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El Salvador





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El Salvador Index

As the Salvadoran civil conflict continued during the 1980s, the imperative of maintaining support from the United States and the protracted diplomatic efforts to achieve a regional settlement in Central America consumed most of the country's foreign policy efforts. Although relations with other nations occupied a distinctly lower priority, the Duarte administration did make an effort to improve El Salvador's standing in Western Europe.

Duarte made an official trip to Western Europe in July 1984 with two major goals in mind: to secure foreign economic aid funds, some of which had been discontinued earlier in the decade as a result of his country's poor human rights record under military rule, and to convince West European leaders that real political and social reform was possible in El Salvador. The governments of most West European countries were on record as supporting the inclusion of the FDR or even the FMLN in a negotiated power-sharing government. The 1981 declaration by France and Mexico recognizing the FMLN-FDR as a "representative political force" was the most prominent product of this European foreign policy current. The FDR and its president, Ungo, maintained close ties with social democratic parties in Europe; the FDR also served as the Salvadoran representative to the Socialist International, the worldwide association of social democratic parties, and effectively used this forum to press its case against the existing government in El Salvador.

Duarte was received by the heads of state in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), France, Portugal, Belgium, and Britain. The most productive meeting from the Salvadoran standpoint was that with Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany. Kohl, a Christian Democrat, announced the resumption of German economic aid to El Salvador, aid that had been discontinued five years previously by the social democratic government of Helmut Schmidt. Duarte was also warmly received by British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, although no aid agreement resulted from his visit. The Salvadoran president failed to achieve one specific goal of his trip when French president Fran├žois Mitterrand declined to modify or reject the 1981 Franco-Mexican declaration. Nevertheless, the French position vis-a-vis the Duarte government generally was perceived as more supportive after the July 1984 visit; in 1985 France shifted the residence of its ambassador from Belmopan, Belize, to San Salvador, partially in recognition of improved security conditions in the Salvadoran capital.

El Salvador received a limited amount of economic development assistance from Canada in the late 1980s. Canadian concerns over the increasing number of Salvadoran immigrants to that country as a result of more restrictive United States immigration laws, however, could prompt Canada to review the low priority of its dealings with El Salvador. In May 1988, the Salvadoran foreign minister paid the first official visit by a Salvadoran official to Japan. He returned with pledges of Japanese aid in the San Salvador reconstruction effort necessitated by the October 1986 earthquake, as well as very low-level commitments to fund or donate equipment for sanitation, agriculture, and sports and cultural projects. The Japanese government also promised to take steps to appoint a resident ambassador.

El Salvador did not maintain diplomatic relations with any communist countries in the late 1980s and did not recognize China. Its continued recognition of Taiwan reflected the historically conservative thrust of the country's foreign policy. In a similar vein, El Salvador was one of only two countries in the world (Costa Rica being the other) to maintain its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem rather than Tel Aviv.

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Enrique A. Baloyra's El Salvador in Transition and numerous subsequent articles provide useful and objective insights into the workings of Salvadoran politics and foreign relations. Other authors, such as Kenneth E. Sharpe, Terry Lynn Karl, and Jose Z. Garcia, have followed events in El Salvador closely and written informative articles as well. Because of the country's high profile in United States foreign policy, most major newspapers provide adequate coverage of developments; these reports can be supplemented, however, by publications with a regional focus, such as the Latin American Weekly Report, Latin America Regional Reports: Mexico and Central America, and Latin American Monitor: Central America.

With regard to the Contadora process and related diplomatic, political, and security developments in Central America, Susan Kaufman Purcell's "Demystifying Contadora" and "The Choice in Central America" provide accurate reporting of events while also attempting to explain the motivations of all actors involved. Bruce Michael Bagley's "Contadora: The Failure of Democracy" also provides a good overview of the process. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of November 1988











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