El Salvador recognizes Palestine, deploys soldiers to Afghanistan

Recent decisions by El Salvador‘s President Mauricio Funes both both pleased and upset many in the Central American nation. The recognition of the Palestinian state in late August won support from many members of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and social movements who supported Funes in his 2009 campaign. The FMLN has maintained a long-time position of solidarity with the Palestinian people against Israeli occupation but this is the first time that the government of El Salvador will have diplomatic relations with the Palestinian government. While the Israeli embassy expressed “regret” over the decision, Funes emphasized that many countries in the world enjoy friendly relations with both Palestine and Israel and reiterated El Salvador’s support for Israel’s existence within internationally recognized and secure borders. The UN vote on Palestinian statehood is expected to happen later this month, and several Latin American nations have already formally recognized Palestine.

On the other hand, Funes’ proposal to send a contingent of 22 Salvadoran soldiers to assist NATO in training Afghanistan‘s security forces, approved by the right-wing parties of the Legislative Assembly, was a major upset to many who had supported Funes’ 2009 campaign. Leaders of the FMLN were vocal in their opposition to the measure. While Funes argued that the soldiers would be participating in activities to prepare the country for the eventual withdrawal of troops, FMLN legislative deputy David Rodríguez countered that Salvadoran soldiers’ participation would, “legitimize the origin this conflict had,” which he defined as the pursuit of natural resources. He went on to argue that the 22 soldiers would be put to better use in their own country, not abroad.

Funes explained that the proposal was a direct request from US President Barack Obama, brought to him by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton—also confirmed by a recently published WikiLeaks cable in the Salvadoran online publication, El Faro. Another cable from the US embassy in San Salvador released by WikiLeaks indicated that ex-President Tony Saca’s decision to send troops to Iraq was motivated by hopes of earning political favor from the United States. (CISPES, Sept. 16)

El Salvador was one of the last countries in the world to maintain its embassy at Jerusalem, Israel’s official capital, but it was moved to Tel Aviv, the de facto (and internationally recognized) capital, in 2006. (Reuters, Aug. 25, 2006)

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