The United States downgrades El Salvador’s threat level

Traspaso de Mando de la Policía Nacional Civil.The United States has recognised security improvements in El Salvador and downgraded its travel alert for US citizens.

The level 2[1] travel alert that now applies to El Salvador is considered to be a positive step forward and recognises efforts to improve the security situation in the Central American country.

El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, emphasised that no other previous government succeeded in revoking the ‘do not travel’ alert due to the Central American country’s security problems. And, when Bukele was sworn in as president of the country on the 1st of June 2019, there was an average of 9.2 homicides per day. Yet, by August of this year, the homicide rate was already at its lowest since the peace accords of January 1992, at 4.2 violent deaths per day.

In 2018, the United States issued a level 3 alert, recommending that its citizens reconsider travel to El Salvador and take adequate precautionary measures as a result of the country’s security problems. Following the preliminary homicide-reduction results of the Territorial Control Plan, Bukele’s government had already made several requests for US officials to lower the alert level.

The Minister of Tourism, Morena Valdez, said the US’ decision was a historic moment and believes the time has come to attract more tourism by promoting and positioning the country’s attractions, as well as revitalising the economy.

Ricardo Sosa, a criminologist and expert in gang violence, underlined the significance of the American government’s decision to lower the alert after re-evaluating the country’s risk factors. Sosa believes that the rates of all high-impact crimes are falling, particularly incidences of violent homicide. And he’s optimistic that the latest positive trend in crime statistics will make it easier for El Salvador to attract foreign investment.

However, it’s worth mentioning that El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, entered into cooperation pacts with the US to reduce the flow of irregular migration from the Central American country, and, according to the estimates of the North-American authorities, has succeeded in doing so by around 60%.

Recently El Salvador has deployed 800 police officers and 300 migration officials to reinforce the country’s main borders, prevent illegal people smuggling, and fight transnational crime. An agreement was also signed with the US to facilitate the return of many asylum seekers.

For its part, the United States explained in a press conference that the travel alerts do not reflect the nature of its bilateral relationships with any country. Despite this, relations between the United States and El Salvador have significantly improved since president Bukele took office, becoming in just a few months one of North America’s closest allies in the region.

[1] The United States’ level 1 alert is “exercise normal precautions”. Level 2 is “exercise increased caution”. Level 3 is “reconsider travel”, and level 4 is “do not travel”.


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