El Salvador: US boosts anti-drug assistance for Central America

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US boosts anti-drug assistance for Central America; Industrial sector led El Salvador’s economic growth in 2012; El Salvador’s Central Reserve Bank has new president

 funes-obama2

US boosts anti-drug assistance for Central America

As part of the proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2014, Central America will receive a greater proportion of US foreign assistance funds destined for counter-narcotics operations. These funds are part of the State Department’s budget for foreign anti-drug efforts.

The Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) will receive US$ 162 million for 2014, up from the US$ 136 million received in 2012. FY 2012 is used as a reference because the 2013 budget had not been approved at the time of the FY 2014 proposal.

On the other hand, other US-assisted anti-drug campaigns including Mexico’s Mérida Initiative and the Colombia Plan are seeing a decrease in anti-drugs funds. The Colombia Plan’s budget was reduced from US$ 293 million in 2012 to US$ 232 million for FY 2014. Mexico’s Merida Initiative also saw a reduction from US$ 329 million in 2012 to US$ 205 million for FY 2014.

The FY 2014 budget proposal was disclosed three weeks before President Obama’s visit to Mexico and Central America. Greater attention has been placed on Central America after the recent uptick in violence in the region, partly due to the expansion of Mexican organized crime syndicates.

US anti-gang efforts in El Salvador have been in place since 2008 as part of CARSI. In 2012, the US Treasury Department included the Salvadoran gang MS-13 as a transnational criminal organization, allowing the US government to target the gang’s assets for economic sanctions.

USAID has also launched anti-gang programs aimed at preventing at-risk youth from joining gangs, as well as increasing community policing and other crime prevention initiatives.

Industrial sector led El Salvador’s economic growth in 2012

According to the Salvadoran Industrial Association (Asociación Salvadoreña de Industriales – ASI), the industrial sector had the greatest growth of all the country’s economic sectors in 2012.

The industrial sector saw a 2.7% growth, while the commercial and agricultural sectors expanded by 2.6%. The industrial sector’s growth rate outpaced the national economic growth of 1.6%. Overall, industry accounted for 23% of total GDP.

The sub-sectors with greatest growth are non-metallic minerals, clothing, paper, machinery and equipment, leather, textiles, plastic products, and manufactured goods.

The industrial sector is vulnerable, however, because it relies on exports due to weak internal markets held back by sustained but sluggish economic growth. ASI blames the government for this vulnerable economic climate, stating that the statist economic model of the current left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional – FMLN) has not provided the necessary stimuli for sustained development.

Trade regulation is also paralyzing, say industry representatives. Excessive regulation impedes many companies from engaging in commercial enterprises. The ASI also claims that heavy red tape and growing energy costs are the main obstacles to greater economic growth in El Salvador.

El Salvador’s Central Reserve Bank gets new president

This week Marta Evelyn de Rivera was sworn in as the new president of El Salvador´s Central Reserve Bank (Banco Central de Reserva – BCR). Carlos Acevedo, her predecessor, resigned to take up the position of Senior Adviser for the Central American delegation to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes had designated Acevedo as head of the BCR after assuming the Presidency in 2009. Before assuming the top position at the BCR, De Rivera had been vice-president of the same institution since 2005.

Her professional career inside the BCR began in 1980 as part of the Department of Exterior. She worked at the Department for Export Promotion from 1988 to 1990, and then went on to the Department of Internal Communication for four year, where she designed, coordinated, and executed the BCR´s communication strategy.

Other positions she held at the BCR include the lead post at the Department of Foreign Financing, the head of the Department of International Reserve Management, and International Manager of the BCR.