Early Start in International Relations for Funes

In the days following president-elect Mauricio Funes’ victory in El Salvador’s March 15 elections, a number of international leaders sent Funes their congratulations and invitations to discuss the future.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez was the first to congratulate Funes in a phone call on Monday, March 16, during which Chavez stated the he wishes to “deepen the links of brotherhood between our people and governments.”

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama called Funes to congratulate him. Obama also requested a meeting at the Summit of the Americas which will be held in Trinidad and Tobago in April. At the meeting, Obama stated he wished to discuss issues of mutual concern such as the economic crisis, tackling issues of increasing poverty and generating jobs, and drug trafficking. Funes has said that he will also raise the subject of immigration.

Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner also called to congratulate the president-elect, and  requested a meeting at the Summit of the Americas to discuss Central and South American cooperation and integration.

In the afternoon on Wednesday, Funes met with the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon. He assured that the U.S. wished to maintain its positive relationship with El Salvador and continue to work together for mutual benefit.

On Thursday, March 19, Funes traveled to Brazil, in what was his first trip abroad as president-elect. He met with a number of representatives of the Brazilian government, including Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ de Silva, who Funes has said will serve as his model for president. Funes said “For me, President Lula and his government comprise a model of the exercise of democracy of a leftist party that can maintain signs of confidence to international investors as well as national investors.”

On Friday, March 20, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Funes to offer him congratulations and to say that she had been following his campaign closely.

The requests for meetings and acknolwedgements that Funes has received from Western Hemisphere leaders -especially those from Lula and Obama- may bolster Funes’ image as a moderate as he seeks to overcome the distrust generated by a long and very negative campaign season.

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