There is little doubt about the enormous influence which the United States has in El Salvador. Presidents of El Salvador have been regular visitors to the White House. The US is the largest exporter to El Salvador and is El Salvador's largest market. US-based franchises such as Pizza Hut, Sherwin Williams, Coca-Cola and Tony Roma appear in commercial districts. Television shows and movies made in the US dubbed into Spanish are on the airwaves and in the stalls of pirated DVD vendors. Salvadorans in the US, both documented and undocumented, send home more than $2 billion, representing one sixth of the Salvadoran economy. Salvadoran troops fight in the US war in Iraq.
As a consequence, the activities of the US Embassy in El Salvador and its new Ambassador, Charles Glazer have tremendous significance in the country, both real and symbolic. And somewhat to my surprise, I've come to learn that some of the staff at the embassy are among the readers of this blog. So they told me when I met with embassy officials on my recent visit to El Salvador.
Ambassador Glazer joined that meeting part way through. In our conversation, the ambassador expressed the view that his role is to promote economic progress and democracy as part of US foreign policy. In that role his top focus is currently the problem of crime in the country. The Ambassador then asked me for my advice on what he should be doing. I replied that the US must be seen as part of the solution to the major problems of crime and corruption in the country.
Some information about the US Embassy and its activities in El Salvador is available on its website. The section of the website devoted to USAID in El Salvador is new and improved. The US State Department reports relating to drug trafficking, human rights, religious freedom and human trafficking can be found on the front page of the Embassy website.
Today the website highlights the visit to El Salvador US Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt. Secretary Leavitt was in El Salvador to promote components of President Bush's new Latin America initiatives:
The Secretary’s overarching strategy for the health diplomacy component of the President’s initiative in the Americas centers on three key objectives:
- Direct patient care provided in the region by U.S. Government personnel -- Beginning this summer, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps dentists from HHS will join U.S. Southern Command military medical and humanitarian missions to provide preventive dental care to needy citizens of these countries. The U.S.N.S Comfort -- a Navy medical ship – will make port calls in 12 countries, and its doctors, nurses, and health care professionals, including from the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, expect to treat 85,000 patients -- and conduct up to 1,500 surgeries. These missions will be mutually beneficial, as they will serve as an opportunity for U.S. government personnel to hone their skills in providing culturally competent care domestically and abroad.
- Establishment of a Regional Training Center in Panama to train health care workers – Starting next month, the school will train a broad variety of local health-care workers -- community health workers, sub-physicians, sub-nurses, technicians -- so they can provide basic care. The training will also help them prepare for situations that could require specific skills related to infectious disease, such as pandemic influenza.
- Harnessing the energies of U.S. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that work in the region to coordinate health assistance -- By better coordinating on-the-ground delivery of health care with U.S. NGOs that are operating in the region, we can do a better job of making the most of the resources we have to devote to this mission.