Blood Money and the Beginning of Bain: Elite Salvadoran Investors Tied to...

Blood Money and the Beginning of Bain: Elite Salvadoran Investors Tied to Romney


Today’s Huffington Post published a lengthy piece detailing Mitt Romney’s dealings with wealthy Salvadoran investors who reportedly were among the initial investors in Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Romney started.

Ryan Grim and Cole Stangler write:

“Romney could also have thanked investors from two other wealthy and powerful Central American clans — the de Sola and Salaverria families, who the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe have reported were founding investors in Bain Capital.

While they were on the lookout for investments in the United States, members of some of these prominent families — including the Salaverria, Poma, de Sola and Dueñas clans — were also at the time financing, either directly or through political parties, death squads in El Salvador. The ruling classes were deploying the death squads to beat back left-wing guerrillas and reformers during El Salvador’s civil war.

The death squads committed atrocities on such a mass scale for so small a country that their killing spree sparked international condemnation. From 1979 to 1992, some 75,000 people were killed in the Salvadoran civil war, according to the United Nations. In 1982, two years before Romney began raising money from the oligarchs, El Salvador’s independent Human Rights Commission reported that, of the 35,000 civilians killed, “most” died at the hands of death squads. A United Nations truth commission concluded in 1993 that 85 percent of the acts of violence were perpetrated by the right, while the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, which was supported by the Cuban government, was responsible for 5 percent.

When The Huffington Post asked the Romney campaign about Bain Capital accepting funds from families tied to death squads, a spokeswoman forwarded a 1999 Salt Lake Tribune article to explain the campaign’s position on the matter. She declined to comment further.

“Romney confirms Bain had investors in El Salvador. But, as was Bain’s policy with any big investor, they had the families checked out as diligently as possible,” the Tribune wrote. “They uncovered no unsavory links to drugs or other criminal activity.”

Nobody with a basic understanding of the region’s history could believe that assertion.

By 1984, the media had thoroughly exposed connections between the death squads and the Salvadoran oligarchy, including the families that invested with Romney. The sitting U.S. ambassador to El Salvador charged that several families, including at least one that invested with Bain, were living in Miami and directly funding death squads. Even by 1981, El Salvador’s elite, largely relocated to Miami, were so angered by the public perception that they were financing death squads that they reached out to the media to make their case. The two men put forward to represent the oligarchs were both from families that would invest in Bain three years later. The most cursory review of their backgrounds would have turned up the ties.”

Stories like this that connect the dots between Romney’s most successful business venture and some of the most ruthless families in the Central American oligarchy will probably not help to build goodwill with Latino voters, especially those immigrants who left the region in the late 70s and 80s because of the bloody strife. Salvadoran migration to the United States increased in the aftermath of the political killings in that country. While Salvadorans make up the fourth largest group within the Latino population in the US, more than three-fifths of them are foreign born, so their recent arrival is closely tied to what happened in their homeland within the past thirty years.

Rep. Raul Grijalva was quick to seize upon Romney’s ties to the Salvadoran elite when the Los Angeles Times story broke last month with this statement, “What we do know is troubling enough. In the mid-1980s, in the very depths of a Salvadoran civil war instigated by an indefensible military regime that killed thousands of civilians, Mitt Romney took money from the Poma family – one of the richest and most influential in the country – to make his fortune because more established financiers turned him down. As the Times reported, ‘At the time, U.S. officials were publicly accusing some exiles in Miami of funding right-wing death squads in El Salvador. [. . .] Romney has said he checked the foreign investors’ backgrounds. His campaign and Bain Capital declined to provide specifics.'”

Finally, Romney campaign’s refusal to comment further on the newly detailed connections will cast another shadow over the presumptive nominee’s financial affairs.


  1. Mitt Romney's "Moral Compass" allows him to do anything for his own personal advancement. Don't think for a minute he and his backers have the Countries best interest in the forefront of their agenda. He and the other GOP Radicals have forced me to change my Political Party Affiliation. I am disgusted with them and their corrupt money backers. All they want to do is put the United States back in the Bush Era Ditch and push it down in ever further faster so that they can squeeze the last drops of blood from a slowly recovering economy.

    In addition to his bad associates listed above all former Abrahoff Associates some of which were actually convicted. You remember the guys, who cheated Indian Tribes, Covered up the Running of Sweat Shops in Saipan (An American Territory at the time), and Knew of Workers in Saipan being unpaid, raped and forced to have abortions. These Romney Associates have no respect for women or workers… It is doubtful or at least hard to believe that Romney has respect for the rights of women if he associates with these Convicted Criminals. (I wonder if these people are registered to vote?)

  2. I have no interest in Romney what so ever but i can truly say something in regards to this news. I am an American raised in El Salvador where my whole family is from.The war in El Salvador was horrific and it had many casualties that to this day we remember. The country as a whole suffered and it would take me a lot of time to explain my country's history ,politics and culture. This story is just a media tactic used in favor of an specific political party. The word "Oligarchy" is not even used in El Salvador since the 1930's with 'La oligarquia cafetalera'. This story needs to be fact checked and i believe that whoever wrote this has never experience living in El Salvador , lacks social background knowledge , or even comprehends Spanish to truly write about my countries history. Everyone who was against communism and favored democracy disliked 'la guerilla'. I am so sorry but my countries politics are completely different from the Unites States of America. We where conquered by different people and our beliefs are completely different. One thing i can truly say in regards to this media tactic , their should be more respect toward other countries and families which names have been added. How dare you speak about my country without knowing the true historic events. I say stick with the chik fil a news, gay rights, Romney not filing his taxes etc. I know how American loves feeding on mediocre news with eye catching titles and visual design demonstrating contrast in colors and shades. The problem is when somebody like me goes across this "news" and realizes how ignorant the author of this post is. Next time fact check , visit El Salvador and take some Salvadorean history classes you definitely need them.

    • Hello Andrea, as a volunteer with a treatment center for survivors of torture I can say I have met many individuals including some I count as friends who were tortured for teaching peasants how to count so that they could no longer be cheated in their wages- the response was a Civil Guard targeting them for torture. They disembowled prisoners in torture chambers and beat pregnant women into miscarriage, massacred whole villages. It's also not historically inaccurate to state that El Salvador does have an oligarchy. The U.S. does as well- it's not unique to El Salvador, but our oligarchy didn't fund death squads (at least, not in the U.S.). This is also a matter of judicial record, I'd recommend you read the facts of Romagoza v. Garcia where a $46 million judgment was awarded for Salvadorean victims of torture against the former Salvadorean defense minister, coincidentally living in Florida at the time. Have you forgotten those who murdered Oscar Romero for speaking out on behalf of the poor? I think you need the history lesson before the memory of those who were ruthlessly murdered is dishonored by denial.

      • With respect to the Romagoza case, the lead plaintiff, Dr. Juan Romagoza, was working in an impromptu health clinic in a church when a detachment of the army and security forces arrived in military vehicles. Because Dr. Romazoga had medical equipment and what appeared to be military boots, he was captured and taken to a local army base. Dr. Romagoza was then transferred by helicopter to the National Guard headquarters in San Salvador where he was brutally tortured for three weeks. As part of his torture, he was hung by his fingertips with wire and shot through his left arm to signify that he was a “leftist,” which destroyed his hands and has made it impossible for him to continue to practice surgery. He was also beaten, raped, starved, electro-shocked, and kept in hideous conditions. Professor Carlos Mauricio was teaching agronomy at the University of El Salvador when he was lured out of his classroom and taken to the National Police headquarters in San Salvador. Professor Mauricio was detained in a secret cell and tortured for approximately nine days, which included being beaten repeatedly with fists, feet, and metal bars; being hung for hours with his arms behind his back; and being forced to witness the torture of others. As a result of these beatings, two of his ribs were broken, and his vision was permanently damaged in one eye. Neris González was a catechist who taught literacy and simple mathematics to campesinos in the province of San Vicente. She was captured one day in the market by members of the National Guard and taken to a local garrison. There, she was tortured for three weeks, raped repeatedly, and was forced to watch others be tortured, mutilated, and killed. At the time, she was eight months pregnant. The guardsmen wounded her belly repeatedly, at one point balancing a bed frame on her and riding the frame like a seesaw. Because of the trauma she suffered, Ms. González has no firm memory of how she escaped captivity. She has been able to piece together that she was taken in the back of a truck full of dead bodies to a local dump. At some point, her baby was born, and local villagers heard the sound of her baby crying and rescued her. Her baby died two months later of injuries he had received in utero. Theirs are just examples of the thousands who were subjected to similar torture, rape, kidnapping and murder at the behest of the ruling families of El Salvador. The leftist revolutionary movement was a response to this repression which predated the civil war, not the other way around. I'm very happy that El Salvador has moved on from this dark period in its history and ashamed of the U.S.'s complicity in these crimes.