Fascist-ruled Honduras and Guatemala—the latter the home of 7-year old asylum-seeker Jakelin Caal, who died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents—will soon be joined by El Salvador as a major refugee-producing Central American nation.
If opinion polling is correct, Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, is favored to win El Salvador’s February 3, 2019, presidential election. Bukele, who is 37, is the candidate of the right-wing Great Alliance for National Unity party (GANA). Current polls have Nukele topping his two mainstream party opponents by 24 percentage points. Running at a distant second place is Carlos Calleja of the slightly more moderate right-wing party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). Running third is left-wing candidate Hugo Martinez of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which currently holds the presidency under Sanchez Ceren. ARENA holds a plurality of seats in the legislature.
Nukele was forced out of the FMLN in 2017 for dividing the party and insulting a female member of the party by throwing an apple at her. Nukele’s late father, Dr. Armando Bukele Kattán, was a leader of El Salvador’s Muslim community. After being ejected from the FMLN, Nayib Bukele joined GANA, a party founded in 2010 by former President Tony Saca. Saca, who was a member of ARENA, is currently standing trial for embezzling hundreds of millions of state funds into his private bank accounts.
ARENA politicians, especially those who have held office in the capital of San Salvador, have been linked to the violent MS-13 street gang. One of the main reasons why many Salvadorans seek asylum in the United States, individually or as members of the Donald Trump-demonized “caravans,” is to escape the violence of MS-13 in El Salvador.
Nukele bills himself as a “progressive” because he supports some issues like gay marriage. However, Nukele was tossed out of the FMLN because of his violations of women’s rights. Nukele’s party, GANA, and ARENA cooperate in passing bills in the legislature, but these measures serve only the interests of the oligarchs, who have done everything possible to stall the initiatives of the two successive left-wing FMLN presidents, Mauricio Funes and Ceren.
Not only does ARENA’s and GANA’s ties to MS-13 risk sending thousands of more refugees to the north and the United States, but the fact that some members of GANA have links to one-time confidantes of ARENA’s late founder, Roberto D’Aubuisson, has sent chills through the poor campesino and mestizo communities of El Salvador. It was D’Aubuisson who led the paramilitary “esquadron de muerte” (death squads) responsible for murdering thousands of peasants during El Salvador’s brutal civil war of the 1970s and 80s. D’Aubuisson, a graduate of the U.S. School of the Americas, became a favorite of U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC). In 1981, D’Aubuisson, who was nicknamed “Blowtorch Bob” due to his preference for using blowtorches during interrogation sessions, spoke of the need “to kill 200,000 to 300,000 people to restore peace to El Salvador.” D’Aubuisson was believed to have been involved in the 1980 assassination of Saint Óscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador. The U.S. ambassador in neighboring Honduras, John Negroponte, was directed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to assist death squads in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Today, D’Aubuisson’s son, Roberto José d’Aubuisson Munguía, serves as a member of the Legislative Assembly and as mayor of Santa Tecla, which has been dubbed “New San Salvador.” If Nukele is elected president, and all polls indicate that he will, his governance will be based on support of politicians with links to MS-13 and D’Aubuisson’s old death squads. Donald Trump, propped up by false propaganda from his anti-immigrant adviser, Stephen Miller, will demonize the wave of new asylum-seekers as “criminals” and “MS-13 gang members. Yet, these unfortunate victims will be escaping from the criminals in the ARENA and GANA coalition, led by Nukele.
Israel’s backing for right-wing autocracies in Central America has been a factor in sustaining governments that produce political refugees seeking asylum in the United States. Roberto José d’Aubuisson Munguía, the son of “Blowtorch Bob” D’Aubuisson, received a scholarship to study in Israel from 1989-1990. Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has recently wrapped up a visit to Guatemala, where she helped lay a cornerstone for a village named “Jerusalem.”
Guatemala, ruled by right-wing racist President Jimmy Morales, a former comedian whose act included appearing in blackface, followed the United States last year in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the Guatemalan embassy there from Tel Aviv.
The Nicaraguan government of President Daniel Ortega is, once again, beset by right-wing insurgents, the “neo-contras,” who are seeking to oust his leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) government from power. During the Sandinista-contra war of the 1980s, Israelis supported the contras with clandestine weapons shipments, including AK-47 assault rifles that were captured from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon. The Sandinistas, therefore and understandably, have no great love for Israel.
The Somoza dictatorship, which the Sandinistas overthrew in 1979, had supported the Jewish guerrilla group, the Haganah, with Nicaraguan passports to clandestinely purchase arms in Europe prior to the independence of the Israeli state in 1948. The Israelis returned the favor to the Somoza dictatorship by supplying it with tanks, aircraft, armored vehicles, automatic weapons, and ammunition, which was later used on the Sandinista rebels.
Today, Israel is believed to be funneling weapons to a newly-inaugurated contra paramilitary force based in Honduras. Observers in Central America have noted the increased presence of Israeli “retired” and “former” special operations personnel in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Israelis find able and willing agents-of-influence among Central America’s increasingly-influential Christian charismatic leaders and Pentecostalists (evangélicos). Guatemala’s Morales, bills himself not as a comedian, but as an “evangelical entertainer.” Morales does have a Baptist seminary degree. Morales is also active in the Latino Coalition for Israel, which will soon gain another important Pentecostalist far-right ally in Brazil’s incoming president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Protestant fundamentalists are eclipsing the traditional power of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, with Protestants in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua now numbering 40 percent of the population. Many of the Protestants are recent converts from Catholicism and are members of Charismatic and Pentecostal denominations based in the United States. In every country where leftist governments are plagued by right-wing insurgencies—Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba—the right-wing forces are backed by the Israelis and U.S. fundamentalist groups. These U.S. groups, such as those led by pastors John Hagee, Robert Jeffress, Paula White, and Jerry Falwell, Jr., are in lockstep with the Trump administration and Israel. These groups and individuals, all favoring Trump’s southern border “wall,” are largely responsible for supporting Central American autocracies, propped up by Protestant fundamentalists, that are driving refugees to the U.S. southern border. The question that should asked of the asylum-seekers is: “Are you a Catholic?” The answers may be surprising.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).