The Trump administration’s decision to resume partial aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras last week again puts the spotlight on the need for long-term strategic engagement with Central America’s Northern Triangle. As new leaders shift the political landscape in the region, what is the role that the United States can or should have as a partner? In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele came to office over four months ago on the promise of transformation and has put forward innovative proposals to tackle insecurity and rampant poverty. What might he accomplish in his first six months and what may be in store for the rest of his term?
Join the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center via conference call on Thursday, October 24, 2019 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. EDT for a conversation with El Salvador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexandra Hill Tinoco where she will outline priorities to improve El Salvador’s economy, security, and rule of law.
H.E. Alexandra Hill Tinoco
Minister of Foreign Affairs
María Eugenia Brizuela de Ávila
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, El Salvador
Co-Chair, Atlantic Council’s Northern Triangle Task Force;
Non-Resident Senior Fellow
María Fernanda Pérez Argüello
Associate Director, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center
There are three (3) ways to join the call:
Option 1: DOWNLOAD the “Zoom” app on your phone. Click “join a meeting.” Enter the meeting ID: 370440983, and your name and affiliation.
Option 2: CALL United States: +1 669 900 6833 or +1 408 638 0968 / Mexico: +52 229 910 0061 or +52 554 161 4288. Enter the meeting ID 370440983, followed by the pound (#) sign, then press the pound (#) sign again.
Option 3: ON YOUR DESKTOP go to zoom.us/support/download, launch the app, click “join a meeting.” Enter the meeting ID: 370440983, and your name and affiliation.
Note: Other international numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/otHe7QAP
For more, please visit our Central America page.
Event Recap – President Bukele’s First 6 Months
In his first 5 months in office, President Nayib Bukele has made a “180-degree shift” on the country’s domestic and international agendas. The election of the 38-year old President marked a new beginning for El Salvador, where high levels of insecurity and corruption, combined with a weak economy and lack of economic opportunities, had left citizens disillusioned with their country’s politics. President Bukele’s commitment to security, economic growth, and foreign policy has gained him a 93 per cent approval rate, which represents the result of the work of a President that keeps delivering on his promises.
To discuss the changes President Bukele has envisioned for El Salvador, the current and former ministers of foreign affairs, H.E. Alexandra Hill Tinoco and María Eugenia Brizuela de Ávila, joined Maria Fernanda Perez Arguello from Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center on October 24 for a conversation about President Bukele’s policy priorities in the areas of foreign policy, immigration, and security as he enters his sixth month in office.
On Sino-Salvadorian relations, Minister Hill said President Bukele welcomes relations with the whole international community and will consider Chinese investments as long as they benefit El Salvador. That aside, Minister Hill reassured the Trump administration that, “The United States is El Salvador’s most important partner, and Bukele’s administration is not going to do anything that could put this strategic relationship in a vulnerable position.”
However, Minister Hill also addressed a pressing issue that she defined as the “number one diplomatic priority” for El Salvador’s relations with the United States: the hundreds of thousands of Salvadorian Americans under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) who, after decades in the United States, are now at risk of deportation. The Trump administration decision to terminate TPS designations for El Salvadorians impacts those who are embedded in communities all over the country, many who have children that are US citizens and have never visited El Salvador. The Bukele administration is committed to reach a solution with the Trump administration that could grant Salvadorian Americans legal status and a path to citizenship.
Earlier this year, President Bukele and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed on an economic development plan for Central America and Southern Mexico that could help reduce irregular migration. Concerned about the loss of talent, the Bukele administration has vowed to create new opportunities for the young, including vocation schools and technical workshops, and invest in rural areas most vulnerable to migration. Former Minister de Ávila underlined the need for both short-term financial assistance and long-term foreign investment to help accelerate President Bukele’s economic plan.
With the second-highest homicide rate in Latin America, El Salvador’s pervasive insecurity is an issue of national priority for the Bukele administration. Given the adverse effects of mano dura policies, President Bukele initiated the Plan Control Territorial, a security agenda aimed at curbing the activity of criminal organizations and reintegrating former gang members into society. In the first stage of the plan, President Bukele concentrated on recovering territory, which de Ávila saw as a critical move to “create a sense of empowerment and optimism” in communities who finally felt recognized and heard by the government.
President Bukele’s ambitious yet promising strategies provide realistic expectations to Salvadorians, who have been able to see concrete and tangible progress in the country since Bukele took office. His vision for a more prosper and stable El Salvador has even allowed him to circumvent political divisions in Congress—evidence that advocating for the common good opens doors for agreement and compromise. As 2019 comes to an end, President Bukele seems to be on the right track to strengthen El Salvador in the years to come.
Author: Maria Borselli