2014 Stanford Delegation

2014 Stanford Delegation
Stanford Delegation in the UCA Chapel

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obama comes to El Salvador

One of the many banners in San Salvador welcoming President Obama
Today was the much anticipated day--President Obama arrived in San Salvador. In preparation "Beinvenido Obama" signs have been hung all over the city and pot holes on streets where his motorcade was likely to pass have been paved over. It's a pretty big deal for the President of the United States to choose the El Salvador as one of his three stops (along with Brazil and Chile) on his first Latin American tour. It's been a popular topic of conversation with many of the salvadoreños leaders we have met with, and, as most have pointed out, El Salvador was a logical stop for the Central American portion of Obama's visit. 2 million Salvadoreños live in the United States, and while it was once feared that Salvadoreño President Mauricio Funes would be greatly influenced by Hugo Chavez and his allies, Funes has made the very deliberate decision to remain near the political center, giving the Obama administration the opportunity to cling onto him as an ally in a region where we are lacking friends--since the political unrest in Honduras in 2009 the US has a complicated relationship with that country, Nicaragua's Ortega has chosen the far-left path by closely allying himself with Chavez, and Guatemala is having serious struggles with narcotrafficing.

However, Obama's visit has definitely complicated ours. We were originally intended to visit Monseñor Romero's tomb at the same time as Obama. Woops! That definitely wasn't going to happen--we had to change that! We tried going to the Cathedral this morning, but it was shut down to visitors for the entire day due to increased security. We also has great difficulties in accessing The Universidad de Central América this afternoon where we were had a tour of the sight where 6 jesuit priests were massacred in 1989 and were meeting with Rev. Dean Brackley, a jesuit priest and professor at UCA who has lived in El Salvador for over 20 years. Because UCA is just a few blocs from the Presidential Palace, army tanks were set up--blocking the road and halting traffic. Classes at most schools in central San Salvador were canceled today in light of the presidential visit. I also spoke with a woman who sells fruit and vegetables on the streets of central San Salvador who told me she wasn't allowed to sell today--and this would mean that she wouldn't be able to eat today. Hearing these words was humbling, and made me realize that this presidential visit comes at a cost--school children went two days without school; businesses wouldn't be able to operate, causing some to go hungary; and a significant amount of money was spent on welcome flags and paving over pot holes when there are much graver issues to be addressed. Hopefully some good will come of the Presidential visit. Hopefully our governments can cooperate and establish closer ties, and, hopefully, as Dean Brackley said, the US can help El Salvador become a model for economic and political development in Latin America.


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