Obama to visit El Salvador March 22-23
|Funes March 2010 visit to White House|
Barack Obama will visit El Salvador on March 22-23 as part of a three country tour of Latin America. The visit was announced during Obama's State of the Union address to Congress:
This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances across the Americas. Around the globe, we're standing with those who take responsibility -- helping farmers grow more food, supporting doctors who care for the sick, and combating the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.In confirming the March dates for the US president's visit, Salvadoran head-of-state Mauricio Funes indicated that the fight against poverty would be a central theme of his discussions with Obama. According to the web site of the Salvadoran president:
On the issue of poverty, President Funes hopes to advance the administration of the Bridge Initiative which seeks to use remittance flows as an asset to finance infrastructure projects, public works and business development initiatives.
Funes also proposes the negotiation of a second compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the allocation of resources to enable El Salvador to overcome poverty and social exclusion from a regional perspective.
The Salvadoran president says that the roots of security and migration issues are poverty and social exclusion.Funes visited Obama at the White House on March 8, 2010. The trip will be Obama's first trip to a Latin American country in Central or South America.
An article today on the Foreign Policy website asks Why is Obama headed to El Salvador?. Here is the answer given:
A broader look at the region brings the country's importance for Washington into sharper focus. U.S. policymakers have become increasingly concerned with the rise of drug trafficking in Central America, especially as Mexico's efforts to crack down on drug cartels have pushed traffickers and their operations into remote areas of Guatemala and Honduras. Both those countries share a border with El Salvador.
The U.S. military coordinates with Salvadoran authorities at the country's Comalapa Air Base to plan drug interdiction operations, which some Salvadoran officials say has helped their country avoid the spike in drug-related violence that plagues its northern neighbors. In addition, El Salvador has remained politically stable. Honduras is still regrouping following the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Guatemala's government lacks the resources and the political will to effectively combat drug traffickers. Throw in the likely reelection of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua this year, Washington's ongoing tensions with Panama's mercurial President Ricardo Martinelli, and Costa Rica's lack of regional political weight, and El Salvador begins to look more like Washington's foothold in the region.
During the Cold War, U.S. policymakers watched Central America carefully for signs of communist encroachment. Today, it's mainly drug trafficking that Washington cares about, a less immediate priority. But if U.S. officials really want to see progress on that front, a deeper commitment to El Salvador's stability might be a smart use of resources. Obama's visit could be a useful step in that direction.The Catholic church wants to see progress on migration issues from the meeting of the two countries' leaders:
The Catholic Church in El Salvador awaits the visit from President Barack Obama with a positive outlook, hoping to establish the basis for a “radical reform for emigration,” said Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador.
Said the prelate, “We expect that in the dialogue between the President of the United States and our authorities there is respect for our sovereignty and freedom, and that in the business of the welfare of our country, the development and commercial growth of the nation is considered,” adding “The meeting should not stop at the maintenance of good diplomatic relations, but must deal with the emigration issue. From this visit should come a solid promise for the benefit of our immigrant brothers.”