Obama coming to visit was a “big deal” here. The press conference today with Barack Obama and Mauricio Funes was going swimmingly. The state heads presented topics on economic development within El Salvador, combating narco traffic and crime, and of course, immigration.
Then questions from the press. Four total, two from the Salvadoran press and two from the White House Press Corps* (United States).
Salvadoran journalists queried about the topics mentioned above. Journalists from the US? Both questions about the (sudden) use of military force in Libya.
Not ONE of their questions was related to Obama’s visit here, El Salvador, or Central America.
Half the Q&A time was about Libya, nothing to do with the theme of this press conference in San Salvador. This link from USA Today provides a great summary, including timestamps. Mauricio Funes, the president of El Salvador, graciously steered things back ‘on topic’ to squeeze the last 4 minutes in to talk about the BRIDGE plan between US and El Salvador.
Some of you may think: ‘our press has a right to ask what they want, especially re: such an important issue’. Of course they do. But I ask, when you visit the house of a friend and his family, do you leave your manners at the door? So why should our media do that while visiting another country?
Americans don’t see the entire picture of events related through the United States media – obviously highlights and summary make sense. But today I did, and seeing all of it was enlightening.
The Salvadoran people have been looking forward to Obama’s visit for weeks now, showing footage all morning before his arrival (including the communications room they set up for the US journalists).
SHAME on you, White house press corps! What a poorly mannered, arrogant representation you made of yourselves and the United States today. You took zero interest in El Salvador and instead used this forum to limelight yourselves with ‘pointed questions’ to the Prez. Do you do that in every country you visit?
On a positive note, the two Presidents were in agreement on issues; both touched upon how economic development must come from within El Salvador. Obama mentioned young people should not just look to migrating to the U.S. or working in illegal business (gangs) as way to support themselves. Funes echoed these sentiments, stating El Salvador cannot just depend on money from “afuera” (outside the country).
In regards to Narco traffic, Funes echoed what other Latin American leaders have often said: that “demand” for drugs must also be reduced [read: United States consumption]. He mentioned the whopping dollar amount America is investing to do this: “10 thousand million” (as translated directly from Spanish), which is $10 billion American dollars [to fund the continually failing War on Drugs].
The best news was the commitment by Obama to invest $200 million towards fighting narcos and organized crime in Central America (4 countries total). To give you an idea of what that means down here, this is over 16% of the 2011 Salvadoran national budget (1.2 billion dollars / “mil 200 millones de dólares” ).
* To the best of my knowledge, this is what the entourage of reporters who travel with Obama for foreign press conferences are called. Please correct me if I am wrong.