While the thrust of that message appeared to get a bit lost on the media scrum – the US press corps asked questions only about Libya, while their Salvadoran counterparts limited their queries to concerns about how much money Washington was going to give El Salvador – the presidents stressed the importance of creating a new vision for north-south relations.
And in many ways, El Salvador – a country ruled by the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a former guerrilla group whose uprising was brutally repressed by a US-backed regime in the 1980s – was an appropriate place to share such a vision.
Many, no doubt, were reminded of the US’s dark historic role in Central America when Obama visited the crypt of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero on Tuesday afternoon. A Liberation Theologian who repeatedly denounced the atrocities of the US-backed Salvadoran government in the 1970s, Monseñor Romero was gunned down exactly 31 years ago by right-wing death squad assassins trained and funded by the US.
Analysts say Obama’s choice to visit El Salvador also represents an interesting passing of the torch to a new Central American ally, after years of maintaining a preferential relationship with Costa Rica.