Last week, on Tuesday, September 25, El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes addressed the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. Focusing primarily on El Salvador’s public security, his speech was a reminder of the interventionist role of the US government in this area.
In his discussion of public security, Funes placed special emphasis on the extreme drop in murder rates that El Salvador has experienced over the past six months and attributed it to “a citizen security policy that has been bearing fruit” and “a non-aggression pact between rival gangs that the Catholic Church mediated and the government facilitated.” He went on to recognize that this type of violence would not be eliminated without “modifying the living conditions of millions of young people without hope and without opportunities.”
From there, Funes turned the discussion to the fight against narco-trafficking. As in his speech at the UN last year, the President made a special point to call on the US, as the world’s biggest consumer of drugs, to assume responsibility in the fight against narco-trafficking. “We need the government and the people of the US to accompany us and to join this battle,” he said.
The US, of course, has a long history of involvement in this battle in Latin America, with devastating results. With billions of US tax dollars spent on Plan Colombia and the Mérida Initiative to supposedly fight narco-trafficking in Colombia, Mexico, and Central America, drug trade-related violence and murders have skyrocketed, while drug production has actually increased and spread into neighboring countries. According to the Mexican government, over 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since 2006 when, under pressure from the US government, the Mexican government brought its Armed Forces into the streets to fight cartels. Meanwhile, the US military and security industries continue to profit from the lucrative contracts gifted to them by these “cooperation agreements.”
Funes is correct about the consumption-side role of the US in the illegal drug trade and in demanding that the US government accompany Latin America in fighting drug trade-related violence. Reforming its domestic Drug War policies, which have entirely failed to curb the country’s demand for illegal drugs, would be one effective way to achieve this.
But the US refuses to even examine its Drug War strategy; instead, it continues to stubbornly impose the same failed militarization strategies despite the clamor from many Latin American countries to consider new approaches. And the US government continues to recycle its failed strategies while taking on an increasing role in shaping Central American security strategy.
In many ways, Funes’ remarks play right into the hands of the US government’s security strategy for Central America. His unconditioned invitation to “join this battle” serves as a justification for expanding the influential role that the US already enjoys in Central American security policy through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), the presence of DEA and FBI offices throughout the isthmus, and the US-run International Law Enforcement Academy in San Salvador. Furthermore, the trumpeting of his own security policy and El Salvador’s incredible drop in murder rates – achieved through a dialogue process rather than punitive and repressive measures – gives further humanitarian credibility to regional security policy, evan as the overarching trend of regional security is actually remilitarization.
On several other topics, however, Funes did challenge US intervention in the region. He called for an end to the US embargo on Cuba, saying that it “only represented a hindrance from a past that has now been overcome in the Americas.” During his speech, the Salvadoran President also denounced intervention by US senators in a recent internal political conflict in El Salvador, affirming that the peaceful resolution that was reached is a testament to the strength of the country’s democratic institutions.
Funes’ comments about Cuba and his denouncement of the US senators are a far cry from former Salvadoran presidents’ unwavering and absolute support for all US government policies. But when it comes to one of the major priorities of US imperialist policy, security in Central America, Funes chooses to not go against the current and is consistent with his promises and previous efforts to stay on the US government’s good side. Unfortunately, history has proven that US foreign policy rarely has the best interests of the Salvadoran people in mind, and as experiences in Colombia and Mexico have shown, it is often deadly when it comes to security and the Drug War.