The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI)

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is a global network of investigative journalists specialising in crime and corruption. It publishes its reports in English and Russian and its website is at:  On 31st October the OCCRP released a report on The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). The full report can be found at: , but a summary of the key points and the report’s introduction are given here for The Violence of Development website. OCCRP credits are given as follows.


Credit: James O’Brien/OCCRP

by Eli Moskowitz (OCCRP), Jonny Wrate (OCCRP), Madeline Fixler (Columbia Journalism Investigations), Bill Barreto (No Ficción), Ernesto Rivera (Lado B), Daniel Valencia (Redacción Regional), Andrew Little (Columbia Journalism Investigations), and Mariana Castro (Columbia Journalism Investigations). Data by Romina Colman (OCCRP). Research by Angus Peacock (OCCRP)

31 October 2023


The Central American Bank for Economic Integration was created (in 2006) to give the region more control over its own development, but a new investigation by OCCRP and partners raises questions about the bank’s lending practices.

Key Findings

  • CABEI has funded major infrastructure projects that have later been engulfed in scandal, where its loans were used to pay bribes, or seen as an easy source of cash by alleged conspirators.
  • Internal audits obtained by reporters show the bank has ignored red flags when investing in projects, including lending money for hydroelectric dams even after violent crackdowns on protesters.
  • In recent years the bank has begun giving out policy-based loans, a few-strings-attached type of financing that critics say is easily misused.
  • In El Salvador, reporters found $200 million of one CABEI loan designed to support small businesses through the pandemic was diverted to fund the country’s ill-fated plan to make Bitcoin a national currency.
  • CABEI has faced criticism for lending billions of dollars to Central America’s authoritarian governments, providing an important source of funding for the region’s authoritarian leaders as they committed widespread human rights abuses.
  • Late in 2021, nine of CABEI’s directors wrote a letter warning of the bank’s worsening financial situation and raising transparency concerns. Financial statements show these indicators have declined since then.

In mid-November, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) will appoint a new executive president for the next five years. Whoever takes the helm of the region’s main investment bank does so at a key moment in its history.

While only a small player compared to global institutions like the World Bank, CABEI plays a vital role in channeling billions of dollars into its five founding states: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. The bank says it accounts for close to half the development finance in Central America, one of the poorest parts of the Western hemisphere.

CABEI played a critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the bank gave over a billion dollars in loans and grants to keep its founders afloat. With all of these states’ sovereign bonds rated as “junk,” CABEI has become a lifeline to international financial markets — and a key source of funding for the region’s authoritarian leaders.

“It doesn’t matter what the politics are as long as poor people are getting services,” the bank’s outgoing president, Dante Mossi, said at an event in Washington, D.C., this year, as he faced criticism for providing funding to Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega.

“The bank is not a political model,” Mossi told the assembled crowd.

Others disagree.

CABEI has been criticized for giving billions of dollars to Central America’s authoritarian regimes — led by Ortega, President Nayib Bukele in El Salvador, and the former president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández. Now an investigation by OCCRP and partners can show the bank has funded projects that led to environmental destruction, and others where loans were diverted for corrupt practices or used to fund the pet projects of dictators.

Reporters spent more than a year investigating CABEI, combining open-source data with official investigations, leaked documents, and interviews with current and former bank employees. To get a clearer picture of the bank’s track record, reporters also compiled a database of more than 500 approved operations from the past quarter century. Together, they show how CABEI’s failures have enabled waste and corruption in one of the most unequal regions on Earth.