US Ambassador addresses El Salvador's challenges
(Entire text of speech)
Even with all we have accomplished together, a number of challenges lie ahead. I see two major challenges for Salvadoran political, business and civic leaders. The first is to preserve and nurture this positive investment climate. The second challenge is to ensure that economic prosperity resulting from your positive trade policies benefits all Salvadorans across all sectors of society. Taking concrete steps to spread the economic benefits of free trade and a market economy will strengthen democracy, increase confidence in public and private institutions, deter criminal activity, allow Salvadorans to find their financial future here rather than overseas, and most importantly of all, improve the lives of so many.
Let me focus just a moment on the first of these challenges, because you in the private sector have a very important role – no, a responsibility – in addressing it.
Experts estimate that the cost of crime amounts to approximately 11% of GDP. That’s a hidden 11% tax on all business done in the country. The murder rate in El Salvador is one of the highest in Latin America. All of us who live here make certain sacrifices in our daily lives to protect ourselves and our families from crime. But as a businessman and investor myself, I want to emphasize that El Salvador’s public security crisis can also create an economic crisis and a disincentive to foreign investment in El Salvador. There is no doubt that El Salvador must have direct foreign investment to grow and prosper. Foreign investment means a stronger economy, more jobs, increased tax revenues, and a better life for all.
Public security is the number one priority of the American Embassy. And something that I can’t help but think about everyday.
We are working closely with our Salvadoran counterparts on this issue. Several weeks ago we dedicated the new site of the International Law Enforcement Academy, a regional body under State Department auspices that trains judges, prosecutors and police officers in the latest crime-fighting methods. The U.S. is contributing over $7 million to build the Academy, and although San Salvador’s ILEA serves the entire continent, Salvadoran officials make up more than 25% of the students in each class.
The Cooperative Security Location at Comalapa Airport is a bilateral effort to combat drug-trafficking – a scourge that has not affected El Salvador to the degree that it has some of its neighbors, but that nonetheless remains a threat to the security and economic welfare of the country.Drug traffickers bring with them violent crime and political corruption. The CSL is a testament to the determination of our two countries to keep narcotraffickers out of El Salvador.
The Minister of Public Security and Justice, Rene Figueroa and I recently dedicated a new anti-gang unit in which US and Salvadoran law enforcement authorities work side by side to combat the pandillas. We have also created, under the State Department’s international law-enforcement program, the position of Regional Gang Advisor. This important State Department official will be based at the Embassy here in San Salvador and will dedicate himself full time to working with US and local law enforcement authorities to fight gangs throughout the -region....
The United States is dedicated to working with our Salvadoran friends to address these challenges, but it won’t be easy. Resources are hard to come by. Political will is harder. Salvadorans of all political persuasions, inside and outside of the government – must dedicate themselves – fully -- to solving the public security problem and demanding respect for the rule of law.
I have worked very closely with the government and the government officials charged with public safety. Here is my conclusion: The government is trying very hard to implement the measures that are necessary to protect its citizens. Murder rates have dropped, and that’s important. I hope to see a similar focus by Salvadoran authorities, the media and the public on other violent crimes –most importantly assaults and robberies on the buses. When we see the rate of these violent crimes drop, we’ll know that El Salvador has taken a second important step.
The executive branch of government cannot do it alone.
An important part of the solution lies in the courts. The annual Human Rights Reports of the Department of State have for the past six years identified judicial inefficiency and corruption as an obstacle to effective democracy in El Salvador. We know there are many honest, efficient judges, doing their part to build an effective judiciary in which Salvadorans and foreign investors can have confidence and be proud. But all too often, there are those who wish to continue “business as usual”. This impacts honest citizens and business people who deserve and need a reliable, predictable and honest judiciary.
Many of you have told me in private that you lack confidence in the courts, that decisions are arbitrary, unpredictable and slow to come. Yet I see little public pressure to strengthen the process for dealing with judicial corruption.
The National Assembly should approve a revised criminal procedures code during the next few weeks, ensuring transparency and predictability in criminal courts and giving judges, prosecutors and police the critical tools necessary to ensure public security. An improved, modernized criminal code is within the grasp of the current Assembly. Salvadorans deserve improved access to justice and the greater public security it promises. The fiscalia and police deserve to have criminal cases heard quickly and adjudicated impartially according to the law of the land. I urge the Assembly, the judicial branch, the executive branch and civil society to step forward and do what is right to protect your country.
Yet for Salvadoreans the concept simply does not register. We all were raised and educated to believe that the real problem is the price of gas, the interest on credit cards, the price of bread, etc.
A problem cannot be solved until it has been identified. And my compatriots think that issues such as number of cops, funding for courts, forensics, and jails, are tertiary problems or not even problems at all.
We Salvadoreans, we want our subsidies and price controls and we want them now!
And as for your "We Salvadoreans, we want our subsidies and price controls and we want them now!"
Screw your subsidies. The governement's budget is stretched thin as it is and you want MORE subsidies? Where do you think that money comes from? People just demand and demand for subsidies when they dont try to look for answers for the problem. And look at the subsidies the government DOES hand over... completely missused by drunken, coked-up bus drivers whod run over their mothers just to get someone else on their route.
And as for the price of gas and the price of bread, L2Read the news. Do we produce oil in El Salvador? Do we harvest wheat? If their prices go up worldwide, they go up here moron.
Sarcasm just does not work on the internet. I know it, and yet I wrote a sarcastic comment.
Anonymous @ 11:51 —my post was 100% sarcastic. And of course I agree with yours.
Make no mistake. American government is selfish and will focus on security, which in my opinion is now localized and in good progress. I get the point on indicating that 11% erodes the economic prospect, but to expect the people of El Salvador to pick up the tab --building new jails and whathaveyou-- on something that the US "stimulate" is disturbing.
Clearly, El Salvador should be exporting more than importing. But what can El Salvador export best?
Back to education. An educated society improves its productivity through better methodology and can export its surplus to neighboring countries that aren't as productive. El Salvador has plenty of those around!
El Salvador already has an intelligent, hard working population whose services can be exported in a similar fashion to India. Educating THEM is the best possible long term solution.
Politically, this is not taken as seriously because each elected government only has a handful of years in power to make things apparent; everyone wants to make a splash, right?
I am very lucky to live in an uppoer-middle class American suburb, and an obvious observation is that parents care for their children's education and often make personal sacrifices to ensure this. As a result, the community benefits.
I want to end by saying that I believe Salvadorians abroad have responsibility and help finance educational efforts in El Salvador. It's good for our children and their children.
Uhhh... do you know of any legal Salvadorean who has been deprived of her due process rights in the U.S.?
It is not really a matter of being "Legal" or "Ilegal". No human being should be considered so. It is a matter of being an undocumented salvadoran in the US, and even if under the TPS but charged by the courts, being liable to be left in the margins of the U.S. Legal System. And yes, I know people who assure me, in great confidence and post facto, that they have been chained to posts and beaten, however lightly, in order to force them to sign immediate deportation orders, in the huge detention centers, where the undocumented remain in a strange legal limbo in various places in the US.
But the point I was making was that an ambassador from a country that has Illegaly, and here they really are devoid of legality, Illegaly imprisoned likely terrorists in Guantanamo, and accepts to apply certain torture methods upon these illegaly imprisoned men and women, an abassador from a country which is shipping our people chained in nameles airplanes, like cattle, taking everything from them in the process without any regards for their material possesions or human dignity, such an Ambassador should not, I repeat SHOULD NOT, tell us about how terrible our legal system is, even if it is as terrible as it is. And if he does tell us, he should also make us know from which moral high ground is he able to tell us so. Is it that HE as an individual is fooled into believing their official line that all they do is for mom, apple pie and baseball???? Or is it because the US govt is such a large machinery that the Ambassador recieved a report written by some hippie in the state department, with his heart bleeding under his Berkley diploma, who believes that it is right to point to us our shortcomings, while overlooking those of his own country. A hippie which does this braced by the moral fortitude that gives him the fact that it is not his job to look unto the log lodged in their own eye????