Sunday, March 27, 2011

Obama vows Salvadoran aid, immigration reform

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador | Making his first visit to Central America, President Obama brought promises of crime-fighting money and a vow to push the U.S. Congress to pass an immigration bill to aid El Salvador, a once war-torn country that has emerged as a stable democracy and a friendly ally.

In keeping with the other stops on his extended Latin American tour, Mr. Obama held up the tiny nation’s recent peaceful transition between political parties as a model for other nations looking to emerge from chaos or dictatorships.

“There are few better examples of both the opportunities and challenges facing the Americas today than here in El Salvador,” Mr. Obama said at a joint news conference with President Mauricio Funes, whom he commended for overcoming “old divisions” and showing that “progress comes through pragmatism and building consensus.”

Mr. Obama is cutting his visit here short, though, to return to Washington and oversee the U.S.-led effort to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. He held a bilateral meeting with Mr. Funes and attended a state dinner Tuesday night, forgoing a previously scheduled visit to local Mayan ruins on Wednesday.

The leaders unveiled a series of partnerships on issues ranging from climate change to security, with Mr. Obama pledging $200 million in U.S. aid to help Mr. Funes' government address the “social and economic forces that drive young people to criminality.”

The president also sought to reassure El Salvador — which has nearly 2 million of its citizens living in the U.S. — that he’s still committed to shepherding comprehensive immigration legislation through Congress, though he acknowledged the politics are tough...[Full Article]