** This translation is provided as a courtesy and only the original Spasnish source should be considered reliable.
Today is a very important day for the relationship between the United States and El Salvador, because we are going to sign an agreement between our two governments. But, we have not gotten here overnight, but as a result of a lot of work together.
Last Friday, we had a more than two-hour meeting with President Sánchez Ceren, Chancellor Martinez, Technical Secretary Lorenzana, and other Ministers and key members of the government of El Salvador, to review all U.S. support to El Salvador.
For more than a year we have been working side by side with the government of El Salvador with great intensity, and I can say that enough progress has been made in the 16 criteria mandated in the United States legislation for the three countries of the Northern Triangle, for us to authorize additional funding from the United States.
But, this does not mean that we do not have more work to do. On the contrary, we are in the middle of the fiscal year 2017 budget process in the United States, and the criteria remain in place. The government of El Salvador is going to have to continue to demonstrate its commitment to progress in each one of the areas that the criteria have established.
Because of this hard work, today, it is a pleasure to witness the signing of this important agreement between our two governments, which represents an important step forward.
The nearly $98 million represents an investment in El Salvador and demonstrates once again the commitment of both of our governments to work together to continue to improve security and achieve the prosperity we all wish for El Salvador.
With these funds — which represent an increase of two hundred percent since 2014 — we will continue to support the goals of the Partnership for Prosperity in the municipalities prioritized within Plan El Salvador Seguro, complementing the investments of the government of El Salvador through our projects.
These additional funds support the country by addressing the root causes of irregular migration, such as: insecurity, lack of economic and educational opportunities, and family disintegration, among other factors.
We can achieve an El Salvador that is safer, more prosperous and more transparent, with a solid rule of law and respect for the rights of all; where people can build a better future right here. This is the way we can stop illegal migration.
Prior to disbursing the additional funds, we were already working closely with the government to align existing resources with priorities within the Partnership for Prosperity. We also have a Council under the Partnership for Prosperity, which is composed of members of the government, the private sector, and civil society, and participates in the review of security priorities, in the production sector, and in strengthening institutions.
It is very encouraging that we are able to point to some achievements of this cooperation, for example:
• Last year, we reached 164,000 youth through USAID programs in education, job training and other activities.
• In the last four years, assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises generated more than 22 thousand new jobs.
• The renewal of the Center for Assistance to Returnees in La Chacra is facilitating a smoother repatriation process.
• We have all seen how institutions such as the Office of the Prosecutor and the Institute for Access to Public Information are working to ensure transparency and accountability.
• And, how could we forget the Generation Now festival, where more than 20 thousand young people from all over the region gathered at the Cuscatlán Stadium under a message of hope and opportunities: I Dare.
These achievements are impressive by themselves. But, as I said before, as encouraging as these achievements are we know that there is much work left to be done.
Based on consultations between our governments, we are supporting new activities to: streamline the production sector; develop human capital; improve citizen security and access to justice; and, strengthen institutions. However, the success of these programs does not depend only on the amount of money invested. It depends on the participation and action of all: the government, municipalities, private companies, community organizations, churches, parents, youth and all of Salvadoran society.
Therefore, I would like to mention the valuable contribution of the private sector. Private sector support for our programs over the last few years has resulted in more than $47 million, which has enabled us to benefit many more people.
I have also seen thousands of young volunteers investing their time to improve public spaces, just as we did in the Children’s Park in San Salvador a few months ago.
I have seen mayors from different cities across the country working together with citizens to improve security, reclaim public spaces and promote more opportunities for youth.
I have also seen community police conducting recreational activities for youth in their vacation programs.
This creates the security and prosperity that we all want.
What we need now is to duplicate our efforts.
We need to make an effort to put aside political differences and put the country first.
We need you – the citizens – to call for more transparency and accountability, and for all the holes left by corruption to be closed. That you insist that the future of the country is not something to be played with.
Onward El Salvador!!! I invite you all to dare to be part of the change, and together we make this 2017 a year of “positive action”. Day by day, with everyone working together – yes, it is possible.
As I have said many times, we believe in El Salvador, and the United States is with you.
Thank you very much.