Viewing cable 05SANSALVADOR2429

05SANSALVADOR24292005-08-31 17:08:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy San Salvador
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1. (SBU)  Acting Under Secretary Beardsworth, I look forward 
to your delegation's visit to El Salvador from September 1 to 
3 to meet with Salvadoran officials and attend the inaugural 
graduation of the ILEA.  The following background information 
may be useful for your preparations. 
El Salvador-U.S. Relations 
¶2. (SBU)  El Salvador is one of our strongest allies in the 
Western Hemisphere, and remains the only Western Hemisphere 
nation besides the U.S. with troops serving with coalition 
forces in Iraq.  The U.S. operates a Cooperative Security 
Location (CSL) that is colocated with a Salvadoran Air Force 
base at El Salvador's principal airport at Comalapa.  The FBI 
will soon open an office at the Embassy for the purpose of 
exchanging intelligence with the GOES on street gang 
organizations.  Embassy officers have unfettered access to 
the highest echelons of GOES officials. 
Domestic Political Overview 
¶3. (SBU)  President Elias Antonio "Tony" Saca of the 
governing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party 
assumed office June 1, 2004 after winning a hotly-contested 
presidential race.  President Saca's ARENA party holds only 
29 of 84 seats in the Legislative Assembly, but, through 
alliances with smaller parties, regularly passes legislation 
requiring a simple majority.  ARENA's major political 
opposition is the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation 
Front (FMLN), which has been weakened recently by internal 
struggles and defections.  Human rights problems are minimal. 
 The Embassy continues to encourage the GOES to fully enforce 
and enhance labor protections.  In particular, there are 
valid complaints regarding the difficulty of forming labor 
unions, and allegations of "blacklisting" of labor 
organizers.  Attention is already focusing on municipal and 
Legislative Assembly elections scheduled for March of next 
Domestic Economic Overview 
¶4. (SBU)  El Salvador's stable economy, the result of a broad 
reform agenda implemented by three successive ARENA 
governments, has earned El Salvador an investment-grade debt 
rating from Moody's, and provided a measure of economic 
predictability.  Nonetheless, the economy has been growing at 
a disappointing rate of about two percent per year since 
1999, despite its excellent macroeconomic fundamentals. 
President Saca's highest priorities are reinvigorating El 
Salvador's economy, creating jobs, and improving the nation's 
infrastructure.  Roughly 40 percent of the population still 
lives in poverty.  El Salvador ratified CAFTA in December 
2004, the first country to do so; U.S. passage of CAFTA has 
raised hopes that increased trade can help jump-start the 
nation's sluggish economic growth. 
El Salvador's Foreign Policy 
¶5. (SBU)  El Salvador's postwar ARENA governments have been 
reliable in their support for U.S. positions in international 
fora such as the UN, including on issues such as UN reform, 
human rights abuses in Cuba, and the Middle East peace 
process.  Beginning more recently during the Flores 
administration, El Salvador has on occasion pursued a 
somewhat more independent course, but has still proven 
dependable on key matters of bilateral importance.  El 
Salvador has recently broadened its foreign relations to 
include moderate Arab states such as Morocco and Qatar, and 
is actively seeking a seat on the UN Economic and Social 
Council (ECOSOC), and possibly one of the nonpermanent seats 
on the UNSC. 
Terrorism and International Crime 
¶6. (SBU)  El Salvador has been a consistently strong 
supporter of the United States in the fight against terrorism 
and international organized crime.  El Salvador's geographic 
position makes it vulnerable to trafficking in drugs, people, 
and guns to or from the United States.  Drug trafficking has 
received significant GOES attention and cooperation; El 
Salvador hosts the Cooperative Security Location (CSL) at 
Comalapa Airport.  This is one of three CSL's in the region, 
and since 2001 has contributed to the seizure or disruption 
of about 210 metric tons of cocaine.  Trafficking in persons, 
smuggling of aliens, and gunrunning remain problems due to 
the porous borders in Central America.  The government passed 
new anti-trafficking legislation last year and is conducting 
raids against those suspected of exploiting children.  The 
Border Police unit and Immigration service are working 
closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the 
Embassy to improve coordination with the U.S. and their 
ability to limit the illegal movement of people through El 
Salvador.  Violent street gangs are a serious problem.  Law 
enforcement efforts against the gangs have been hampered by 
the government's current inability to protect witnesses. 
Civilian-Military Relations 
¶7. (U)  The Armed Forces of El Salvador (ESAF) are capable, 
professional, and subordinate to civilian authority. 
Currently, the ESAF has approximately 10,000 service members 
and 2,500 administrative personnel.  The military 
consistently receives high approval ratings in public opinion 
polls, reflecting its dramatic transformation since the 
1980-1992 war.  The fifth contingent of a 380-person 
"Cuscatlan Battalion" task force that rotates every six 
months departed for Iraq in August 2005; nearly 2,000 
Salvadoran soldiers have now served with coalition forces in 
Iraq.  The Battalion has suffered two fatal casualties in 
Iraq, one combat death in Najaf on April 4, 2004 and one 
non-combat-related traffic death in Hilla on June 27 of this 
year.  The ESAF has performed admirably in humanitarian and 
reconstruction efforts in support of the Iraqi people.  They 
have distributed supplies and provided key services, ranging 
from food distribution and medical support, to the donation 
of vehicles to the local police and hospital, to the 
distribution of household items and toys for children. 
Migration Issues 
¶8. (U)  About 2.5 million Salvadorans live in the United 
States, most illegally.  Since the 2001 earthquakes, between 
250,000-280,000 Salvadorans have benefited from Temporary 
Protected Status (TPS), and have been able to live and work 
legally in the United States.  The U.S. announcement in 
January 2005 of a further 18-month extension of TPS was of 
paramount importance to the Saca Administration; remittances 
from Salvadorans living abroad make up approximately 16 
percent of the GDP, and are an important source of income for 
many Salvadoran families.  Public opinion polls also show 
that 7 out of 10 Salvadorans would immigrate to the United 
States if given the chance.  The GOES is focused on obtaining 
permanent status for TPS recipients, claiming it cannot 
absorb that number of returnees.  The GOES has publicly 
complained about an alleged lack of intelligence sharing 
between U.S. law enforcement agencies and the GOES relative 
to criminal deportees.