Wastewater Treatment Plant Signing Ceremony

Remarks by Ambassador Jean E. Manes at the Wastewater Treatment Plant signing ceremony

Thursday April 12, 10:00 AM, Alcaldía Municipal de Nejapa

* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish language text should be considered authoritative.

It is a great joy for me  to be here and see a number of projects receiving U.S. government support, including this $20 million investment agreement that is being signed today by FOMILENIO II, LACTOLAC and the Municipality of Nejapa, for the construction of the Wastewater Treatment Plant. This plant will improve the quality of life of more than 16,000 people, and will contribute to improving the business climate in the Municipality of Nejapa. It will also help to alleviate the environmental problems that affect the area, as well as eliminate one of the barriers for the industrial development of the area.

This project, as part of the agreement between the United States of America to improve the investment climate and implemented by FOMILENIO II, is an example of a mechanism to help identify the important potential of private investment and efficiently allocate resources to assets. and public services needed to support this investment.

As part of the agreement for the construction of the treatment plant, LACTOLAC will invest $15.5 million to expand its operations. Currently they have 850 employees and thanks to this investment the company can employ 375 more people.

We have seen examples of other companies willing to bet on the country, such as AEROMAN, which invested $2.4 million to train more than 900 young people in the area of ​​aeronautics. Or, such as the El Zonte Alliance, which invested $3.4 million to construct a potable water treatment plant.

Progress is possible when all the social actors make the decision to get directly involved in the social fabric of the community, and take leadership to find alternatives to solve the problems that affect everyone. Raising the quality of life of a community is achieved by reinforcing three key factors: economy, security and governability.

This morning I had the opportunity to visit the Montiel Villacorta School Center.

It is one of the G.R.E.A.T. schools; a school in which a violence prevention program that brings young students together with police officers who teach them leadership tools. The G.R.E.A.T. program is among the most successful programs we have implemented in El Salvador on a national scope. It has more than 395 certified police officers and has graduated more than 100,000 students since 2010.

But, in this case, success is not measured in numbers, it is measured in stories.  It is measured in children who discovered alternative paths to gangs.

A young man, let’s call him Roberto, is one of those graduates who now leads his own group in his school and tells other students how he used to be in the gang, and that G.R.E.A.T. taught him that he had other options and other paths that he could follow. Roberto is a kid who is not going to become a statistic. He’s a boy who is not going to end up in jail, or maybe worse.

Save a life, that’s success.

When we talk about offering opportunities and offering other options, we are talking about this type of result. We are talking about boys like Roberto, who can have something completely different ahead. Young people who can truly break the cycle of violence.

In 2013, through the USAID Program for the Prevention of Crime and Violence, four outreach centers, a municipal prevention center, and a FORMATE training center and a youth orchestra were established in Nejapa. The goal of all these programs was to offer options to pursue a different life. It is a way to show the Salvadoran youth that we believe in them, that we see and recognize their talents and ambitions.

I want to take this moment to congratulate the Mayor of Nejapa and the Municipal Security Council, because since 2015 they appropriated funding to these initiatives, to allow for continuing the operations initiated by the U.S. government, and — in the case of the outreach centers — even expanding them. By offering opportunities for young people, we prevent the most vulnerable members of society from falling into the hands of gangs, crime or poverty.

Over the last three years, the number of homicides has been declining steadily in Nejapa, and this has not been by accident or by chance. When public institutions are strengthened, when development opportunities are expanded, and when private companies invest in their people, communities change.

There are still gaps to fill and the economic reactivation of the area remains a challenge to be overcome. But, we believe in El Salvador, in its people, and in its desire to excel.

We share a goal — and I am convinced that it is a achievable goal — that of having an El Salvador where all citizens feel safe. Where young people can apply for decent work, where they can study and develop as people and have the opportunity to make their dreams come true.

Many thanks.

* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish language text should be considered authoritative.