SAN SALVADOR – The Congress of El Salvador, one of a dwindling number of staunch U.S. allies in Latin America, and the only one from that region with troops still in Iraq, has joined Mexico in blasting Washington, D.C.’s plans for construction of a high double fence along much of the southern border of the United States.
The unicameral legislature on Oct. 26 passed overwhelmingly a pronouncement that “laments the construction of a barrier on the border of the United States.”
The Salvadoran economy depends heavily on remittances, or cash sent home, from the astoundingly high number of emigrants from this small Central American nation living in the United States.
Some estimates put the number of Salvadorans in “El Norte” – as the United States is known here – at more than 2 million, or nearly a third of the official population of 6.4 million.
The declaration passed here by Congress, and scheduled to be published this week, reportedly says that immigration into the United States “should be regulated in an integral and comprehensive way that seeks solutions that take into account the legitimate concerns of the United States, and at the same time guarantee respect for the human rights of migrants.”
The measure was passed hours after U.S. President George W. Bush signed at a White House ceremony a bill providing for construction of a fence along some 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mexican President Vicente Fox said shortly after the signing that the barrier “is a disgrace” for the United States and “a decision without a vision of the future.”
The U.S. plan “goes completely against a nation that prides itself on being open” and which in the past has struggled to dismantle other barriers, such as the Berlin Wall, Fox said.
El Salvador’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Eduardo Calix, said “walls do not stop migration.”
He expressed concern that the new barrier will “foment more corruption, people trafficking and the abuse of our compatriots” who head north in search of work and better lives for themselves and their families.
Calix, who serves in a conservative administration closely aligned geo-politically with the Bush administration, did acknowledge that “every nation has the right to take the measures it deems necessary to make its borders secure.”
With that in mind, he said, those measures should also take into account “that our (migrant) populations contribute not only the democratic system in the United States, but also to its prosperity.”