Emotional farewell letter from the German Ambassador to El Salvador

Bernd Finke, German Ambassador to El Salvador.
Editorial Dept. Voz de la Diaspora

With an emotional letter published on social networks, the Ambassador of Germany in El Salvador, Bernd Finke, who stayed in that Central American country for 4 years, says goodbye thanking and highlighting the hospitality he received during his tenure:

“At the end of this week I will finish my mission as German Ambassador to El Salvador. For four years, since September 2016 until August 2020, this beautiful country has offered me a home. I have visited all the departments, admired the natural beauty of the country and have made many friends.

Now is the time to say goodbye and say thank you: thank you for the great hospitality I received from the first to the last day; thank you for the confidence that El Salvador has shown in working with Germany; thank you for the many good advice that has helped me better understand the country and its people.

Thanks to my German compatriots who have lived in El Salvador for a long time. Who have supported my mission and who have let me go knowing that there is not only one, but many German ambassadors in El Salvador who care about relations between our countries. In summary: Thank you for these four years, that have enriched me personally and professionally. The old slogan of the Ministry of Tourism says it very well: “El Salvador is as big as its people”.

Like my predecessors, I was also sent to El Salvador with the mission of supporting the country in reducing social inequality and improving the living conditions of people living in precarious circumstances.. We must promote democracy and the rule of law, conduct an open dialogue on human rights, promote regional integration in Central America and, Of course, bring to life all facets of German-Salvadoran relations.

By last, but no less important, the Ambassador should help ensure that Germans and Salvadorans have a balanced and objective image of each other, an image that describes strengths and potential, but do not hide internal challenges and deficits.

This wide range of tasks is based on the conviction that Germany and El Salvador are part of a community of values ​​that is governed by the aforementioned principles of democracy., Rule of law, human rights and solidarity in the configuration of international politics and social coexistence. They are huge demands, and when one thinks of the relatively modest financial and personal resources available to deal with them, modesty is necessary, if it is a question of taking stock of what one has achieved as an Ambassador during this missionary period. My personal balance looks something like this:

I look back with joy and pride at the many projects that the Embassy has supported throughout the country over the past four years.. Many communities now have access to clean water, we have improved the infrastructure and equipment of local hospitals and schools, our projects in nursing homes have allowed us to make the living conditions of the elderly more dignified, we have built sports fields and training facilities for young people, etc. They were small projects, but projects that made a difference and reinforced my conviction that every step counts, no matter how small.

I also remember the statements I made on human rights issues, such as women's rights regarding sexual reproduction, discrimination against LGBTI persons or the human rights of those deprived of liberty. These are sensitive files, and have sometimes had to accept fierce criticism from those with different points of view, for one or two comments. Such criticism was always welcome. It is normal that we have different opinions on some issues due to our different cultural and social backgrounds. The important thing is that we, “between friends”, we can maintain a constructive dialogue, even on controversial issues, and that attention is focused on listening, not in accusations.

What else is there in vivid memory? I witnessed the celebration of 25 anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords. I was accredited as an electoral observer for the parliamentary and municipal elections of 2018 and for the presidential elections of 2019, and I was pleased to inform Berlin that - unlike other countries in the region- Fair and free elections were generally held in El Salvador and my host country was able to confirm its good democratic reputation.

I have fond memories of the marathon and the cycling race that we launched together with COES, the Cycling Federation and the European Union. I was in the country when Pope Francis canonized Óscar Romero and El Salvador organized a world surfing championship for the first time. And I am happy to inform Berlin that police statistics show a substantial decline in the murder rate for some time. This are good news! And I am pleased to say that my country is one of the largest cooperation partners of El Salvador, thanks to our extensive bilateral commitments, regional, multilateral and EU, and has been for a long time.

But nevertheless, the great gratitude with which I look back on my four-year mission in El Salvador is also mixed with concern. There are events that could give the impression that our community of values ​​is getting into troubled waters. I am thinking above all of the political culture of discussion and dispute that has spread throughout the country.

Political opponents are not perceived as legitimate rivals with whom there is democratic discussion about the best way forward, but as representatives of a “hostile system”; put in the pillory, harassed and threatened on social media. A constructive exchange of arguments hardly takes place anymore, In my opinion.

Instead, freedom of the press and freedom of opinion are apparently perceived as disruptive factors, and malice, hatred and misinformation dominate political exchange, in which there seems to be only one's own truth and the lies of others. The danger is obvious: the radicalization of discourse and thought can be followed by the radicalization of action and the radicalization of democracy.

It fits with this that the “checks and balances”, which is the basis of all democracy, is also under pressure. Instead of advocating for the maintenance of balance between executive powers, legislative and judicial - necessary for a democratic community based on the rule of law- , there seems to be a kind of "state of war" between some constitutional bodies.

The well-being of citizens is being eroded and El Salvador's good international reputation for having stable and recognized democratic institutions is being damaged.. This is not a good development. There is no doubt that politics thrives on controversy, in the tough fight for the supposed best alternative. But we must not see politics as a zero-sum game in which one's success depends on the failure of the other party.. In a democracy in which you have to fight for the political majorities, politics, in Bismarck's words, it's the art of compromise.

It is understandable that impatience and frustration grow when majorities are lacking and election campaign promises cannot be fulfilled as quickly as desired.. And impatience is a good thing: for example, the problem of violence in the country, endemic corruption or forced migration of many young people due to lack of economic prospects, are problems whose solution cannot be postponed. But in a democracy, Majorities must be established through dialogue and the capacity for compromise, not through ultimatums or threats.

But nevertheless, relations between Germany and El Salvador are not only based on a community of values. Our countries have also become part of a global community of destination. We are talking about the Covid pandemic 19, who is making great human sacrifices, social and economic on our part.

Many structural problems in our economies are exacerbated by the consequences of the pandemic. Thus, it is even more important that a national dialogue is established to address these challenges, a dialogue that brings together all key stakeholders: politicians, businessmen, unions, civil society and churches.

We hope that the precautions taken will take effect, that the number of infections decreases sustainably and that smart scientists will soon have developed an effective vaccine. After, It will try to help countries that, like El Salvador, are particularly affected by the consequences of the pandemic. I am sure that Germany will contribute to this to the best of its ability..

One last thought that has occurred to me over and over during my four years in El Salvador: El Salvador is the only country in the world that bears the name of the Redeemer. And this is, at the end of my mission, once again my wish for this wonderful country and its wonderful people: may El Salvador be saved – Saved from social inequality and deep political polarization, saved from violence and corruption, saved from the Crown pandemic and its grave humanitarian and economic consequences.

I wish El Salvador a prosperous future and I hope that our countries continue to be partners in values. Good luck, The Savior!”.