Four Central American Nations Celebrate Their National Day
On September 15, 2016, the diplomatic missions in Israel of the Republics of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica, celebrated the 195th anniversary of the independence of Central America at a reception they hosted in Tel Aviv at King David Hall , at Dan Tel Aviv Hotel , for the diplomatic corps accredited to Israel, leaders of the business community and the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, and citizens of Central America residing in Israel.
Guests were welcomed in an address by the Ambassador of the Republic of El Salvador, Mr. Werner Matias Romero, on behalf of the Ambassadors of Central America ( HE José Isaías Barahona, Ambassador of Honduras, HE Alfredo Vásquez, Ambassador of Guatemala, and HE Esteban Penrod, Ambassador of Costa Rica) . The full text of the remarks by Ambassador Romero appears below.
The State of Israel was represented by Mrs. Galit Sashó, the Director of Culture of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and Mr. Modi Ephraim, head of the Latin American and Caribbean desk of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In her message of congratulations on behalf of the State of Israel, Mrs. Sashó recalled with gratitude the role the nations of Central America played in supporting the United Nations resolution creating the State of Israel and praised the activities of Israel’s Agency for International Development Corporation (Mashav) in Central America.
The official ceremony commenced with the playing of the national anthems of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Israel.
During the course of the evening, Mr. Hernán Felman, KKL World Vice President, was presented with a plaque by His Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Guatemala, Mr. Alfredo Vásquez, for the organization's generous support and close relations with the Central American countries. Mr. Felman expressed his gratitude for this honor.
The evening commenced with a buffet of Central American foods and concluded with a buffet of desserts representing the cuisines of the four host countries.
Remarks of the Ambassador of the Republic of El Salvador, Mr. Werner Matias Romero, on the occasion of the 195th anniversary of the independence of Central America:
Dear friends, Queridos amigos, Erev tov, buenas noches, good evening. I’m Werner Matías Romero, Ambassador of El Salvador to Israel. It is an honour for me to address you tonight on behalf of my colleagues (HE José Isaías Barahona, Ambassador of Honduras, HE Alfredo Vásquez, Ambassador of Guatemala, and HE Esteban Penrod, Ambassador of Costa Rica) on the occasion of the 195th anniversary of our independence. First, I want to acknowledge the presence of the Honourable Galit Wahba Shasho, Director of Culture, representing the Minister of Culture and Sports, Miri Regev. Let me also thank KKL-JNF, in particular Hernan Felman, its Vice Chairman here with us, and Ariel Goldgewicht, a fellow Central American, for their generosity in making this celebration possible. Dear members of the Knesset, Israeli government officials, ambassadors and diplomatic representatives, friends of Central America and fellow Central Americans, to all of you, my colleagues and I offer a warm welcome. Let me start by wishing a speedy recovery for Shimon Peres, who is in hospital tonight, a titan of this great democracy, Israel. President Peres, we hope you can return home soon to be with your family.
A nuestros compatriotas centroamericanos: costarricenses, guatemaltecos, hondureños y salvadoreños, en esta ocasión en la que celebramos el centésimo nonagésimo quinto aniversario de la independencia de Centroamérica, permítanme invitarles a que reflexionemos sobre el sueño de la Gran Patria Centroamericana. Y recordemos todos juntos lo que nos une, nuestra historia, nuestra geografía, nuestras costas bañadas por dos océanos, ríos majestuosos, apacibles lagos y soberbios volcanes, pero sobre todo nuestra raza, nuestra gente, nuestro mestizaje. One hundred ninety-five years ago, the original five Central American lands (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) declared their independence from Spain and were born as the “Provincias Unidas del Centro de América” (the United Provinces of the Central America).
That federation lasted only 16 years, and those provinces became the countries we are today, four of which have diplomatic representations here in Israel. Yet since that day in 1821, we Central Americans have known that we remain part of the same fatherland -- our narrow, beautiful, at times troubled isthmus. And we know that our prosperity depends on us remaining at peace and strengthening our ties of economic cooperation and integration. We Central Americans have been integrating our economies since the 1960s. Today our main multilateral forum is the Central American Integration System, or SICA in Spanish. Launched in 1991, SICA now includes the sister nations of Panama, Belize and the Dominican Republic. Our eight countries work together to pursue regional political dialogue, meet climate and environmental challenges, and share expertise in improving social programmes, with the goal of helping our people lead healthier and more secure lives.
Perhaps the area in which we have advanced the most is trade. We have negotiated joint trade agreements with all our most important partners, including the United States, the European Union, Mexico, Colombia and Chile, and we are currently engaged in negotiations with South Korea. These agreements guarantee access for our products to those markets and facilitate investment in our countries. At the same time, we continue to deepen economic integration amongst ourselves and are well underway toward completing a Customs Union, so products can move from one country to another without barriers. Central America is a geographically strategic region. We are blessed with rich biodiversity and long coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific. With a combined population of more than 50 million, we offer investors a large market. But we also face challenges together. Our region faces serious issues of violence due to gang activity, organized crime and drug trafficking. We are committed to tackling these problems jointly.
That is why we have created the Central American Security Strategy, or ESCA, a comprehensive effort for better sharing of information, strengthening judicial and police institutions, and intervention at the community level to prevent violence. A big part of ESCA’s work has also been to apply cooperation from friendly countries that have faced problems similar to ours. We have created a group known as the Friends of ESCA, made up of governments and international financial agencies that are bringing expertise and aid to help us face these unprecedented security challenges. Israel is not part of that group, and those of us here tonight, and my government in particular, would very much like it to be. For that to happen, Israel would have to first become an extra-regional observer to SICA, and we will continue to support that aspiration very strongly, both in our contacts with Israeli authorities and within the Central American group itself.
Israel has been a good friend of Central America over the years, and Central America has been a good friend to Israel since its establishment in 1948, the year all our nations recognized the newly born State of Israel. Moreover, all our countries have thriving Jewish communities that have played important roles in government, the arts and business. In the context of this shared history of cooperation and friendship, we have seen a constant stream of high-level delegations from Central America to Israel in the last 12 months, all with practical agendas for strengthening ties. Last October, President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, a MASHAV alumnus, led an official delegation whose visit concluded with commitments to expand cooperation in agriculture and water management, areas important not only to Honduras but to Central America as a whole. Currently Guatemala is preparing for a visit to Israel in the next few months by President Jimmy Morales, who took office this year and will lead a delegation of key officials. Costa Rica is organizing a visit by its Trade Minister, which will surely advance trade and investment in both directions. As for El Salvador, we are working with Israel on a third round of consultations to review our bilateral agenda, which will include political dialogue, enhanced cooperation and trade and investment possibilities.
Our governments see great opportunities in the “Start-up Nation”. And Israelis are increasingly discovering the investment opportunities offered by our countries individually and as a region. We, Central American and Israeli officials, have to work together to develop this potential. In this endeavour, not only the exchange of visits by officials, but the enhancement of our diplomatic presence, ours in Israel and Israel’s in Central America, is fundamental. That is why we have been surprised by the withdrawal of Israel’s diplomatic presence in our region. Israel this year has closed two embassies, both of them in our region, one in my own country El Salvador and the other the elimination of a roving Israeli ambassador to the Caribbean nations based in New York. As a friend of Israel, it pains my country and me personally to see the Israeli flag coming down anywhere in the world. This is particularly unfortunate in a region that has gained so much from cooperation with Israel in the past and could benefit from Israel’s good sense and expertise now more than ever.
Our region has suffered the scourges of war and forced migration. But we have worked hard to create better institutions, more prosperous economies, and democratic systems that allow all interests to have a voice and a stake in society. All of us, whatever our differences, understand that dialogue is the only means to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation. It is for this reason, and informed by our own experiences, that our countries continue to support a negotiated, two-state solution that will bring peace to Israel and Palestine, two nations that deserve no less. We Central Americans understand better than anybody that peace comes through dialogue - - not imposition – and that negotiated solutions take time and good faith. We trust that, despite all the setbacks to the peace process, the Israeli and Palestinian authorities and peoples will not lose sight of this reality. [pause] When we Central Americans get together, as we do tonight, you might hear us talking about football -- in which we have some epic rivalries -- or politics back home. But you may also hear us mentioning a figure from our independence struggle, Francisco Morazán, who fought the Spaniards and then spent his life fighting to keep Central America together as a single country, unsuccessfully. He was a liberal reformer, born in Honduras, died in Costa Rica and buried in El Salvador, and still a controversial figure today. You’ll still hear people mention el sueño de Morazán, the dream of Morazán, that is, the dream of a unified Central America. We are still working towards the dream of Morazán, although not exactly in the way he envisioned. By integrating our economies and building cooperation in every field, we are working towards realizing his dream of a united, modern and prosperous Central America. We hope Israel will continue to support and be part of that dream. Thank you, toda raba, muchas gracias.