US Ambassador addresses El Salvador's challenges

US Ambassador to El Salvador Charles Glazer delivered a speech to the local American Chamber of Commerce this morning. In the speech he challenged all sectors of Salvadoran society to confront various challenges and described the role the US was playing. Here is an excerpt:

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.

(Entire text of speech)


Anonymous said…
According with this fucking yankee... they are making all the necesary efforts with the goverment (Cafta, ILEA, Antigang unit, bla, bla bla, all the same shit) but the problem is the judges. This is an old and stupid idea. The little problem of this speech is that not recognize that the economic policy "suggested" (or imposed) for Washington in El Salvador in alliance with the powerfull economics groups; is not based in the social justice. The simplification of this vision of the reality en El Salvador is very ofensive.
El-Visitador said…
Once again... for the gringo ambassador it is blindingly obvious that our biggest challenge is Justice (police, courts, jails).

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!
Anonymous said…
haven't we all bitched about how the salvadoran judicial system is mere garbage? even though it is not the only great problem in el salvador, it is one of its main ones. so of course, we need real judges, real prosecutors, real attorneys, real police officers with real equipment and real training. and back all that with a real, logical and fair system to make justice. as visitador mentions, we grow up in el salvador thinking that corruption at all levels is to be expected, rather anticipated and accepted as a fact of life...but i figure that to start changing people's consciences and attitudes el salvador also needs to invest heavily on education...when people are educated, they at least just don't assume things, they may do some independent thinking on their own, and who knows, with times and a couple generations of a majority educated salvadorans, they may start pushing for real changes, not just anti-dollarization, anti-cimarron propaganda.
Anonymous said…
I think youre pretty retarded by saying that the cops, judges, etc issue is not a problem. Its a huge problem. You think that foreign investment doesnt notice the fact that they could be mugged at any red light on their way to work? "Oh gee. lets see, i have a million dollars to burn in a new company, where should i open it? Here where its peaceful and nice and has cheap labor or here where the labor is cheaper but i have to pay gang taxes and my employees need to be replaced on a daily basis cuz they are injured or scared to come to work?" These are all huge problems that affect not only foreigners but every day salvadorians as well.

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.
El-Visitador said…
Oh boy.

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.

Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Been absent for a while. Just wanted to agree with the notion that education is key.

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.

Fish Guy.
Unknown said…
The US Ambassador, whoever he might be and whatever little diplomatic experience he might have, as he is one of Bush's campaing fund raisers, and therefore a second tier ambassador in a third tier country, should keep his opinions to himself, as he is clearly intervening in the internal affairs of El Salvador. The pitifully happy clappy right wing, loves to hear the US Ambassador intervene in El Salvador, and the opportunistic left applauds his words, when they are directed to criticize the government. It is more of the same, Finger licking good atole con el dedo, especially given the lack of luster in the application of justice in the US, from where planeloads of nameless charters are sent to El Salvador, with cargoes of hundreds of deportees, chained and shackled like so many african slaves in the middle passage,and who are probably and above all, devoid of all due process in the US legal system. So the sin-free-first-stone-throwing Ambassador should look into his country's eye and retreive the log that is lodged therein.
El-Visitador said…
«,and who are probably and above all, devoid of all due process in the US legal system.»

Uhhh... do you know of any legal Salvadorean who has been deprived of her due process rights in the U.S.?
Unknown said…

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????