As Obama Arrives, a Report on El Salvador

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on March 22, 2011

The massive headline across the top of the front page of today's Prensa Grafica, published in San Salvador, reads "OBAMA". Just below comes the subhead, "USA President arrives today", followed by a large photo of the president and a caption stating that the visit is expected to produce support both for social programs and for the fight against drug traffickers.

Timed to coincide with the visit, an assessment of the administration of Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes has been distributed by the Latin American Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Here are a few observations from the report:

  • "The Salvadoran economy is tightly integrated with that of the United States, both through the Central American Free Trade Agreement and through El Salvador's adoption of the dollar as its currency. The United States purchases 48 percent of El Salvador's exports and provides 34 percent of its imports."

  • "The poor have not benefitted from trade and investment, and international aid has, by and large, diminished significantly, including aid from the United States. And the annual migration of thousands of Salvadorans to the United States is as great or greater (than) it was during the period of the civil war. At the same time, some things have gotten worse.... Criminal networks have invaded the country and they use it to traffic drugs, guns, human beings and other contraband throughout the hemisphere."

  • "Financial support has come from not only bilateral assistance, but also from the large Salvadoran diaspora in the United States....(T)hese funds have been aimed at creating employment opportunities and supporting social services in order to ebb high rates of migration."

  • "(R)emittances from the two and a half million Salvadorans living outside of El Salvador, of which 90 percent live in the United States, account for an estimated 18-20 percent of the country's gross domestic product."