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Cablegate: El Salvador Agrees to Sofa

VZCZCXYZ0014
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSN #0394 0602229
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 012229Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5364
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN SALVADOR 000394

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR L/PM THOMAS HERALD, L/T DAPHNE COOK, AND DOD
FOR ISA/WHA WALTER EARLE AND COL. FERNANDO GONZALEZ

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2017
TAGS: KTIA MARR MASS MOPS PGOV PREL ES
SUBJECT: EL SALVADOR AGREES TO SOFA

REF: A. STATE 16561

B. SAN SALVADOR 49
C. 06 STATE 163912

Classified By: DCM Michael A. Butler for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (SBU) The Saca administration communicated to the Embassy
late February 28 that the GOES would agree to the proposed
Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) text without further
changes. On March 1, the administration presented the
Agreement in the Legislative Assembly, where it passed by a
vote of 49 in favor and 26 against. ARENA's 34 deputies were
joined by their center-right PCN allies' 10 seats, plus the 5
deputies of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), while 26
FMLN members voted nay. Prior to the vote, the FMLN
stridently complained that the Agreement represented a
possible threat to Salvadoran sovereignty, and should first
be studied carefully by the Assembly's International
Relations Committee. The PCN replied that the humanitarian
benefits of U.S. military exercises were too important to put
at risk, and that the Assembly should stop wasting time
passing temporary agreements every two years. Post expects
receipt of the MFA's final dipnote, accepting the terms of
the SOFA, no later than COB March 2. Post will immediately
forward this dipnote, along with a certified copy of post's
original note proposing the compromise text in reftel A to
L/T in the Department.

2. (C) COMMENT: This SOFA is only the second such agreement
in the Western Hemisphere (the other being Trinidad and
Tobago). Our military-to-military relations remain
excellent, and the passage of the SOFA will greatly
facilitate the continuation of bilateral exercises for the
foreseeable future. The larger DOD exercises in El Salvador,
most of which are humanitarian in nature (such as the MEDRETE
and New Horizons exercises), are tremendously popular here,
and have become an important facet in our bilateral
relationship. Negotiation of the SOFA and its final passage
required extensive Embassy intervention at all levels,
including the direct efforts by the Ambassador with President
Saca. Throughout the process, the Saca administration
privately expressed concerns regarding sovereignty issues and
the duty-free status of contractors under the Agreement. In
the end, the grassroots enthusiasm for bilateral humanitarian
military exercises and the overall predominance of El
Salvador's bilateral relationship with the U.S. (the latter
of which is a significant source of ARENA's popularity)
tipped the scales in our favor.
Glazer

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