GW hosts Latin American diplomat

El Salvadorian Ambassador Rene Antonio Leon Rodriguez discussed his country’s new democratic system and its economic development in a speech at GW Saturday night.

The Ambassador spoke at a program called “Journey to El Salvador” hosted by the International Students Society in the Marvin Center’s Grand Ballroom. He received a warm welcome from the audience of about 100 people, which included students and families, as well as members of D.C.’s El Salvadorian community.

“We would like to educate people about El Salvador and give them a taste of the country and with that raise awareness . of El Salvador,” ISS President Eva Hampl said.

The ambassador spoke and took questions for nearly 40 minutes, focusing mainly on how his country become a free democracy after the tumult of the 1980s. He suggested El Salvador, on the road to economic development, can be used as a democratic model for other developing Latin American countries.

“I aspire to leave you with the message that El Salvador has transformed itself into a vibrant democracy,” Rodriguez said.

He also talked about the economic development of his country and the importance of free trade, especially with the United States, to its new economy. He noted the importance of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the Central American version of NAFTA, which he said is important in helping his country continue to improve its citizens’ lives.

The ambassador also discussed his role in Washington, protecting the interests of El Salvadorians living in the United States, a group that constitutes a quarter of the worldwide El Salvadorian population.

Because of the nature of his job, he said he spends much of his time working with the White House and Immigration and Naturalization Services on behalf of El Salvadorians. He is in close touch with many El Salvadorian interest groups as well.

Many students came to the event to learn about a country with which they were unfamiliar.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity to learn about different cultures,” freshman Elizabeth Jenkins-Shalin said.

The program also included an introduction to the country in a slide show, a traditional El Salvadorian dinner and a performance of traditional El Salvadorian dance by the dance troupe El Pulgarcito.

“I don’t know much about El Salvador,” said junior Shiho Sekioka, an exchange student from Japan. “I thought that it was a good chance to learn.”

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