Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Obama's upcoming visit to El Salvador

There's nothing like a US presidential visit to spur news stories in the English language press about El Salvador. President Obama will visit El Salvador on March 22-23, and White House confirmed those plans Tuesday despite ongoing foreign and domestic crises. A number of publications have recently explored US-El Salvador relations.

In an article titled Testing Salvadoran Democracy, Carlos Rosales addresses the question "Why is Obama going to El Salvador" by describing the current political scene in the country. He attributes the visit, in part, to the political successes of Mauricio Funes: "Aside from obvious bilateral issues including public security and immigration, Obama’s decision could be a tip of the hat to El Salvador’s moderate leftist president."

The Brookings Institution web site features an article titled Prospects for President Obama's Meeting with President Funes of El Salvador. The article describes Obama's itinerary in the country:

President Obama is popular in El Salvador and his visit will be an all-absorbing national event. He will spend the evening on March 22 in the capital city meeting with leaders from business, labor and civil society before heading out to northern Salvador for a morning visit to rural communities that participate in integrated development projects. “Generating Opportunities” seeks to provide health clinics, scholarships to keep kids in school, job training and micro-credit programs. It should support current livelihoods for the communities and provide future employment opportunities within the country. These northern communities were the scene of military repression during the civil war and Obama’s visit to this area emphasizes reconstruction and reconciliation by a U.S. president, whose nation was allied with the Salvadoran army.
The article concludes:
President Obama’s principal contribution is the U.S. demonstration of confidence to a nation that is consolidating its democratic institutions. Alternation to the leftist FMLN government was fraught with uncertainty, but Funes' capacity to achieve political stability places him in a position which American politicians fully understand and sympathize. By his visit, Obama is signaling assurance in the Funes government’s capacity to rebuild the economy, distribute wealth and contain the violence. We must hope that foreign investors will build upon this assurance to develop manufacturing plants, alternative energy production and agro-industrial businesses. If Funes builds upon the visit to attract new investment, El Salvador has an excellent chance of leading Central America toward greater prosperity.
The Brookings Institution also put out another piece today with similar optimistic themes about this visit:
President Obama is clearly signaling that Funes will be his interlocutor of choice in Central America. A progressive yet pragmatic leader with good relations across the region, Funes has become the embodiment of a successful political transition in a country scared by a tragic political history. The fears that El Salvador’s political system would not be able to withstand the Left’s comprehensive electoral victory appear now entirely misplaced. Whatever problems the country may face now—and there are plenty—political instability does not seem to be one of them. As Obama visits Chile on the same trip, his stop in El Salvador implies recognition of the great strides that El Salvador has made in bringing about a modern vibrant democracy.
In El Salvador what they want to hear about, says Hispanically Speaking News, is that the US will move towards immigration reform.

In what will be a very symbolic part of the trip, President Obama plans to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador and the crypt where Oscar Romero is buried, according to a White House briefing today. That visit will be the day before the 31st anniversary of Romero's assassination while saying mass.

1 comment:

jorge said...

Congrats to President Barack Obama for his visit to Latin America. I was born in San Salvador and I emigrated to Canada a few years ago but my heart is with the people in El Salvador. As another Salvadorian, we need to stop thinking about our own selfish priorities and start looking at the big picture. We Salvadoreans need to understand that economical problems in EL Salvador won't be solve in a few years but taking the right tactical steps now will give a better chance to the future generations.