Biden-Bukele Tensions: State Dept. Lists Salvadoran President’s Aid as ‘Corrupt’

Nayib Bukele
YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden’s State Department accused a member of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s cabinet and a former minister of the popular Central American leader of being corrupt in a report to Congress leaked on Monday.

The allegation came amid strained relations between the Biden and Bukele administrations.

In mid March, President Bukele told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that soaring migration levels at the U.S. southern border are bad for America and even worse for Latin America because it extracts the people vital to building the solid financial conditions that would keep them in their home country.

The Salvadoran president indicated during the interview that President Biden’s policies were fueling the border crisis.

Bukele worked with the Trump administration to reduce migration from El Salvador, drawing the ire of Democrats and pro-immigration advocates.

On Tuesday, Reuters, which gained access to the report, revealed:

A U.S. State Department report on Central American officials “credibly alleged” to be corrupt includes a member of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s cabinet and a former minister, according to an extract of the document leaked on Monday.

The report also includes two opposition figures and a lawmaker in Bukele’s alliance. A U.S. congressional aide told Reuters that the document circulating in El Salvador media was accurate.

Commenting on the report via Twitter, Bukele said it had nothing to do with corruption.

“If someone believes that the fight against corruption has even one iota to do with this, they are either incredibly foolish or pretends that others are,” he wrote. “This is not fighting corruption. This is geopolitics.”

He indicated that the document did not include any members of the conservative opposition party ARENA, accused of paying the violent MS-13 gang that operates in the U.S. tens of thousands to secure votes.

A spokesperson for the State Department told Reuters he could not comment on a “nonpublic report to Congress.”

Nevertheless, he pointed out the department works with U.S. lawmakers on fighting corruption and impunity in Central America.

“The department takes seriously any and all allegations of corruption,” he said.

Overall, the leaked State Department document reportedly mentions five lawmakers and officials as “credibly alleged to have committed or facilitated corruption or narcotics trafficking.”

One of the Salvadorans mentioned in the report is Carolina Recinos, described as Bukele’s chief of cabinet and said to have “engaged in significant acts of corruption during her term in office,” Reuters reported.

Bukele’s office did not immediately respond to Breitbart News’s request for comment on the State Department report.

Recinos denied allegations of nepotism and conflict of interest last year.

The State Department document also claims that Rogelio Rivas, Bukele’s former security minister, had awarded building contracts to his construction firm and overcharged for materials.

Furthermore, the Biden Administration accused Sigfrido Reyes, a former lawmaker from the opposition leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), of misusing public funds for “fraudulent travel expenses.”

Reyes dismissed the accusations via Twitter as “unfounded.”

Biden’s State Department issued the report less than a week after the U.S. special envoy for Central America, Ricardo Zuniga, met with Bukele while visiting El Salvador.

The meeting, described as “cordial” by Zuniga, came amid a push from the Biden administration to paint Bukele as an authoritarian who is using his historic popularity to consolidate power and weaken El Salvador’s other democratic institutions.

Bukele refused to meet Zuniga when he first visited El Salvador last month after a similar snub the Central American leader allegedly received from Biden during an unannounced trip to the U.S. in February, reportedly at the behest of Democrat lawmakers.

Echoing Democrat lawmakers, the Biden administration, which has close ties to left-of-center progressives groups in the small Central American country of over 6.5 million people, has rebuked recent actions taken by Bukele and his party’s supermajority.

In particular, the Biden Administration condemned Bukele after his New Ideas party’s supermajority in the Salvadoran Legislative voted to remove all five magistrates of the Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber over accusations of corruption.

The move gave the New Idea party’s supermajority the power to choose justices and replace the attorney general on May 1.

Bukele’s historic number of supporters, including members of the Salvadoran diaspora in the United States, have expressed support for replacing the judges. Meanwhile, critics, including the Biden administration and members of Bukele’s opposition, say the move was unconstitutional.

The Biden administration’s criticism of Bukele came after the U.S. president convened a commission to explore packing the U.S. Supreme Court with judges that agree with his plans after his predecessor filled vacant seats on the land’s highest court.

The U.S.-based Salvadoran diaspora has warned Vice President Kamala Harris to stay out of El Salvador’s affairs, asserting that Bukele was democratically elected, adding that they support his decisions.

President Biden tasked Harris with finding ways to address the root causes of migration in Central America. The VP has said she plans to combat corruption, poverty, human rights, and climate change.

However, she has refused to meet Bukele.


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