Obama Administration Affirms U.S. Neutrality in Salvadoran Election

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Obama Administration Affirms U.S. Neutrality in Salvadoran Election

Thank you, President Obama. At long last - better late than never - a high-level official of the Obama Administration has clearly affirmed U.S. neutrality ahead of Sunday's Presidential election in El Salvador.

Voice of America reports:

Friday in Washington, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon said the United States supports the democratic process in El Salvador and will work with whomever is elected.

Also on Friday, Rep. Howard Berman, (D-CA), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, affirmed that neither Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans in the U.S. nor remittance flows from the U.S. to El Salvador would be affected by the outcome of the election. From the Committee website:

Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement in response to comments made by members of Congress, widely reported in the El Salvador media on the eve of elections there, that both Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans in the U.S. and remittance flows from the U.S. to El Salvador may be in jeopardy depending on the outcome of the El Salvador elections to be held this Sunday:

"Sunday's election belongs to the people of El Salvador. As Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I am confident that neither TPS nor the right to receive remittances from family in the United States will be affected by the outcome of the election, despite what some of my colleagues in Congress have said."

Last week, Rep. Raul Grijalva and more than 30 Members of Congress asked the Obama Administration for a high-level affirmation of US neutrality. Until today, there had been no high-level response.

The need for such affirmation - which should have come earlier - was made painfully obvious by the dirty tricks of Congressional Republicans this week.

Tuesday March 10:

El Salvador's largest circulating daily, the Diario de Hoy, published news of a letter signed by over 40 Republicans in Congress, denouncing the FMLN and warning of their links to Venezuela and Cuba. The letter expresses "grave concern that a victory by the FMLN could make links between El Salvador and the regimes of Venezuela, Iran and Cuba, and other states that promote terrorism, and also with other non-democratic regimes and terrorist organizations."

Wednesday March 11:

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ):

"Should the pro-terrorist FMLN party replace the current government in El Salvador, the United States, in the interests of national security, would be required to reevaluate our policy toward El Salvador, including cash remittance and immigration policies to compensate for the fact there will no longer be a reliable counterpart in the Salvadoran government."

Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN):

"Those monies that are coming from here to there I am confident will be cut, and I hope the people of El Salvador are aware of that because it will have a tremendous impact on individuals and their economy." Indeed, these threats carry considerable weight for Salvadoran voters, as 25% of the Salvadoran population lives in the U.S., and 20% of the nation's economy consists of remittances from those family members."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA):

El Salvador's election is on Sunday. If an ally of Al-Qaeda and Iran comes to power in El Salvador, the national security interests of the United States will require certain immigration restrictions and controls over the flow of the $4 billion in annual remittances sent from the U.S. back home to El Salvador.

These threats were trumpeted in Salvadoran media. Here's the front page of Diario de Hoy.

What remains to be seen is how widely Friday's affirmations of U.S. neutrality will be reported in El Salvador, where the private media are overwhelmingly and openly biased in their reporting in support of the right-wing government.

Robert Naiman

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy. Naiman has worked as a policy analyst and researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. He has masters degrees in economics and mathematics from the University of Illinois and has studied and worked in the Middle East. You can contact him here.

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