The State Department has turned down an offer by the government of El Salvador to renew a joint drug interdiction program that allows the U.S. Navy to base P-3 maritime search aircraft at Comalpa International airport in El Salvador.
The 10-year agreement, which went into force after the Salvadoran legislature approved it in 2000, is set to expire next year. The Office of National Drug Control Policy recently estimated that more than half of the drugs destined for the United States pass through the Pacific corridor patrolled by the P-3 aircraft based in El Salvador.
“El Salvador has been our staunchest anti-drug ally in the region, outside of Columbia,” said J. Michael Waller, a Latin America expert with the Center for Security Policy. “This program was very well established. The Salvadoran government wanted to extend it for 10 years, and the State Department said no. What kind of insanity is that?”
For many years, Salvador’s former rebel party, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (known by its Spanish acronym, FMLN) has opposed U.S.-Salvadoran drug cooperation.
The FMLN won a closely fought general election March 15 and is set to take over the reins of government on June 1.
President Obama telephoned President-elect Mauricio Funes, a former CNN television correspondent, on Wednesday “to congratulate him on his historic victory,” the White House announced.
The U.S. remained officially neutral in the Salvadoran elections, even though the FMLN vice-presidential candidate, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, led a march in support of the Sept. 11 hijackers just four days after 9/11 and his party issued a communiqué saying that the United States was itself to blame for the terrorist attacks.
Calling the FMLN a “pro-terrorist” party, California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is urging Congress and the administration to review policy that allows Salvadoran citizens living and working in the United States to send money back to family members at home.
“Let me note, that my purpose is not to punish Salvadorans, but if a pro-terrorism government takes power, it will be imperative to review our policies in order to protect the national security of the United States,” Rohrabacher said.
Rohrabacher noted that U.S. laws now “block and seize funds originating in the United States that were destined to foreign terrorist groups,” and should be activated in the case of the FMLN, a group that not only supported al Qaeda after 9/11, but has provided active assistance to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Like President Obama, the State Department also welcomed the FMLN election victory, and dismissed Rohrabacher’s concerns.
“I want to congratulate the people of El Salvador for, you know, a very free, fair, and democratic election,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Monday. ”So we look forward to working with the new government of El Salvador, you know, on our bilateral agenda.”
The outgoing government of President Rodrigo Avila offered on Friday to get parliament to renew the drug-interdiction agreement for another ten years, since his Arena party will remain in power for another two and a half months.
But Newsmax has learned that the State Department said it would support only a five-year renewal, at most.
A State Department spokesman told Newsmax on Friday that the Department is looking into the issue, but was unable to comment on the status of the joint drug interdiction program at present.
“The FMLN was founded in Havana in 1980 by Castro to unite five Marxist factions that were fighting each other, “ Dr. Waller told Newsmax. The group took its name from Farabundo Marti, a Soviet Komintern agent who founded the El Salvadoran Communist Party in the 1930s.
“The FMLN has been fighting a war for thirty years to take over the country, and they have finally won — through elections,” he said.
Many Americans have encountered a U.S.-based offshoot of the FMLN known as the Mara Salvatrucha gang, or MS-13.
“MS-13 began when demobilized FMLN guerillas moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s and early 1990s,” Waller said. “MS-13 provided the muscle for the FMLN election campaign.”
The FBI, which established a special task force in 2005 to track MS-13 activities, considers MS-13 the most violent drug gang in the country, responsible for several thousand murders.
Another U.S. group with known affinities to the FMLN is CASA de Maryland, an immigration-rights group. Founded in 1985, the group today is run by Gustavo Torres, who says he was “originally a union leader from Colombia” who “came to the U.S. to avoid political persecution.”
“CASA de Maryland is run by people who belonged to a guerilla group that targeted American Marines and soldiers and a U.S. Navy commander for assassination for political purposes,” Waller told Newsmax.
Among those murdered by the FMLN were Sgt. Gregory Fronius, a military trainer with the 7th Special Forces Group who was killed in 1987 when the FMLN overran a base in El Paraiso, using intelligence provided by Ana Belen Montes, a Cuban spy in the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The Washington Post reported last month that a former CASA de Maryland board member, Thomas Perez, has been picked by President Obama to head Citizenship and Immigration Services, the lead federal agency handling the naturalization of immigrants.
Perez, who is Maryland’s labor secretary, has appeared at rallies in support of legislation to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants at state universities.
CASA de Maryland makes no bones about its political flavor, and has co-sponsored immigration rights rallies with the FMLN’s Washington, D.C., branch and the Communist Party-USA.
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