US relations on election night

Hundreds of invited guests toasted US democracy on
election night at a reception hosted by the US Embassy

Ambassador Aponte interviewed on Salvadoran 
television on election night

On election day in the US, it is appropriate to reflect on its relations with El Salvador.   The influence and impact of the US on this tiny country of 6 million people cannot be overestimated.   One out of every four people born in El Salvador lives now in the United States.   Their earnings sent back to family members in El Salvador make up a sixth of the Salvadoran economy.   More than 200,000 Salvadorans are in the US on Temporary Protected Status, and their ability to stay in the country continues to rest on the good will of the administration in power.  El Salvador uses the US dollar as its currency.

The major recent US foreign aid initiatives in El Salvador have been the Millennium Challenge Compact which focused on development in the northern zone of El Salvador and was recently completed, and the Partnership for Growth which focuses on security and enhancing exports.

The US operates an International Law Enforcement Academy in the country, where expansion plans were recently announced.   In the past year, Peace Corps volunteer numbers were significantly reduced in the country in reflection of concerns over safety.  

But looking backwards, the US was also the primary funder of the El Salvador's military during the country's 12 year civil war.   More than $1 million per day flowed to support Salvadoran armed forces who were responsible for 90% of the 75,000 civilian deaths during the war.   Armed forces trained and advised by the US committed gross human rights abuses.  Without that military aid, the war might have ended years earlier.   The US has never admitted its error.  

One of the bright spots in  US-Salvadoran relations is the current Ambassador, Mari Carmen Aponte.   She is very popular with almost all segments of Salvadoran society.   Her true affection for the people of El Salvador has made her many friends.   She was gracious enough to meet with me earlier today, and an Obama win tonight will hopefully mean several more years for Ambassador Aponte to serve in El Salvador.