December 9, 2020

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said on Tuesday a senior official had stepped down to address allegations he has schemed to cover up financial wrongdoing by the government, dealing a setback to the leader of the Central American country.

The opposition accuses police chief and deputy security minister Mauricio Arriaza of failing to make Finance Minister Alejandro Zelaya comply with a lawmakers’ order to give account of the government’s spending during the coronavirus pandemic.

Opposition lawmakers had ordered prosecutors to investigate Arriaza, prompting Bukele in October to name him deputy security minister to confer on him immunity from prosecution.

Lawmakers were about to vote to strip Arriaza of immunity when he announced his resignation as deputy security minister.

He remains chief of police, but his loss of immunity increases the pressure on the government to open up about its spending and weakens the authority of a key ally of Bukele.

The opposition argues Bukele’s government has made unlawful use of public funds in the crisis, allegations that he denies.

On Twitter, Bukele celebrated the fact that Arriaza had denied the opposition-controlled national assembly the chance to take away his immunity. But his resignation is still a blow against Bukele in his ongoing disputes with lawmakers.

Arriaza would now face “common justice”, Bukele said, noting that that was “no guarantee” of a fair trial either.

Lawyers for Arriaza confirmed his resignation and rejected the accusation against him.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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