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El Salvador Positions Itself as Leader of the Security Initiative in Central America

By Dialogo
June 06, 2011

El Salvador is leading regional security in Central America, supported by the United States, President Mauricio Funes confirmed in his address to the nation on the occasion of his second year in office, in addition to making other announcements regarding the fight against crime in the Central American country.

In Funes’s view, El Salvador has become a regional leader in security matters, with U.S. support, and although this was an affirmation without further justification in the context of his address marking his second year at the head of the executive branch, concrete facts exist that support this statement by the leftist president.

For example, President Barack Obama, in his visit to El Salvador in mid-February, announced the disbursement of 200 million dollars to support security and prevention work in Central America, but, Obama added, he was “confident that President Funes will show great leadership” in working with his counterparts in the region to identify specific projects to which these funds could be applied.

El Salvador has led other regional initiatives, such as Honduras’s return to the Organization of American States (OAS), also ratified in Washington, D.C., with only Ecuador abstaining.

Along these lines, the Central American Integration System (SICA), which binds together the countries of the region, has promoted a regional security strategy that will need an investment of nearly one billion dollars and that will be discussed with possible sponsors on 22 and 23 June, in Guatemala City.

Funes additionally announced a special program of unarmed military service for a total of five thousand young people at risk of joining criminal gangs, especially in those Salvadoran communities and municipalities most exposed to crime.

As the president confirmed in his address, the service will be for a period of six months, and the participants will be trained in civil protection work, that is, aiding the population in the event of natural disasters or other emergencies.

Minister of National Defense Gen. David Munguía Payés provided further details on the nature of the new program of military service. It is a suggestion that arose out of the meetings with political parties that Funes organized a few weeks ago, after making the request in his speech for El Salvador’s Day of the Soldier, on 7 May.

Munguía Payés confirmed that participants will be paid a salary like normal soldiers, receiving between 250 and 260 dollars a month. Their training will include, among other elements, a module on values and another providing instruction in a trade, such as carpentry or mechanics, among others.