The Miami Herald ran a lengthy story this weekend about the Salvadoran troops in Iraq. El Salvador has been sending troops on 6 months rotations to the war-torn country since 2003 as a part of the US coalition. Here is an excerpt from the article:
''We maintain a contingent of soldiers in Iraq . . . as support against terrorism, believing that this will help improve the world, and besides, believing that when you begin a job, you must finish it,'' said Saca, a member of the right-of-center ARENA party.
Thomas Shannon, Washington's top Latin America diplomat, said the U.S. government is grateful for the Salvadoran deployments.''It's an important show of political support in the Americas . . . especially from a country with whom we've had a long-term partnership,'' he told The Miami Herald. ``The Salvadorans are doing important work in Iraq in terms of reconstruction and in some basic security.''
The Salvadoran soldiers receive extra pay during the six-month rotations, and more than 3,000 have been deployed in nine groups since 2003. But it has not been an easy campaign.
At least five Salvadoran soldiers have been killed, and some polls show that as much as 70 percent of the population disapproves of the troops' presence in Iraq and wants them out.
Some analysts suggest that the overriding reason for the opposition to the involvement in Iraq is that El Salvador is still recovering from its own conflict.
''The marks of the war are still fresh. . . . The legacies remain alive,'' said Napoleón Campos, a political analyst and international relations professor. ``We are talking about a legacy of violence and polarization, a war-torn society that has not yet been fully structured as a democracy.''
''We aren't prepared to go to peacemaking operations, especially as difficult as Iraq,'' Campos added. ``That is a country with which we have no cultural or political ties.''...
But defenders of the deployments say the fight in Iraq is much like the fight that the Salvadoran armed forces waged against the guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front in the 1980s.
The online version of the article also features an 11 minute video showing US troops in El Salvador training the next contingent of Salvadoran soldiers before they head to Iraq. In addition the Miami Herald also ran a first person testimony from one of the Salvadoran soldiers.
For a one hour documentary on the Salvadoran troops in Iraq, check out Guerra Ajena (Foreign War), which aired on Discovery Channel Spanish edition and is posted on YouTube.