Mitt Romney Started Bain Capital With Money From Families Tied To Death Squads
Posted: 08/08/2012 9:38 am Updated: 08/08/2012 10:20 am
In 1983, Bill Bain asked Mitt Romney to launch Bain Capital, a private equity offshoot of the successful consulting firm Bain & Company. After some initial reluctance, Romney agreed. The new job came with a stipulation: Romney couldn’t raise money from any current clients, Bain said, because if the private equity venture failed, he didn’t want it taking the consulting firm down with it.
When Romney struggled to raise funds from other traditional sources, he and his partners started thinking outside the box. Bain executive Harry Strachan suggested that Romney meet with a group of Central American oligarchs who were looking for new investment vehicles as turmoil engulfed their region.
Romney was worried that the oligarchs might be tied to “illegal drug money, right-wing death squads, or left-wing terrorism,” Strachan later told a Boston Globe reporter, as quoted in the 2012 book “The Real Romney.” But, pressed for capital, Romney pushed his concerns aside and flew to Miami in mid-1984 to meet with the Salvadorans at a local bank.
It was a lucrative trip. The Central Americans provided roughly $9 million — 40 percent — of Bain Capital‘s initial outside funding, the Los Angeles Times reported recently. And they became valued clients.
“Over the years, these Latin American friends have loyally rolled over investments in succeeding funds, actively participated in Bain Capital’s May investor meetings, and are still today one of the largest investor groups in Bain Capital,” Strachan wrote in his memoir in 2008. Strachan declined to be interviewed for this story.
When Romney launched another venture that needed funding — his first presidential campaign — he returned to Miami.
“I owe a great deal to Americans of Latin American descent,” he said at a dinner in Miami in 2007. “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 could also have thanked investors from two other wealthy and powerful Central American clans — the de Sola and Salaverria families, who the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe have reported were founding investors in Bain Capital.
While they were on the lookout for investments in the United States, members of some of these prominent families — including the Salaverria, Poma, de Sola and Dueñas clans — were also at the time financing, either directly or through political parties, death squads in El Salvador. The ruling classes were deploying the death squads to beat back left-wing guerrillas and reformers during El Salvador’s civil war.
The death squads committed atrocities on such a mass scale for so small a country that their killing spree sparked international condemnation. From 1979 to 1992, some 75,000 people were killed in the Salvadoran civil war, according to the United Nations. In 1982, two years before Romney began raising money from the oligarchs, El Salvador’s independent Human Rights Commission reported that, of the 35,000 civilians killed, “most” died at the hands of death squads. A United Nations truth commission concluded in 1993 that 85 percent of the acts of violence were perpetrated by the right, while the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, which was supported by the Cuban government, was responsible for 5 percent.
When The Huffington Post asked the Romney campaign about Bain Capital accepting funds from families tied to death squads, a spokeswoman forwarded a 1999 Salt Lake Tribune article to explain the campaign’s position on the matter. She declined to comment further.
“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.”
Nobody with a basic understanding of the region’s history could believe that assertion.
By 1984, the media had thoroughly exposed connections between the death squads and the Salvadoran oligarchy, including the families that invested with Romney. The sitting U.S. ambassador to El Salvador charged that several families, including at least one that invested with Bain, were living in Miami and directly funding death squads. Even by 1981, El Salvador’s elite, largely relocated to Miami, were so angered by the public perception that they were financing death squads that they reached out to the media to make their case. The two men put forward to represent the oligarchs were both from families that would invest in Bain three years later. The most cursory review of their backgrounds would have turned up the ties.
The connection between the families involved with Bain’s founding and those who financed death squads was made by the Boston Globe in 1994 and the Salt Lake Tribune in 1999. This election cycle, Salon first raised the issue in January, and the Los Angeles Times filled out more of the record earlier this month.
There is no shortage of unsavory links. Even the Tribune article referred to by the Romney campaign reports that “about $6.5 million of $37 million that established the company came from wealthy El Salvadoran families linked to right-wing death squads.”
The Salaverria family, whose fortune came from producing cotton and coffee, had deep connections to the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), a political party that death-squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson founded in the fall of 1981. The year before, El Salvador’s government had pushed through land reforms and nationalized the coffee trade, moves that threatened a ruling class whose financial and political dominance was built in large part on growing coffee. ARENA controlled and directed death squads during its early years.
On March 24, 1980, Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador and an advocate of the poor, was celebrating Mass at a chapel in a small hospital when he was assassinated on D’Aubuisson’s orders, according to a person involved in the murder who later came forward.
The day before, Romero, an immensely popular figure, had called on the country’s soldiers to refuse the government’s orders to attack fellow Salvadorans.
“Before another killing order is given,” he advised in his sermon, “the law of God must prevail: Thou shalt not kill.”
In 1984, Robert White, the former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, named two Salaverria brothers — Julio and Juan Ricardo — as two of six Salvadoran exiles in Miami who had directly funded death squads, repeating in sworn congressional testimony a claim he’d made earlier as ambassador. The group became known as the “Miami Six.” White testified that a source close to the Miami Six had notified the U.S. embassy of their activities in January 1981.
Even as Mitt and Ann Romney were going for a gold medal with their dressage horse, Rafalca, in the London Summer Olympics, Mitt already – in my opinion – had a gold medal wrapped up. Maybe not for horse dancing, but for mental gymnastics, and by that I mean lying. And not just for lying about his Bain Capital tenure, or being deliberately deceitful about Obama. I think a serious fundamental defect in Mitt has been on display for a long time: here.