El Salvador readies talking points for Obama visit
Salvadoran officials expect to talk to President Obama about efforts to keep Mexico's drug violence from spilling into Central America when the U.S. leader visits next month, a top minister said Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez said immigration will also be on the agenda -- especially El Salvador's efforts to create social programs and jobs at home so residents don't feel they need to move to the United States.
Obama announced in his State of the Union speech that he will travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador in March.
El Salvador's president, Mauricio Funes, presented a $900 million Central American anti-drug trafficking plan to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last fall, and asked for greater U.S. assistance. The U.S. government is expected to participate in a donors' conference in June to help raise money for security efforts in the region.
"We have a lot of agreement with the Obama administration on the focus on security, not only on the national level, but regional," Martinez said. He said his government wanted to combine a crackdown on crime with social programs aimed at keeping poor residents from getting into illegal activities.
The Obama administration has become increasingly concerned about the threat posed to Central America by Mexico's powerful drug gangs. Under the Merida Initiative, the U.S. government has committed to spending $258 million in Central America over the past three years to fight drug trafficking.
Martinez said the Salvadran government wanted to increase investment in migrants' home towns to keep them from leaving. About one in every five Salvadorans lives in the United States.
"We want to ask President Obama for a partnership in this process of innovation, of development, of seeking to keep our population in their hometowns, offering them alternatives" to migration, he said.
Mary Beth Sheridan
| January 26, 2011; 5:43 PM ET
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