Nicaragua Grants Citizenship to Former Salvadoran President Wanted for Corruption

Published: 05 August 2021

Sánchez Cerén

Former President Salvador Sánchez Cerén (Presidency of El Salvador)

By Emily Tian

Nicaragua granted citizenship to former Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, who is wanted back home for money laundering and corruption.

Sánchez Cerén fled El Salvador with his family in December. A judge in El Salvador ordered his arrest two weeks ago. Along with nine other high-ranking former government officials, he is wanted for illegal enrichment, embezzlement and money laundering. 

Nicaragua’s official gazette announced the naturalization of Sánchez Cerén, his wife and children. 

This isn’t the first time that a former Salvadoran president has successfully sought refuge in Nicaragua. 

Ex-President Mauricio Funes, with whom Sánchez Cerén is closely associated, received asylum there in 2016 and citizenship three years later, also during the presidency of Daniel Ortega. Ortega himself is far from immune from international censure

Funes, whose administration spanned from 2009 to 2014, faces charges for corruption and embezzlement of public funds amounting to US$351 million. But he has dodged Salvadoran prosecutors by becoming naturalized in Nicaragua, whose constitution bans extradition of Nicaraguan nationals. 

Funes has continually maintained his innocence. 

Other government officials under Funes’ administration - all former ministers - are currently wanted for their alleged participation in the same corruption scheme that landed Funes in hot water, but like Sánchez Cerén, have left the country. 

Sánchez Cerén was vice president during Funes’ administration. It was during this period that he allegedly received illegal funds worth more than $500,000, according to El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office. 

Both Sánchez Cerén and Funes are members of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. 

Several of El Salvador’s recent presidents are under investigation or have been charged for corruption. 

Tony Saca, whose presidency lasted from 2004 to 2009, is currently serving a minimum ten year prison sentence, and ex-president Francisco Flores died in 2016 while awaiting trial for diverting $15 million from donations for earthquake victims to his personal and political party accounts. 

Members of current president Nayib Bukele’s own administration have also come under fire for corruption.