Sunday, September 21, 2014

US approves $277 million Millennium Challenge pact with El Salvador

The Obama administration has finally decided to move forward with a second round of aid to El Salvador through the Millennium Challenge Corporation.   The funding has been held up for many months over US demands that El Salvador do more to prevent laundering of drug money.   Politico has a story describing the package and the role of various agencies in the US government in first delaying and now finally approving the deal:

The Obama administration will soon sign off on a $277 million five-year package of economic assistance for El Salvador — a long-delayed deal that has taken on added importance given the flow of child migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. 
The Treasury Department confirmed that it will no longer hold up the aid because of its demands that El Salvador do more first to implement tougher anti-money laundering regulations. That decision follows on talks this past Tuesday and Wednesday in which a top Salvadoran delegation met separately in Washington with first Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, and later Treasury. 
Winning approval has been a top priority for El Salvador’s newly-elected President Salvador Sánchez Cerén. For the White House, it begins to make good on promises to become more involved in the region given the record number of unaccompanied children who have crossed into Texas this year from countries like El Salvador. 
In a telephone interview Saturday, Mari Carmen Aponte, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, said her embassy must be “vigilant” to make sure El Salvador follows through on promised reforms. But looking back at the past year of negotiations, she said it has been a learning experience for both sides. 
“The new government in El Salvador has learned a lot. We also have learned a lot,” Aponte said. “We have to keep our eyes open” going forward, she added. But given the migrant crisis, she was excited that $101 million of the aid is for improved training and education that could help young men and women find jobs in El Salvador.
Read more from the Politico story here.

Details of the planned uses of the $277 million in US aid are here.   The two largest projects are a $110 million for improvement of the coastal highway along El Salvador's Pacific coast, and $101 million for improvements to El Salvador's education system, including vocational and technical education.

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