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Roberto d'Aubisson, right-wing leader of El Salvador and founder of ARENA political party.
Roberto d'Aubuisson
When Mitt Romney decided to take up the offer to launch Bain Capital in 1983, he initially found financing difficult to come by. And so, after some initial misgivings were conveniently overcome, he flew to Miami to meet with some Salvadorans. And he returned with pledges of $9 million, 40 percent of Bain's start-up capital. Thus did the Bain buccaneer lay the foundation for his fortune.

The families of some of those investors had ties to the death squads that plagued El Salvador at that time. Ryan Grim and Cole Stangler at the Huffington Post are the latest reporters to take on the story of those investors, following on the heels of reporting by Joseph Tanfani, Melanie Mason and Matea Gold at the Los Angeles Times in mid-July, by Justin Elliott at Salon in January and by Mitchell Zuckoff and Ben Bradlee Jr. at the Boston Globe in August 1994.

When Romney first sought the presidency in 2007, he was back in Miami, and he took note of those early investors:

"I owe a great deal to Americans of Latin American descent. 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 didn't mention a few other founding Salvadoran investors, including members of the de Sola and Salaverria families. Some had had their plantations there confiscated by the government. All were in self-imposed exile in Miami.

Just rich oligarchs investing in what they hoped would be a good deal? Not exactly. Members of the Poma, Dueñas, de Sola and Salaverria families had ties to the Salvadoran death squads that murdered thousands during the civil war of the 1980s.

Watch-dog groups attribute the vast majority of human rights abuses and violent incidents in that era to the death squads—85 percent of them according to the congressionally mandated Truth Commission of the United States Institute of Peace. The most prominent death-squad leader was Roberto d'Aubuisson, who an insider later said had ordered the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. An outspoken advocate for the poor, the archbishop was gunned down while saying mass in 1980. D'Aubuisson was the founder of ARENA, an ultra-right party tied to the death squads by numerous investigators, including the CIA.

Justin Elliott reported:

There is no evidence that any of Bain Capital’s original investors were involved in these sorts of activities. But the identities of some of the investors remain secret, and there are family names that raise questions.

Four members of the de Sola family were among the original Bain investors, or “limited partners” in the company, the Globe reported. Their relative and “one-time business partner,” Orlando de Sola, was an important figure in El Salvador. A well-known right-wing coffee grower with an (in his words) “authoritarian” vision for the country, de Sola spent time living in Miami but was also a founding member of the right-wing Arena party, lead by a U.S.-trained former intelligence officer named Roberto d’Aubuisson.

As was the case with Guatemala's murderous leadership at the time, the Reagan administration had strong ties to the right wing in El Salvador and sent billions of dollars to aid the regime. D'Aubisson would endorse Reagan in 1984.

Much of the territory covered in Grim and Stangler's article has been previously reported all the way back to the Globe's exposé in 1994. No surprise then that the Romney campaign would only respond to the two reporters' inquiries by referring them to a 13-year-old Salt Lake Tribune article:

"Romney confirms Bain had investors in El Salvador. But, as was Bain's policy with any big investor, they had the families checked out as diligently as possible," the Tribune wrote. "They uncovered no unsavory links to drugs or other criminal activity."
As Grim and Stangler write: "Nobody with a basic understanding of the region's history could believe that assertion."

They point out:

• In 1984, Robert White, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, named two Salaverria brothers—Julio and Juan Ricardo—as having directly funded death squads.

•  Francisco de Sola and his cousin, Herbert Arturo de Sola, also invested early in Bain. Two other members of family were "limited partners." Team Romney refused to tell the reporters who those two were. They financially backed D'Aubisson's ARENA party.

• Orlando de Sola had never-proved ties to death squads. He denies ties. But even the Romney campaign admits he did.

• Ricardo Poma became one of the three members of the Bain Capital investment committee. The Poma family helped finance ARENA.

• The Regalado-Dueñas family and the Alvarez families were leading supporters of ARENA. "Arturo Dueñas 'regularly supplied' the head of an ARENA-affiliated 'paramilitary unit ... with a variety of official Salvadoran documents," according to the CIA. "Paramilitary unit" being a euphemism for death squad.  

Among the Salvadoran oligarchs-in-exile in the 1980s, there was no hesitance in speaking openly about their support of death squads. They saw them as necessary to squash communists and socialists engaged in rebellion against the regime. They may not have said so when they spoke to Mitt Romney about investing in Bain in 1984. But he surely must have known by the time he praised them in 2007.

•••

rem13 has a post on this subject here.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 01:09 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Bain Files and Daily Kos.

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