Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes this week became the first Central American President to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House Oval Office, where the two leaders discussed trade, security, immigration and other issues of common interest.
Funes, a former CNN journalist who was elected president last year on the left-ofcenter ticket of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), told Obama he wants to view the United States as a “strategic partner” and an “equal partner.”
After the meeting, Obama praised Funes for taking “the steps he’s taking to try to break down political divisions within the country and move it forward with a spirit of progress and focusing on prosperity at every level of Salvadorian society,” according to the Washington Post.
Following U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Central America at the beginning of the month, and Funes’ visit to the White House this week, some analysts in Washington, D.C. hope the Obama administration is finally starting to pay attention to Central America.
“Ojalá,” said Michael Shifter, vice president for policy of the Washington, D.C.- based Latin American think tank the Inter- American Dialogue.
And if that’s the case, Shifter said, Obama might be looking at Funes – Latin America’s most popular president, according to the polls – as a “stabilizing force” in the region.
“For Washington, Funes represents an appealing variant of leftist politics,” Shifter told The Nica Times this week. “I think the Obama administration wants to show its support for a moderate government like Funes’s.”