Atlantic Council Report Presentation
Ambassador Jean Manes
Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 8:30 A.M., Barceló Hotel
Remarks by Ambassador Jean Manes at the Atlantic Council report presentation
June 20, 2017
* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish version should be considered authoritative.
I want to start by thanking the Atlantic Council and its team for their research and the report they will present today. It is encouraging to know that there are so many people convinced and committed to the development of El Salvador.
I think the most important thing to remember is that a country alone cannot move forward an entire region. This report emphasizes the importance of working together and validates the efforts already made such as the development of the Alliance Plan for Prosperity. We have all seen plans that only exist on paper because the focus remains on the plan, and not on its execution. We don’t want to and we can’t let this be the case in El Salvador.
I want to take a few minutes to talk about the Conference on Prosperity and Security for Central America, which took place last week in Miami. We had three days with an unprecedented level of care in the Northern Triangle Region. As part of the United States delegation, we had Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of National Security Kelly, Secretary of Finance Mnuchin, Admiral Tidd of the Southern Command, a delegation of the American Chamber of Commerce, including business leaders operating in the region and a range of other senior officials.
We had a delegation of 11 members from the private sector of El Salvador, many of them are here, and from the government of El Salvador the Vice President of El Salvador with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Economy, Minister of Finance, Minister of Security, Minister of Public Works, Chief of Police, Attorney General and others. Honduras and Guatemala had an equally impressive delegation. And it doesn’t stop there. We had Mexico as a co-host with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and then in most cases, the high level ministerial participation of Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Belize, Canada, Chile, Spain and the European Union. International credit institutions are also added with the president Luis Moreno of the IDB, and the leaders of the World Bank. Also present were high leaders of the Atlantic Council, including Ambassador Negroponte.
I take time to emphasize this because this is an unprecedented historical moment. The stars have aligned. This region is the focus not only of the United States, but also of many others who want to support Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan efforts.
Real progress has been made, as in the area of security.
However, more attention needs to be given to violence prevention, because there are still aspects that have to be worked on, such as extortion and the recruitment of young people to be members of the gangs. The security situation is not going to stabilize until we work hard on prevention. The United States Government supports initiatives such as the “El Salvador Seguro Plan,” 75 percent of which focuses on prevention. And it’s initiatives like this that need more support and greater focus on execution.
Insecurity encompasses gang violence and homicides, but also organized crime and of course corruption. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, national or cooperation funds will never be enough as long as there is a high level of corruption. Corruption will always undermine any attempt that El Salvador has to move forward. This report highlights that more than three quarters of respondents at the regional level do not believe in their governments, their leaders, their judges, their police, and their tax authorities.
These feelings are not new. They have been generated over a long time and the change will not happen overnight. But, it is imperative to regain people’s confidence in their own government. To do this, efforts are needed from everyone to resolve fundamental differences, and specify specific actions to address areas that still need attention.
This is especially true with respect to the economy, in which very little progress has been made compared to other areas. Governments can and should generate favorable conditions for this growth to be conducive, and this is where we should focus our efforts. I understand the temptation to return to the past, but the world is not static. We must look for ways to modernize traditional industries and develop the industries of the future to compete in a globalized world. For El Salvador it is important to know where you are with respect to your competitiveness in a global market. Especially for a small country like El Salvador, foreign investment and its attraction is essential for its economic development.
One of the aspects that struck me in the presentation of the Honduran president Juan Orlando about his Honduras 2020 strategy is that they are very aware that their competitive advantage number 1 is the proximity to the US market. When you start with that level of clarity, the political and regulatory priorities become clear. What do we need to do to maximize that proximity? They determined six areas of growth – each of them began with the word “export.” Honduras is also aware that they must be competitive as a subregional bloc and that joining forces between the three countries will provide a more attractive investment option.
The Conference also discussed some areas in which El Salvador has to work, to become more competitive worldwide:
Tramitology, Legal Security, Country Vision, Customs and Employment Generation.
Of which, Customs and Employment Generation were the highest priority. Which is no surprise to anyone in this room. If the country does not advance in these 5 areas, economic development will stagnate. If the economy stagnates, all other areas, such as security, suffer. The Alliance for Prosperity still has a long way to go. But if there is something we can take back from this report today, it is that the Northern Triangle is walking in the right direction.
As evidenced last week, the United States Government is extremely committed to El Salvador and the region. We will continue to support the Alliance for Prosperity of the Northern Triangle in all key areas. Because we are convinced that progress is possible. Because we believe in El Salvador, in its people, and we know that there are people, institutions and governments willing to work for the prosperous future of El Salvador. I want once again to thank the Atlantic Council for the level of focus and attention provided to the region. The key question is, what are we going to do with this historic moment? Are we going to make the most of this momentum? Will El Salvador use this opportunity to take advantage of the solidarity and assistance of not only the United States, but the entire world? We must not, we cannot, let this moment pass.