Romney, Bain, Oligarchs And Death Squads

Back in July, I wrote a post about Romney and Bain, and how he will never tell the truth. In that post, I mentioned his connection to Latin American oligarchs and how they funded a substantial chunk of his initial Bain ventures.

Now the Huffington Post has picked up that thread and run with it. What they've uncovered is ugly and violent. It layers on another layer of taint to Bain Capital's founding, Romney's offshore accounts, and his equally unsavory offshore associations.

In The Real Romney, the author mentions Romney's trip to Latin America to raise money for the initial Bain Capital funding rounds. Romney and his partners had been encountering difficulties raising funds for that initial round and had agreed not to approach existing Bain investors. So Romney reached out to his Latin American friends for help. The family mentioned in the book is the Poma family, but the Huffington Post article has much more.

"I owe a great deal to Americans of Latin American descent," he said at a dinner in Miami in 2007. "When I was starting my business, I came to Miami to find partners that would believe in me and that would finance my enterprise. My partners were Ricardo Poma, Miguel Dueñas, Pancho Soler, Frank Kardonski, and Diego Ribadeneira."

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.

Great pains were taken to make sure The Real Romney readers understood that Romney and Bain vetted these investors to make sure they were not becoming an investment vehicle for illegal drug money or other ventures which might not look so great.

Romney was intrigued but worried. Already thinking of a career in politics, he wanted to be sure that the funds would not later be regarded as tainted. El Salvador, for example, was a scene of regular massacres and assassinations of political figures. Strachan said Romney "expressed to me that I had to put my hand in the fire for him, that none of the people we were introducing to him were involved in illegal drug money, right-wing death squads, or left-wing terrorism."

For those of us old enough to recall the Reagan administration's interference in Central American politics, particularly in Nicaragua and El Salvador, this disclaimer sounds like someone telling another to run interference for the truth, because how did Romney actually think these families became oligarchs? By the goodness of their pitter-pattering little hearts? Nevertheless, the erstwhile Mr. Strachan did in fact claim to vet the families and returned a clean bill of monetary health.

With that assurance, Romney agreed to meet with the Central American investors at a Miami bank, where he approved the investment. Years later, when he was asked about reports that some of the family members of investors might have had ties to paramilitary groups, he said he was satisified that the individuals who had put money into Bain Capital had gotten the funds from legitimate sources. "We investigated the individuals' integrity and looked for any obvious signs of illegal activity...and found none," Romney said. For Bain, the Central American money was crucial, providing $6.5 million of $37 million in the fund. [Emphasis mine]

Once again, Mitt Romney parses the landscape by splitting hairs. Think back to all of those arguments the right wing has made about Planned Parenthood and their "fungible money." Only in this case, Romney really had to split hairs. If $6.5 million was invested in the fund (and it was actually more like $9 million, according to a 2007 LA Times article) from these families, then either they carved out some portion of their fortune earned legitimately and earmarked it, or else those funds are fungible, right?

From the HuffPost article:

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.

I'm sure there are lots of ways to explain all of this away, to say that not all of these families had tainted money, that they didn't directly fund death squads, that they lost family members to political assassinations, etc, etc, etc. and Etch-a-Sketch their past away. But that doesn't change one fundamental fact: Romney resides on the side of the oligarchs. He was comfortable with them, and they are comfortable with him. In fact, Romney did so well by them that they just continued to roll their money over into the next hot Bain investment. These are his friends, by his own admission.

That video at the top of Oscar Romero's last words before his assassination is a stark reminder of what side Romney's friends are on:

On March 24, 1980, Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador and an advocate of the poor, was celebrating Mass at a chapel in a small hospital when he was assassinated on D'Aubuisson's orders, according to a person involved in the murder who later came forward.

The day before, Romero, an immensely popular figure, had called on the country's soldiers to refuse the government's orders to attack fellow Salvadorans.

"Before another killing order is given," he advised in his sermon, "the law of God must prevail: Thou shalt not kill."

In 1984, Robert White, the former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, named two Salaverria brothers -- Julio and Juan Ricardo -- as two of six Salvadoran exiles in Miami who had directly funded death squads, repeating in sworn congressional testimony a claim he'd made earlier as ambassador. The group became known as the "Miami Six." White testified that a source close to the Miami Six had notified the U.S. embassy of their activities in January 1981.

White was pushed out of his job by the incoming Reagan administration in 1981; he was considered insufficiently supportive of the Salvadoran ruling class. (D'Aubuisson endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1984.) When contacted by phone recently, White reiterated his claim about the Salaverria brothers, but said he couldn't reveal his source's identity in order to protect the source.

"The Salaverria family were very well-known as backers of D'Aubuisson," White told The Huffington Post. "These guys were big-money contributors. ... They were total backers of D'Aubuisson and the extremist solution, including death squads."

These are people connected to those Mitt Romney refers to as his "Latin American friends." Read the whole article, because it's quite detailed and should cause everyone to step back and think about what those associations might mean if he were elected President. To me, it's like being sent right back to the Reagan years again, propping up oligarchs in Latin America while the people are crushed under their feet.



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