||This article possibly contains original research. (March 2012)|
|President of El Salvador|
1 June 2004 – 1 June 2009
|Vice President||Ana Vilma de Escobar|
|Preceded by||Francisco Flores Pérez|
|Succeeded by||Mauricio Funes|
9 March 1965 |
Usulután, El Salvador
|Political party||ARENA (until 2010)
Movimiento Unidad (2013-present)
|Spouse(s)||Ana Ligia Mixco|
Born in Usulután, Saca is patrilineal descended from Palestinian (Catholic Christian) immigrants who arrived in El Salvador in the early 20th century from the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Prior to becoming President he was a broadcast journalist, specializing in sports radio and a prominent businessman. He attended the University of Central America. He is an outspoken Evangelical Protestant and has expressed his faith through his historic friendliness with Salvadoran and American Protestant churches.
On 21 March 2004 Saca was elected President of El Salvador, and on 1 June 2004 succeeded President Francisco Flores. Both Saca and Flores are members of the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance party, generally known by its Spanish-language acronym ARENA.
During the election campaign, some commentators criticized Saca's lack of political experience. In the election, Saca defeated leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) candidate, Schafik Handal, also of Palestinian descent. The election results were:
- Antonio Saca (ARENA) 57.7%
- Schafik Handal (FMLN) 35.6%
- Héctor Silva (CDU-PDC) 3.9%
- Other 2.8%
The ARENA party expelled Saca in December 2009 for his suspected involvement in getting certain ARENA legislators to defect to a new party, the Grand Alliance for National Unity, in cooperation with the ruling FMLN government.
President Saca initiated the "Solidarian Network plan" on October 2005 with international aid from European countries such as Spain. This plan was aimed at communities considered below the poverty line. A map of poor areas was developed, and financial aid in the amount of $15 to $20 per month per family was to be distributed in the designation areas. The plan was initiated in the Balsam Range municipalities (Cordillera del Balsamo), such as Jicalapa, in La Libertad department.
With his embracing of the free-market and pro-United States policies like those pursued by Flores, Saca was the clear favorite of the United States government in the 2004 presidential election. Saca was one of the leaders in Latin America to send troops to Iraq, though he was the only one to maintain them on extended deployment. El Salvador's military commitment in Iraq ended in February 2009.
Allegations of Corruption
President Saca was the subject of widespread allegations of corruption. A secret cable from the American Embassy in San Salvador, made public by Wikileaks, cites lawmakers from Saca's own ARENA party and business figures as raising specific concerns about Saca abusing the power of the presidency for his own personal gain. Such corruption "went beyond the pale" even by Salvadoran standards. According to the cable: "While the Salvadoran public may be inured to self-serving behavior by politicians, many in ARENA believe that the brazen manner in which Saca and his people are widely perceived to have used their positions for personal enrichment went beyond the pale. ARENA deputy (and son of controversial ARENA founder) Roberto d’Aubuisson (protect) told Poloff that Saca “deliberately ignored” his Public Works Minister’s government contract kickbacks scheme, even after the case was revealed in the press. Furthermore, considerable evidence exists, including from U.S. business sources, that the Saca administration pushed laws and selectively enforced regulations with the specific intent to benefit Saca family business interests."
The U.S. Embassy cable also made mention of Saca's multimillion-dollar mansion constructed during his presidency: "Saca also accumulated conspicuous assets – including a mansion in San Salvador and large landholdings in La Union that do not square with the investments and income he had prior to assuming the presidency."
Another classified U.S. Embassy cable reported that ARENA expelled Saca, "charging that he had misspent $219 million of unaccounted-for government funds, and citing improprieties in the 2008-2009 electoral process, claiming Saca had pressured mayors to vote for specified candidates under penalty of being excluded as ARENA municipal candidates." The ARENA leadership, according to the cable, "said Saca improperly transferred government funds to bolster his own image, despite funding shortages for public health and safety. Saca defended himself in a December 13 telephone interview with center-left online newspaper El Faro . . . . He also claimed the funding transfer was authorized by law."
In the midst of a political campaign, the former President was sued on October 21st, 2013 for corruption and money laundering. 
- US Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, "Background Note: El Salvador," updated February 6, 2012.
- "Iraq Coalition Troops". February 2007. Archived from the original on 15 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
- "Two Years of Saca in El Salvador". June 19, 2006. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
- United States Embassy San Salvador, "Reorganizing ARENA: The Party's Future After Avila's Defeat," classified diplomatic cable SECRET/NOFORN, 6 October 2010, WikiLeaks ID #228629.
- United States Embassy San Salvador, "ARENA Expels Former President Saca," classified diplomatic cable CONFIDENTIAL, 15 December 2009, WikiLeaks ID #240031.
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Francisco Flores Pérez
|President of El Salvador
2004 – 2009