09.18.13

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On Funding for a Second Millennium Challenge Compact for El Salvador September 18, 2013

Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. President, on September 12th I made a statement in this chamber about the vote earlier that day by the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation to approve a second compact for El Salvador. 

As I said then, that vote was expected, and it began the final phase of discussions between the United States and El Salvador on a compact which, if funded, could result in investments totaling $277 million from the United States and $85 million from El Salvador.

I share the view of the MCC Board that the compact, if implemented fully, would improve the lives of the Salvadoran people.

But I also noted that when the MCC was established a decade ago it was not intended to be just another foreign aid program. 

Rather, an MCC compact provides a kind of stamp of approval by the United States, indicating that the government of the compact country has demonstrated a commitment to integrity, to good governance and respect for the rule of law, and to addressing the needs of its people.  I said this should be doubly so for a second compact. 

While El Salvador can point to some success in these areas, it remains a country of weak democratic institutions where the independence of the judiciary has been attacked, corruption is widespread, and transnational criminal organizations and money laundering have flourished.   

Nobody knows this better than the Salvadoran people. 

I urged the MCC, the Department of State, and the Government of El Salvador, prior to a final decision to provide the funds for a second compact, to do more to address these problems which is necessary for the rule of law and economic growth in that country.  

Regrettably, rather than acknowledge the need to address these problems more convincingly, the reaction of top Salvadoran officials was to accuse me of being “misinformed” about their country and of meddling in their affairs.

They reacted similarly when U.S. Ambassador Aponte expressed some of the same concerns. 

For over 20 years, I have been a friend of El Salvador.  I actively supported the negotiations that ended the civil war.  I worked to help El Salvador recover from that war, and I supported the first MCC compact which was financed with $461 million from the Appropriations subcommittee that I chair.  I obtained emergency funding to help that country rebuild after devastating floods.

And over the past decade I have watched as the Salvadoran people were victimized by increasing levels of crime and violence, a corrupt police force, and some individuals in positions of authority who cared more about enriching themselves or protecting their privileges than improving the lives of the people. 

So it is disappointing that Salvadoran officials reacted as they did to my remarks last week. 

As I said then, I appreciate that MCC CEO Yohannes, U.S. Ambassador Aponte, and other State Department officials have echoed some of the concerns I have raised. 

The budget of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which I have long supported, and the funds for a second compact for El Salvador – for those who may not be aware or have forgotten – comes from the Congress.  It should not be taken for granted. 

I hope President Funes and his government will reconsider their response to these concerns – for the good of the Salvadoran people and if they want a second MCC compact to be funded.      

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