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.