Antonio Saca

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Antonio Saca
Antonio Saca.png
President of El Salvador
In office
1 June 2004 – 1 June 2009
Vice President Ana Vilma de Escobar
Preceded by Francisco Flores Pérez
Succeeded by Mauricio Funes
Personal details
Born (1965-03-09) 9 March 1965 (age 49)
Usulután, El Salvador
Political party ARENA (Before 2010)
GANA (2013–present)
Spouse(s) Ana Ligia Mixco[citation needed]
Alma mater Central American University

Elías Antonio Saca González (born 9 March 1965) is a Salvadoran politician and former President of El Salvador (from 2004 to 2009).

Early life[edit]

Born in Usulután, Saca is of Palestinian descent on his father's side, a family of 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.

Political career[edit]

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,[1] in cooperation with the ruling FMLN government.

Policies[edit]

President Saca initiated the "Solidarian Network plan" on October 2005 with international aid from European countries such as Spain.[2] 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[citation needed]. 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.[3][4] El Salvador's military commitment in Iraq ended in February 2009.[5]

Allegations of Corruption[edit]

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."[6]

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."[7]

In the midst of a political campaign, the former President was sued on October 21, 2013 for corruption and money laundering.[8]

Presidential Election 2014[edit]

Former President Saca is a candidate in the February 2, 2014 elections. Though he leans politically to the right, Saca and the deputies aligned with him have often allied with the FMLN in the National Assembly to vote against ARENA, offering Saca a degree of political influence.[9] He is running as part of a coalition of small parties called UNIDAD, including groups from both the center-left and center-right, but is not expected to win. However, if neither the FMLN's Salvador Sánchez Cerén nor ARENA's Norman Quijano wins the required 50 percent plus one majority in the first round of elections and a second-round run-off becomes necessary, Saca's endorsement will be important for both candidates.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Francisco Flores Pérez
President of El Salvador
2004 – 2009
Succeeded by
Mauricio Funes