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08SANSALVADOR12 2008-01-04 22:26:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Salvador
Cable title:  

Salvadoran Legislative Assembly Authorizes Tenth Contingent

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1. (U) Summary: Based on United Nations Security Council Resolution
1790, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly voted to extend
authorization for Salvadoran troops to remain in Iraq. The
authorization was extended until June 2009 in an attempt to keep the
Iraq deployment from coming up for reauthorization during national
elections scheduled for early 2009. The tenth Salvadoran military
contingent is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in February 2008. El
Salvador is the only Latin America country that has maintained
troops in Iraq since August 2003, despite significant public
opposition. End Summary.

2. (U) On December 20, during its last plenary session of 2007, the
Salvadoran Legislative Assembly voted to renew the Legislative
Decree authorizing Salvadoran troops in Iraq. The ruling National
Republican Alliance Party (ARENA) and its allies, the National
Conciliation Party (PCN) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC),
pushed to extend the decree until June 30, 2009 in an attempt to
keep the Iraq deployment from becoming an issue in municipal,
legislative, and presidential elections set for January and March


3. (U) The Iraq decree passed with 46 votes from ARENA, PCN, and PDC
deputies. There were 31 votes against the decree by deputies
representing the opposition Faribundo Marti National Liberation
Party (FMLN) and 2 abstentions from the Democratic Change Party
(CD). Guillermo Gallegos, ARENA Chief of Faction in the Assembly,
said during the plenary debate that renewal of the decree was based
on UN Security Council resolution 1790 calling for continued
multinational military efforts in Iraq. Carlos Castaneda of the
FMLN reminded his colleagues of the five Salvadoran soldiers who
have died in Iraq.

4. (U) U.S and Salvadoran military sources have confirmed that the
tenth military contingent from the Cuscatlan Battalion is scheduled
to deploy in February 2008 to replace the 280 Salvadoran soldiers
who are currently stationed in Al Kut, south of Baghdad.

5. (U) COMMENT: El Salvador has maintained troops in Iraq since
August 2003, despite significant public opposition. A December 2007
oll from the Public Institute of the University of Central American
(UCA) revealed that 83.4 percent of Salvadorans do not agree with
President Saca's decision to send troops to Iraq. The Assembly's
decision to put off a future debate on reathorization until after
the 2009 elections may succeed in moving this issue to the back
burner during the elections, but any further votes on troop
deployment, will be dependent on the outcome of both the
presidential and legislative contests. End Comment.