A new ambassador

US president Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Ronald Johnson to be the new ambassador to El Salvador Wednesday. From the announcement:
Mr. Johnson has served the United States Government for over three decades. His career in the Government first began as an officer in the United States Army, retiring in 1998 as a Colonel, and then as a member of the intelligence community. Currently, Mr. Johnson is the Central Intelligence Agency’s Science and Technology Liaison to the United States Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida. Previously, he was special advisor to the United States Southern Command.
The appointment of Johnson would be a variation from recent ambassadors to El Salvador. George W. Bush appointed two wealthy campaign donors, Obama appointed Mari Carmen Aponte, a campaign supporter who became a popular ambassador in the country, followed by Jean Manes, a career State department official.

The appointment of Johnson, a new ambassador with a military background, is consistent with a Trump administration which prioritizes dealing with migration as a security problem. Walls on the border and support for anti-gang crackdowns, coupled with an obsession with MS-13, are the hallmarks of the thinking of the US president and his attorney general.

A timely and thorough article this week in the Intercept describes a tension in US policy in the region between the hard liners in Washington, and those who advocate that more can be accomplished through prevention and rehabilitation:

But while Trump and many in his administration act as though Salvadoran gangs exist due to a lack of toughness, parts of the U.S. federal government in Central America — which for years enabled the implementation of exactly the kind of policy Trump calls for now — have recognized that mano dura has failed. “It’s a policy that did not have positive results,” said Enrique Roig, former coordinator of the Central America Regional Security Initiative for the U.S. Agency for International Development, a major vehicle for U.S. funds to the region. “The whole intention to focus more on the prevention side, on respectful law enforcement,” was to correct the mistakes of the past, like “the use of incarceration as the main method of dealing with the problem.” It is also meant to build “relationships of trust between communities and police, so people in communities actually report crime, and police know what’s happening by responding in a way that’s respectful of human rights.”

I recommend the rest of this article for its comprehensive look at how US policies have impeded or encouraged policies of prevention or repression in dealing with gang violence in El Salvador. Unfortunately, Johnson's appointment may signal continued US support for repression.