Sunday, February 13, 2011

Colom's Not Invited to the Party

A few days ago, President Colom said that he was going to El Salvador to meet with Presidents Obama and Funes even though an official invitation had not yet been extended. Turns out, he won't be getting an invitation anytime soon.

On Friday, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela put an end to any speculation that other heads of state would be invited to El Salvador saying that this trip is for President Obama to meet with the people of El Salvador and its government officials.
Obama and Funes in the Oval Office, March 2010, Enduring Relationship
President Funes has said that he will use the occasion to request that permanent residency be extended to the more than 200,000 Salvadorans living in the US under TPS. In Guatemala, some are speculating that President Colom was not invited because President Obama is not interested in discussing an extension of similar TPS to Guatemalans living in the US (supposedly we might hear something soon). It's also possible that since Colom has less than one year in office remaining, there was little reason for Obama to meet with him.

I think that it's wise to not invite Colom. As I've said before, this is an important meeting between the presidents of the US and El Salvador that doesn't need the baggage that other heads of state would bring.

However, I wouldn't be surprised if the reason that Colom is not invited is not so much because of him but because Funes and Obama also would have had to invite the other Central American heads of state. You can't just invite Colom, or Colom and Chinchilla. You'd also have to invite Porifirio Lobo and Daniel Ortega which I don't think is in anyone's interest. That, or spend the entire trip answering why they weren't invited.


  1. What a curious phrase -- you don't think it would be in anyone's interest to invite Lobo and Ortega? Aren't diplomatic occasions supposed to be opportunities for independent states to improve relations? I would think it would be in everyone's interest that relations be improved with the state of Nicaragua, the state of Guatemala. Honduras? Maybe. But the US position is that Lobo is the legitimate representative of the state. It has been traditional for US bigwigs, especially presidents, to meet with all Central American presidents when they are in the region.

  2. Why do you say "supposedly we might hear something soon" about the request from Guatemala for TPS? I've been searching online nearly every day since July 2010 and I don't think there has ever been a statement about it from the white house, homeland security or the state department (other than Ambassador McFarland's foolish phrasing about a quick decision shortly after the disasters).

    Thank you for writing about it!

  3. Oscar - Good questions. I'd like to first see two things happen before the president of the US meets with the post-coup government in Honduras. First, the Lobo government needs take steps to investigate and prosecute those who committed human rights violations following the coup. Second, there has to be some steps towards reconiliation between "government" and "anti-government" forces. Until then, the Honduran government gets to meet other US officials, just not the president.

    With regards to Nicaragua, given what the US "knows" about Ortega, there's no way that he should meet with him. According to our embassy, he and his supporters helped to rigged the last election, are on the take of drug cartels, and blackmailing well-known citizens, and has used extraconstitutional means to ensure that he can run for his seventh consecutive presidential election. Again, the US government should engage Ortega and cooperate on trade, security, migration, etc. It's just not in the US' best interest to have our president meet with the presidents of these two countries at this time.

  4. Rebecca - I just saw someone on a listserve who is closely following the Guatemalan request for TPS say that they expect some sort of announcement relatively soon. I don't have more than that and don't have any sense of which way the decision is going to go. Given the long delay, I am hopeful but not opportunistic.