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id: 39277
date: 8/26/2005 20:53
refid: 05SANSALVADOR2392
origin: Embassy San Salvador
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


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E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/26/2020
Classified By: Ambassador Douglas H. Barkley.  Reasons 1.4 (b,d).
1.  (C) Summary:  During an August 26 courtesy call on
President Saca, the Ambassador praised Saca's commitment to
the Iraq effort by sending a fifth Salvadoran contingent,
announced that Commerce Secretary Gutierrez would be coming
to El Salvador October 21-22, and offered Embassy assistance
to the GOES as they prepare their application for the
Millennium Challenge Account.  The Ambassador stressed that
the MCA process presented an opportunity for the GOES to look
at the 16 Millennium Challenge criteria with a critical eye
and determine which areas needed special attention. The
Ambassador asked Saca to consider inviting his fellow Central
American heads of state to a joint meeting with Gutierrez
while the Commerce Secretary was in El Salvador.  Saca agreed
enthusiastically, said he would call each Central American
president starting Monday August 29, and added he would ask
Nicaraguan President Bolanos to help, as present chair of the
Central American Integration System (SICA), coordinate the
joint meeting.  Separately, Saca requested that President
Bush visit El Salvador either on his way to or upon his
return from the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Mar del
Plata in November. He stressed that a visit by President Bush
would be very helpful to him politically. End Summary.
2.  (C) On August 26, the Ambassador paid a courtesy call on
President Saca to introduce the new DCM and Polcouns.
Minister of Government Rene Figueroa and Presidential private
secretary Elmer Charlaix joined the meeting.  The Ambassador
expressed USG gratitude for President Saca's courageous
decision to send a fifth Salvadoran contingent to Iraq as
well as satisfaction over the safe return to El Salvador this
week of the fourth batallion.  Saca reaffirmed his commitment
to the Iraq mission, averred that his decision to have
Salvadoran troops in Iraq was politically risky for him and
would be raised during the March 2006 elections, but added
that his government "is the strongest ally of the U.S. in the
region" and would continue to support us.
3.  (C) The Ambassador stressed that the October 21-22 visit
of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez is of the highest
importance, both because Gutierrez is coming as the personal
representative of President Bush, and because of the visit's
timeliness shortly after the passage of CAFTA. Saca said he
never doubted President Bush would get the votes he needed
and described the President as a masterful politician. Asked
by the Ambassador if he would be willing to invite the other
Central American presidents to join him and Gutierrez for a
group meeting during the Commerce Secretary's visit, Saca
said he would start calling each president as early as Monday
August 29, and said he would ask Nicaraguan President Bolanos
to help coordinate the event within Bolanos' present role as
chair of the Central American Integration System (SICA). Saca
envisioned that the other presidents could fly into San
Salvador's airport and hold the meeting there.
4.  (C) The Ambassador raised El Salvador's intent to apply
for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and offered that
this process would be an excellent opportunity for the GOES
to undertake a serious analysis of the 16 MCC criteria, how
El Salvador fared in relation to those criteria, and further
reforms which would need to take place.  He offered the
Embassy's assistance at the working level, as appropriate, to
assist the GOES team pursue reforms as part of the MCA
process.  Saca expressed gratitude and pledged to maintain
fluid communication with the Embassy as they moved forward on
the process.
5.  (C) Saca expressed concern over remarks made the weekend
of August 20-21 in Havana by FMLN leader Shafik Handal.  Saca
affirmed that he took very seriously Handal's remarks that
the FMLN would send fighters to Venezuela if Chavez was
attacked by the U.S., and assured that those remarks were
proof that the FMLN continues to maintain arms caches in El
Salvador.  He pledged that the GOES would continue to search
for those arms caches left over from the war. He added that
some 118 Salvadoran medical students had graduated last
weekend from Fidel Castro's Latin American Medical School in
Havana, an event attended by Shafik Handal. Saca said he
feared that these "students" were really political cadre
trained by Castro to undermine El Salvador's democracy. Saca
also expressed concern over the attendance of President
Torrijos of Panama at the graduation exercise. Regarding the
March 2006 municipal and congressional elections, Saca said
he's convinced that ARENA will do very well, but was still
not sure just how well at this point.  He added that ARENA
has a very strong campaign team, led by Presidential
Communications Secretary Julio Rank, who has taken temporary
leave to run the campaign.
6.  (C) In closing, Saca asked the Ambassador to convey to
Washington his desire to have President Bush stop over for a
brief visit to El Salvador either on his way to the Summit of
the Americas meeting in Mar del Plata in November, or on his
return.  Saca added that, if President Bush agreed to a
visit, perhaps President Bush would offer Saca a ride to/back
from the summit. The Ambassador said he would convey Saca's
request.  Separately, the Ambassador told Saca that the USAF
"Thunderbirds" have been confirmed for the annual Salvador
Air Show in October, another opportunity to share a very
positive U.S. experience with the Salvadoran people.
7.  (C)  Comment:  Saca, as always, was most forthcoming and
charming, and was enthusiastic about making the Secretary of
Commerce visit a success.  As in the past, he did not miss
the opportunity to request more face time with the President,
which, in Saca's view, translates into greater political
capital for him and ARENA at home, especially looking ahead
to the crucial March 2006 elections.  Saca's apparent concern
over Handal's remarks seems a bit overplayed.  In fact,
political pundits here consider that Handal's remarks were
most helpful to ARENA in helping remind Salvadorans that the
FMLN has neither broken with their violent past nor with
their historic (and notorious) internationalist alliances.

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