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June 22, 2001
HUD SECRETARY MARTINEZ TRAVELS TO EL SALVADOR TO ASSESS REBUILDING EFFORTS, RAISE INTERNATIONAL AWARENESS
WASHINGTON - U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez travels to El Salvador June 25-27 to assess efforts to rebuild the Central American country from the devastation caused by two earthquakes earlier this year. Martinez intends to raise international awareness of the country's continuing need for assistance, and explore new public-private cooperative U.S.-Salvadoran relationships on a variety of disaster mitigation techniques.
Martinez, the first member of President Bush's Cabinet to visit El Salvador, will meet with President Francisco Flores, Foreign Minister Maria Eugenia Brizuela de Avila and other officials. Martinez will also tour the hard-hit towns of San Vicente, Guadalupe and Verapaz, and report his findings back to the President. The delegation Martinez is leading is composed of U.S. government officials and representatives of non-profit organizations and the business community.
"This trip is especially important because the United States Government has a close and long-standing relationship with the nation of El Salvador," Martinez told reporters before his trip. "Over the course of two decades, we've watched El Salvador become a strong democracy, a free market model for other nations, and a trusted friend."
"I want to continue the exchange of information and technical cooperation between our two governments and the private sector," he added. "This will help both nations explore long-term solutions to disaster mitigation in our housing and urban development programs."
President Flores invited Martinez, the first Cuban-American member of the Cabinet, to visit El Salvador following his talks in Washington with President Bush and the HUD Secretary. Following the March talks, the United States committed to providing El Salvador with an additional $110 million over two years for its earthquake relief efforts.
The first-year installment of $52 million is dedicated to building earthquake-resistant homes, refurbishing water systems, rebuilding schools, child-care centers and health facilities, as well as other activities aimed at repairing infrastructure and supporting Salvadoran small businesses.
Joining Martinez on the trip will be Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Susan Wood; Don Boyd, acting deputy assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); Ken Tinsley, vice president for trade and finance, U.S. Export-Import Bank; and Christopher Coughlin, senior adviser to the President, Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
From the non-profit and business world will be Rafael Callejas, regional director for Latin America, CARE; Rick Dovalina, president, League of United Latin American Citizens; Bruce McClendon, president, American Planning Association; Liza Bowles, president, National Association of Home Builders Research Center; Doug Sandor, president, Clark Realty Capital; Donald Cohen, managing director for international development, Plan International; Jorge Galdamez, owner, Urban Assets; Stephen L. Keily, president, Fox-Fire; Carlos Penin, president, CSA GROUP; John Poffenbarger and Arthur Bond of Robust Building Systems, Inc.
"Each of these groups will bring their own perspectives as we explore solutions that over the long term will help our countries build homes better able to withstand earthquakes, design home purchasing programs, construct stable water system, and restore small businesses when disaster strikes," Martinez said.
Following Hurricane Mitch, which affected more than 10,000 homes and left nearly 56,000 Salvadorans homeless, HUD took an active role in El Salvador's reconstruction. The Department put its expertise to work through a $2.2 million program focused on enhancing building and construction methods, and improving the availability of housing finance.
The severe, back-to-back earthquakes last January and February killed more than 1,100 Salvadorans, injured another 8,000, and left 1.3 million of El Salvador's six million people homeless. The quakes destroyed or damaged 335,000 homes, 20 percent of the country's schools, more than 150 medical facilities and $25 million worth of potable water systems.
The United States has been in the forefront of relief activities since Mitch, providing $37.7 million in hurricane relief and reconstruction aid and $25 million in earthquake relief. The $110 million committed to El Salvador following the Flores-Bush talks in Washington are in addition to those figures.