January 9, 2007

ALL ALONG THE AXIS:

The Face of El Salvador's Charm Offensive: Consul General Uses Personal Touch to Woo Expatriate Community (N.C. Aizenman, 1/09/07, Washington Post)

During weekly appearances on the area's main Spanish radio shows, [El Salvador's consul general, Ana Margarita Chavez] regularly gives out her cellphone number so that immigrants in need of help can reach her directly.

The phone's constant trill is a testament to how many listeners take her up on the offer. During one recent week, Chavez dropped by the Silver Spring home of a Salvadoran construction worker injured in a car accident last year to check on his progress; lined up a job for an out-of-work landscaper in Woodbridge and then personally drove him to the interview; and convinced a young father fighting a bitter custody battle with his estranged wife that their daughter is better off staying with her grandparents in El Salvador.

As for her evening social schedule, Chavez usually skips high-powered bashes in Washington's downtown restaurants or Embassy Row manses in favor of pupusa and wine mixers hosted in suburban churches and community centers by immigrant Salvadoran nurses, restaurant owners and construction contractors seeking to raise money for the impoverished villages they left behind.

Her approach dovetails with a wider charm offensive recently launched by Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca, of the pro-business ARENA party, to cement his support among Salvadoran expatriates.

The stakes are high. The Salvadoran government estimates that more than a fourth of the country's citizens live in the United States. The expatriates have been lobbying hard for the right to vote from abroad, and it is generally considered a matter of just a few years before they will get it. Even now, they are believed to exercise enormous sway over voters back home thanks to the estimated $3 billion they send their relatives annually.


El Salvador to send more troops to Iraq (Dominican Today, 1/05/07)
El Salvador will send its eighth contingent of soldiers to Iraq, the president said Thursday.

The new soldiers will replace those scheduled to return to the Central American country in February, said President Tony Saca, who is one of the strongest U.S. allies in the region.

El Salvador is the only Latin American country that still has soldiers in Iraq. The country's Congress has approved maintaining a presence in Iraq until the end of 2007.

Since the first Salvadoran troops arrived in Iraq in 2003, five soldiers have been killed and 24 others have been wounded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 9, 2007 11:26 AM
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