
Haga lo quiera Fiscal. El que nada debe, nada teme. pic.twitter.com/ErDWdmCm6l
This isn't news. Even his brother is a council member for ARENA in the Santa Tecla municipal government. We all know that @MelaraRaul is an ARENA prosecutor and for that reason unconstitutional. The only news is that now he has begun the election campaign. Do what you will Attorney General. He who owes nothing, fears nothing.
Chairman @RepEliotEngel: I strongly support Salvadoran AG @MelaraRaul's bold actions against corruption and impunity. Government institutions, including the National Police, must allow him to do his job without interference.
Bukele upped his disdain for members of the US Congress, however, tweeting that his Congressional critics were beholden to George Soros.
U.S. congressmen & women have long supported El Salvador & encouraged policies & assistance to benefit the Salvadoran people.— Michael G. Kozak (@WHAAsstSecty) November 12, 2020
They should be commended for their interest & concern about corruption & impunity in 🇸🇻. We look to @PNCSV & @FGR_SV to cooperate to this end.
The role of the CICIES is the most intriguing part of this story. In its early days, the CICIES let Bukele say he had kept a campaign promise to fight corruption, but in reality it started as nothing but words on paper and a rented office. The revelation that the CICIES is playing a role in uncovering corruption at the heart of Bukele’s high profile efforts to respond to the pandemic is a welcome surprise, and probably came as a surprise to Bukele as well.