What November could mean for El Salvador.
Whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama wins in November it is hard to say that either candidate is a good choice for people who care about economic and social justice in Latin America.
“If El Salvador becomes another Latin platform for advancing an anti-American agenda, it will negatively impact future levels of U.S. assistance through the Millennium Challenge project and USAID as well as on U.S. immigration matters.”
Scary, right? Assert your rights as a country, and you face negative consequences. Unfortunately, this example of classic US dollar diplomacy, written shortly after El Salvador elected its first president from the leftist political party, comes from the co-chair of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Latin America team, Ray Walser.The Obama and Funes administrations seem to have worked pretty well together to the consternation of some on the right in the United States and to some on the left in El Salvador. I imagine the relationship will worsen with the election of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party in the US. At that point, conservatives (Elliot Abrams and Roger Noriega) will reassert their influence over US foreign policy towards Latin America. While neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have been able to work with the Venezuelan and Cuban governments, the Democrats have done a better job working with Pink Tide governments.
US-Salvadoran relations will also worsen with the election of an FMLN-government led by Sanchez Ceren and the orthodoxos. They've been pretty open about criticizing US foreign policy and have made their intentions of reorienting Salvadoran foreign policy towards Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua pretty clear.
Obviously, the election of the Republicans in the US and FMLN and Sanchez Ceren in El Salvador will be the worst case scenario for US-Salvadoran relations. How bad? I don't know. If the negotiations with the FARC prove successful and Chavez loses his electoral bid in Venezuela, maybe the Republicans and the Frente would find a way to coexist together. I doubt it, but it's possible.
But it's not just about Venezuela and Cuba. The FMLN has been against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) involving the US and El Salvador. The FMLN has been against the dollarization of the country's currency (until recently), a policy supported by the US. The FMLN was against the sending of Salvadoran troops to fight in the coalition against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Maybe the FMLN has been on the right side of the issues but the policy differences are likely to made cooperation more difficult.
The US and the Frente also have that Cold War hangover. The US could not work with Melgar who was replaced with Munguia Payes. I can't imagine that they are prepared to work well with the last remaining wartime commander still with the FMLN. While probably not a concern to the US, the election of Sanchez Ceren probably means no movement on prosecutions from the country's civil war. It's hard to see the Sanchez Ceren, who is named in the truth commission report, working to overturn the amnesty from which he benefits or push for the prosecutions and/or extraditions of other people named in the report.
There are many in the US government still upset with the burning of the US flag during a march shortly after the 9/11 attacks in the US. While it doesn't look like Sanchez Ceren was personally involved in the flag burning, it can't be reassuring that his supporters were burning the flag at a march that he was attending even if the event was in celebration of the country's independence and against dollarization and privatization. At a minimum, it shows poor judgment.
Finally, the US has just finished investing $400 million dollars in the north of El Salvador through the Millennium Challenge Compact and is preparing to invest another $300 million in coastal and maritime development projects.
I understand why the US might be concerned with the coming to power of the orthodox wing of the FMLN and I understand why many Salvadorans are.