Q24N – The United States claims to have evidence that at least four senior officials and two former ministers from the Bukele administration have been responsible for or involved in acts of corruption: the president’s legal advisor, Conan Castro; the chief of the cabinet of ministers, Carolina Recinos; Labor Minister Rolando Castro; Director of Prisons Osiris Luna; and former security and agriculture ministers Rogelio Rivas and Pablo Anliker.
Each of these officials are or have been part of President Nayib Bukele’s inner circle of trust.
In the past year and a half, El Faro and other Salvadoran news outlets had already reported cases of influence peddling, nepotism, or illicit negotiations involving some of them.
Their names appear in the section on El Salvador of the Engel List, a State Department report to the U.S. Congress on public figures and private citizens found to be involved in corruption or the undermining of democratic institutions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
In Guatemala, the list accuses former president Álvaro Colom and legislators Gustavo Alejos, Felipe Alejos, and Alejandro Sinibaldi. In Honduras, the most notable appearances on the list are former president Pepe Lobo, whom the United States has accused of accepting bribes from the Los Cachiros drug cartel, and his wife Rosa Elena Bonilla, who was sentenced to 58 years in prison for misappropriation of public funds until her conviction was annulled.
Altogether, the Engel List is a damning portrait of the political elite in northern Central America, at a time when backsliding in the fight against corruption, impunity, as well as attacks against democratic institutions from the region’s legislatures and executive branches, are rousing constant condemnations from civil society, multilateral organizations, and the international community.
“This list’s message to the region is that if there are people who clearly participated in acts of corruption, governments should avoid putting them in positions of responsibility,” a State Department source in Washington, who is directly involved in crafting U.S. policy in Central America, told El Faro. “The purpose of the list is to affect people’s behavior. In fact, one of the desired effects is to complicate these people’s interactions not only with the United States, but with other international actors.”