Miami – According to two aides to Central American leaders, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele is visiting senior US diplomats this week about what he sees as a slight pattern from the Democratic Party and the Biden administration. Refused to meet with the government.
Bukele’s decision not to meet Ricardo Zniga, the Biden administration’s envoy to Central America’s so-called North Triangles, resulted in a similar snab allegedly received from U.S. authorities during an unannounced trip to Washington in February. It is the one that follows.
It was also a few days after the Bukele administration signed a $ 1.2 million lobbying contract to improve relations with a former top carrier diplomat at the State Department.
Zniga traveled to El Salvador on Wednesday after a meeting in Guatemala focused on immigration amid a surge in child immigration at the US border. Upon arrival, he announced a $ 2 million US donation to the International Commission to intensify the fight against corruption. This is considered by the Biden authorities to be one of the root causes of illegal immigrants.
US officials told a local reporter in the capital of San Salvador that Zniga wants to see Bukele before returning to Washington on Thursday.
However, Mr Bukele told his aide that he would not meet Biden officials until the United States eased criticisms that cast doubt on its commitment to democracy and the rule of law. ..
Specifically, Bukele said on Monday that he was angry with a comment from State Department spokesman Ned Price. The United States hopes that Bukele “strongly separates the eroded separation of powers and demonstrates the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.”
The El Salvador presidential press did not respond to requests for comment.
Price’s comment followed a quarrel between Bukele and one of his most fierce US critics, Democrat Norma Torres, who co-chairs a Central American caucuse in Congress.
In a series of tweets last week, Torres accused Bukele of acting like a “self-euphoric dictator” indifferent to the plight of Central American immigrants who take great risks to reach the United States.
She attaches a widely distributed photo in 2019, showing the body of an El Salvador immigrant and his daughter lying dead on the Rio Grande river on the Texas border.
“Send me your glasses, and Suffering of your people “Through your eyes,” wrote Torres, who came to the United States as a child from Guatemala.
Bukele pointed out that he wasn’t even in the office at the time of his death, which came during the previous surge of Central American immigrants under the Trump administration. He urged El Salvador and other immigrants in the Southern California area of Torres to vote for her absence.
“She isn’t working for you, but to keep our country underdeveloped,” he said. I have written..
Due to his full combat power, 39-year-old Bukele is by far the most popular politician in Central America, a region plagued by corruption and crime. His new idea party swept the legislative elections with a landslide last month, and Buquere, who fosters a trendy practitioner image, sought to harness China’s growing influence in the region to court new foreign investment. It was.
However, he struggled to approach the Biden administration, which was trying to revoke Trump’s hard-line immigration policy, which restricted asylum demands, which Bukele accepted in exchange for strong US support for his strict style of governance. ..
El Salvador hired former Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon to involve many of Bukele’s critics last month as U.S. policy was being considered, according to a U.S. Department of Justice foreign lobby record released this week. It was.
The $ 1.2 million one-year contract with Arnold & Porter, signed by Bukele’s office on March 25, aims to strengthen relations between El Salvador with the United States and multilateral institutions. Fund.
“President Bukele is Central America’s most successful, politically stable and important leader,” Shannon said in a statement to the Associated Press Thursday. “It’s no wonder that the United States and El Salvador have strong and positive partnerships. We hope we can help build those relationships.”
Shannon, who acted as Deputy Secretary of State for two weeks before Rex Tillerson took office as Deputy Secretary of State at the time of the Trump administration, retired from the Department of State in 2018 after a career that included a long-term job in Latin America. .. He has been close to Zuniga since his days in Brazil, where Shannon was the US Ambassador and Zuniga was the Political Counselor from 2010 to 2013.
Respected by both Democrats and Republicans, Shannon has brought Arnold & Porter a roster of lobbying clients, including the governments of Argentina and Ecuador.
The law firm was also hired by the Honduras government in 2019 for saying that federal prosecutors tried to dispel drug trafficking investigations by President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s brothers. Shannon played no role in the contract. Its stated purpose was to provide legal advice to Honduras regarding financing in the international market. However, shortly after the deal was signed, Honduras lawyers contacted New York prosecutors and warned of the potential “incidental consequences” of their proceedings regarding the relationship between the United States and the state.
Shannon’s employment in El Salvador took place before the latest line with Washington.
Two Salvador aides said they believed that Shannon could build support in Washington by emphasizing a lasting relationship between the two countries. Most important of these are more than 3 million Salvadorians living in the United States, many of whom fled during the US-funded civil war in the 1980s and were the main driver of the dollarized Salvadorian economy. I’m sending it back.
The deal with Arnold & Porter was first reported Wednesday by the Foreign Lobby Report, an online publication that tracks Washington’s affected industries.
Bukele is an independent pledge to save El Salvador from the deep divisions left by uncontrolled gang violence and systematic corruption in both right and left governments following the end of the bloody civil war in 1992. I took office in the year.
But more and more Democrats, and some Republicans, are talking about powerful tactics like sending troops around Congress last year to pressure lawmakers to vote for funding to fight the gang. Is criticizing.
Relations with the Biden administration got off to a volatile start when US officials refused to meet him when he traveled to Washington without notice in February, according to three people familiar with the decision.
Bukele vehemently denied that he wanted to meet with Biden officials during what he characterized as a personal visit. It became apparent only when it was reported by the AP.
Bukele has been lobbying since last fall and has signed more than $ 2.8 million in contracts with four lobbyists, including the current Arnold & Porter.
However, he allowed the $ 450,000 lobby contract with one of them, the Sonoran Policy Group, to expire on February 14. It also shows records of foreign lobbies. Sonoran is run by Robert Strike. Robert Strike was the most represented during President Trump’s time on behalf of clients facing sanctions and those with a distressed reputation in Washington, including supporters of the Venezuelan and Somali governments and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Established one of the successful lobbying companies.
AP writer Marcos Aleman of San Salvador contributed to this report.
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President El Salvador visits Biden’s envoy
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