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US Funded Death Squads in El Salvador Casts Shadow Over GOP Ticket

Paul Ryan is getting foreign policy briefings from Elliot Abrams, who actively covered-up atrocities in El Salvador.

Photo Credit: AFP


Amidst reports that Mitt Romney launched Bain Capital with funds from investors tied to 1980s Salvadoran death squads, his new running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is getting foreign policy briefings from a man who actively covered-up some of the worst atrocities committed by those same death squads. The GOP's vice-presidential candidate also earned his political stripes working under neoconservative Republicans who funnelled billions in U.S. aid to those military hitmen. Though the war in El Salvador was just one chapter in history, Romney and Ryan's relationship with that war may provide a snapshot into their worldview.

Between 1979 and 1992, an estimated 75,000 people were killed in the conflict in El Salvador and countless others were "disappeared" or displaced, an astonishing number for a country the size of Massachusetts. A United Nations Truth Commission  estimated that the right-wing, military-led government was responsible for 85 percent of the violence while the left-wing insurgency fighting against vast economic and political inequality, including farmers, teachers, priests and union activists, was responsible for only 5 percent. Much of the violence was attributable to clandestine military or paramilitary death squads, which committed countless assassinations and acts of brutal violence against suspected political dissidents. 

Recent reports suggest that some of the same members of the Salvadoran oligarchy that backed the death squads gave Romney the startup funds for Bain Capital.

Romney's Early Bain Capital Funders Tied to Salvadoran Death Squads

Last week, the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim and Cole Stangler reported on how Romney went to Miami in 1983, at the height of El Salvador's civil war, to raise $9 million from Salvadoran expatriate families to start Bain Capital. This seed money amounted to 40 percent of Bain's startup funds. Although Romney claimed that he had vetted the backgrounds of the investors, some of their families had been identified by the U.S. ambassador and others as closely tied to either death squads or death squad leader and ARENA Party founder Robert d'Aubuisson (known as "Blowtorch Bob" for his use of blowtorches to torture political prisoners).

D'Aubuisson was later found responsible for ordering the assasination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, a prominent advocate for the poor and critic of the Salvadoran government (who the Vatican has now placed in the process of canonization to become a saint). In the United States, though, the Reagan administration foreign policy team would actively deny d'Aubisson's involvement in the assassination, as well as the Salvadoran government's involvement in other human rights atrocities, so as to justify a heavy flow of military aid to the country's government as part of Reagan's Cold War-era policy to suppress any chance of another Cuba emerging in Latin America. A key player in those official denials was Elliot Abrams, an Assistant Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan who still boasts that he  "supervised U.S. policy in Latin America and the Caribbean."

In recent months, Abrams has been advising Romney's Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan on foreign policy.

Abrams Key Denier of Human Rights Abuses by Salvadoran Government

Of the Romero assasination, Abrams  told the Washington Post in 1993 that "anybody who thinks you're going to find a cable that says that Roberto d'Aubuisson murdered the archbishop is a fool." But as the Post noted in that same article, the U.S. Embassy sent at least two such cables to Washington fingering d'Aubuisson -- the December 21, 1981 cable, for example, describes: "A meeting, chaired by Maj. Roberto d'Aubuisson, during which the murder of Archbishop Romero was planned. During the meeting, some of the participants drew lots for the privilege of killing the archbishop."