Thursday, March 24, 2011

Perspectives on Obama's Visit to El Salvador

For two days this week, El Salvador was in the world media spotlight when US President Obama visited. Various news outlets did a wonderful job highlighting a variety of important, and often controversial, issues regarding Obama’s visit and US-ES relations more generally. Here is a selection of those thought-provoking perspectives in their own words:

A Missed Opportunity at Romero's Tomb
For Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, the visit was at best a missed opportunity. His organization, SOA Watch, revealed that Romero’s killers were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, now named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
"I and many other human rights activists were hopeful," he said, that Obama would acknowledge "that Romero and thousands of others were killed, tortured and disappeared by graduates of this school."
"Obama didn’t even acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the U.S. role in El Salvador," Bourgeois said.
Read more at:

US Funds for Security Initiatives: Human Rights and Sovereignty?
During his visit to El Salvador, President Obama announced $200 million to finance “ security and anti-narco trafficking in Central America at a joint press conference held on Tuesday, March 22nd with his Salvadoran homologue, President Funes. Among other issues, there are serious human rights concerns:

Obama in Latin America: Another Missed Opportunity
And in El Salvador Obama declared his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform in the United States but blamed the impasse on the lack of support from the Republicans in Congress. Obama and Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes announced a set of confusingly overlapping initiatives for “prosperity,” with euphemistic labels like Partnership for Growth, Cross Roads Partnership, and New Pathways to Prosperity.

However as Funes himself explained, these are basically aimed at boosting "economic predictability," increase “trust with investors,” and “send a message to investors that they can invest in El Salvador.” Obama also announced $200 million for a new Central American Citizen's Security Partnership, which only appears to be repackaging the Central American Regional Security Initiative based on extending the Merida Initiative in Mexico that has failed to curb drug cartels and has produced more than 35,000 deaths since 2006.

“The Mexico-to-Colombia Security Corridor Advances” in The Nation
The origin of this security corridor is Plan Colombia—Bill Clinton’s multibillion-dollar aid program to one of the worst human-rights violators in the world. The main effect of Plan Colombia has been to diversify the violence and corruption endemic to the cocaine trade, with Central American and Mexican cartels and military factions taking over export of the drug to the United States. This, along with the economic disruptions caused by NAFTA and the CAFTA, kicked off the cycle of criminal and gang violence that today engulfs the region.

In other words, as the rest of South America pulls out of the US orbit (which I would argue ranks as a world historical event as consequential as the fall of the Berlin Wall, though less noticed since it has taken place over a decade rather than all on one night), Washington is retrenching in what's left of its backyard.

Salvadoran Civil Society Demands of Obama
Mr. President, during your upcoming trip, you have an important opportunity to make good on your campaign commitments by offering concrete support to the people of El Salvador in the continued exercise of their sovereign right to develop economic, environmental and social policy that promotes sustainable development.

Read the demands in this letter here,, or watch this youtube video,, to see and hear Salvadoran civil society march for these demands on the day President Obama arrived to El Salvador.

Obama, CAFTA and Mining
Obama has to decide where he stands. El Salvador's bishops oppose Pacific Rim, and 19 Democratic members of Congress and more than 140 organizations including the Sierra Club have asked the President to defend El Salvador in the Pacific Rim case--and to use this outrage as a template for reform of the "investor rights" provisions in CAFTA, NAFTA, and other pending U.S. trade agreements.

I hope the President tells his trade staff to read his campaign pledges--and pages 44-45 of Dreams From My Father. That would remind them that this President uniquely understands what a foreign policy that puts greed over decency means to people on the other side of the equation.

1 comment:

Hola, I'm CJ Squirrel, a.k.a. Carlitos said...

Thank you SHARE Foundation for getting this news to us, and for all the work you do.

In November 1979 Monseñor Romero said :"The church is obligated by its evangelical mission to demand structural changes that favor the reign of God and a more just and comradely way of life. Unjust social structures are the roots of all violence and disturbances...Those who benefit from obsolete structures react selfishly to any kind of change."

La lucha sigue,
Carlitos J. Malischke