Obama's Second Term: Implications for El Salvador and Priorities for the Solidarity Movement
Across the country, many social justice and Latin America solidarity activists are breathing a brief sigh of relief after the re-election of President Obama. Although neither of the candidates focused on policy towards Latin America during their campaigns, Romney’s ties to Salvadoran death squads through investors in Bain Capital and Ryan’s choice of Elliot Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State under Reagan, as an advisor on foreign policy pointed toward a return to the cold war policies that a Romney presidency might have brought. While President Obama has not shown himself to be an anti-imperialist by any stretch of the imagination, he has made some concrete improvements in regards to the US relationship with El Salvador. Soon after Obama’s inauguration in 2009 – and in response to grassroots pressure from CISPES and allies – the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere made a public statement of neutrality in advance of El Salvador’s elections, the first time that the State Department has done so. President Obama has maintained a positive relationship with President Mauricio Funes, the first Salvadoran president elected by the leftist FMLN party. During Obama’s trip to the country in March 2011, he made a point to visit the tomb of Monseñor Romero, making him the first U.S. president to do so. The FMLN has expressed satisfaction with Obama’s appointed Ambassador to El Salvador, attorney Mari Carmen Aponte; party spokesperson Roberto Lorenzana credited her with facilitating “processes of transformation that that have begun in the country, in terms of a good relationship with the government and with the people of the U.S.” However, over the next four years, it will take a lot of pressure on the Obama administration to curb various forms of economic, military and political intervention in the region. Although Obama voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement as a Senator, as President he has continued to promote neo-liberal economic policies, which have been the mainstay of US “development” policy, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican has been in the White House. He urged Congress to ratify pro-corporate, “free” trade agreements with Panama and Colombia and signed the Partnership for Growth with El Salvador, which promotes privatization of many of the services which are currently public. In solidarity with allies in the Salvadoran union, campesino and environmental movements, CISPES calls on the Obama administration to back away from pressuring any further privatization in El Salvador. Increased militarism under the guise of fighting the “War on Drugs” has also had devastating effects in Latin America. President Obama has continued to support the Mexican government’s militarized “crackdown” on drug-trafficking organizations, which has led to the deaths of over 60,000 in the past six years. Spending on the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) has tripled under the Obama administration, the DEA is actively participating in drug interdiction operations – leading to the killing of civilians in Honduras – and 200 U.S. Marines have been sent into direct combat in Guatemala. In solidarity with human rights defenders and organized communities across Mexico and Central America, CISPES will continue to call on the Obama administration and the US Congress to stop the failed “War on Drugs” which continues to destroy communities here in the US as well as in Latin America and promotes the expansion of US military presence in the region. For Salvadorans to be able to vote in the 2014 presidential elections without fear of reprisal from the US government, a public commitment to neutrality from the State Department is key. Though Obama’s victory means that major reshuffling at the US Embassy in San Salvador is unlikely, Secretary Clinton has indicated that she will step down as Secretary of State, raising important questions about who will be nominated in her place. In solidarity with the people of El Salvador and in support of their right to freely elect their government, CISPES will be mobilizing grassroots pressure on the administration to issue a guarantee their neutrality prior to the 2014 elections. One of the important factors in Obama’s victory was strong support and mobilization among people of color, despite strong critiques that neither he nor the Democratic Party has done enough to redress prevailing structural inequalities, including education, employment and immigration reform. More than 90% of African Americans voted for Obama, while Latinas/os voted at a rate of two-to-one for Obama. While Obama’s recent executive order for deferred action, allowing many DREAM Act-eligible youth to remain in the country, is a positive step, it’s hardly enough. Over one million people have been deported over the last four years and the Department of Homeland Security is now mandating that police officers in every state become de-facto ICE agents through the so-called “Secure Communities” program. In solidarity with immigrant families across the country, and the families they support in their home countries, CISPES will continue to call for an immediate halt to police-ICE collaboration, a moratorium on deportations and just and humane immigration reform. We know that the only way that we are going to push Obama to change the policies that negatively affect El Salvador and Latin America is through strong organizing. Rejecting Romney and Ryan’s racist, neoconservative agenda was a good step; starting today, we will be ratcheting up our grassroots mobilization on the Obama administration to stop the increased militarism in Central America, end neoliberal economic policies and stay out of El Salvador's democratic affairs. ¡Adelante! ¡Adelante! ¡Que la lucha es constante!