Fourteen months after Barack Obama became president of the US, there is still not a new US ambassador in the embassy in San Salvador. Last December, Obama nominated Mari Del Carmen Aponte to the position, but her appointment is stuck in the Senate. Some conservatives are urging that her nomination be rejected, citing allegations that in the past she had connections to someone who had connections to Cuban intelligence agents.
El Salvador acted only slightly more rapidly, presenting its new ambassador to Washington on the morning before Mauricio Funes' March 8 meeting with Obama. The new ambassador is Francisco Altschul.
Perhaps the US Senate needs to read the article by Sarah Stephens on the Huffington Post titled Why should we care about El Salvador?"
To the surprise of many, El Salvador under the leadership of this center-left president and a party representing a former guerrilla army is becoming the most reliable Central American ally of Washington.
But whereas the Bush Administration could count on former Salvadoran governments to send troops to Iraq and in essence, as one analyst said, "to act as the lapdog of the State Department," President Funes is attempting to build a balanced, independent foreign policy.
During his first eight months in office the president and his foreign minister Hugo Martinez have normalized diplomatic relations with Cuba, Vietnam and Libya while simultaneously making clear that he looks to Brazilian president Lula de Silva and to Barack Obama as his models for governance, not Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez.
As the Salvadorans pursue an open, non-aligned diplomatic strategy, realities on the ground in the U.S. and in El Salvador require the presidents to forge a close, mutually beneficial relationship.