U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) presented the renovated headquarters of the Salvadoran Armed Forces’ (FAES, in Spanish) Special Forces Command (CFE, in Spanish), in Ilopango municipality, in the first week of May. The facilities will accommodate Salvadoran service members supporting the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the future will host instructors from partner nations such as the United States.
“During the current pandemic, the dorms will lodge 400 soldiers who carry out humanitarian assistance and other duties to support the Salvadoran population,” Ronald Johnson, U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, told Diálogo. “U.S. Special Operations Command South, in support of one of Southern Command’s military exercises, has contributed [to these efforts] with an $84,000 investment.”
This investment reflects the long history of collaboration between the United States and El Salvador. “Experience has shown us that only by joining efforts can we overcome our challenges, and we recognize that having adequate facilities and infrastructure is essential for the Salvadoran Armed Forces to meet their goals,” Ambassador Johnson said. “The United States and El Salvador have been partners for decades. We have worked jointly in several projects, sharing experiences and expertise throughout the years.”
Service members who will use these facilities belong to CFE’s elite units: the Parachute Battalion, the Special Operations Group, and the Special Counterterrorism Command. These elements are distributed among units that counter transnational criminal groups and narcotrafficking, and that now distribute food and medical supplies in vulnerable areas.
“El Salvador has been a key regional partner in the fight against narcotrafficking and gang violence. The fight against gangs has paid off in both countries, and the largest cases against gang leaders in the United States and El Salvador are the result of joint hard work,” Ambassador Johnson said. “The United States reaffirms its commitment to work with the Armed Forces of El Salvador, facilitating better infrastructure for the military corps to carry out their duties.”
The U.S. military has provided key assistance to its Salvadoran counterpart to confront the pandemic. By the third week of April, the United States had sent more than 80,000 donations of various items, such as food and hygiene kits, bed linens, and sanitizing gel.
“On May 20, SOUTHCOM donated $45,000 in biosecurity kits for people in quarantine, security units, and health professionals. The support, from toys, books, and supplies for containment centers to biosecurity suits to keep the teams on the front line healthy and safe, are proof of our trusted partner’s solidarity,” said Luis Rodríguez, Salvadoran presidential commissioner for Strategic Projects. “We will always be grateful for that.” The donation also helped various agencies of the Salvadoran government supporting COVID-19 mitigation and prevention measures.
According to data from the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, the United States has donated about $74 million in recent weeks to address the COVID-19 pandemic, improve security, strengthen the economy, and support the fight against undocumented migration. In the last 20 years, it has invested $2.6 billion in El Salvador’s long-term development.