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Corruption Case Shakes El Salvador

San Salvador -  The arrest of a former health minister on corruption charges is shaking the country.

Guillermo Maza, health minister in the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA)-led administration from 2004 to 2009, and eight others were accused of defrauding the state of more than three million USD in the reconstruction of a hospital damaged by the 2001 earthquakes.

The Attorney General's Office accused the detainees of aggravated fraud, use and possession of false documents, illegal negotiations, arbitrary actions for fraud, and other crimes.

The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) welcomed the investigations that exposed a web of corruption in the ARENA government, which ruled from 1989 to 2009.

The government reiterates its firm support for the fight against the theft of public finances at the expense of the human rights of the population.

The FMLN said these events confirm the consistent claims made by the party to the prosecution, to the Government Ethics Tribunal and to the Court of Auditors against the former ARENA officials.

Maza, who was arrested last Tuesday, is accused of authorizing out-of-contract payments for extra costs submitted by the contractor hired to rebuild the Santa Teresa Hospital in Zacatecoluca, in the central department of La Paz.

He also authorized payments for medical equipment that was never delivered and the whereabouts of which is unknown.

Within the investigation, prosecutor Adela Saravia talked about the acquisition by the Health Ministry of Health of a loan for 142 million USD to rebuild seven hospitals damaged by earthquakes in 2001.

In May 2010, following the change of government, that ministry filed a complaint for misappropriation of equipment for the hospital Zacatecoluca.

Saravia said the total amount of the fraud to the state amounts to 3,242,563 USD.



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