El Salvador’s ebullient consul general, Claudia Valenzuela, was featured in last month’s Global Atlanta Consular Conversation, a monthly luncheon roundtable series allowing attendees to get up close and personal with diplomats posted in Atlanta.
While not officially part of Latin American Crossroads, the event touched on many related themes and set the stage for a potential future Global Atlanta special report on El Salvador, a country with a developed manufacturing infrastructure and a variety of investment opportunities that suffers from a perception problem.
Ms. Valenzuela, a seasoned diplomat, discussed the challenges in changing investors’ mindsets about her country, which has been racked by gang violence in recent years. It has also been the target of President Donald Trump’s ire, providing a convenient whipping boy for the criminal threat of undocumented immigrants, a signature area where he’s already cracking down.
Having served six years in her posting, Ms. Valenzuela has learned how to meld a concern for humanity with a respect for the law, building relationships both with her own community and externally with state and national authorities. A sample quote:
“I try to balance the human perspective and that of the government, which I completely understand,” she said. “We have to acknowledge the things that maybe we didn’t do well, because there is a process for everything.”
On business opportunities:
Few know that El Salvador is an airplane maintenance hub, with a local branch of Colombian airline Avianca through an acquisition. The nation is also an apparel manufacturing powerhouse drawing companies like like YKK, the Japanese zipper company with its Western Hemisphere base in Atlanta.
Tax and investment incentives are available for qualified companies, Ms. Valenzuela also said, noting that she can put interested parties in touch with ProEsa, the country’s business promotion agency.
A burgeoning call center sector is springing up, many employing deportees from the U.S. to make use of their bilingualism. Clean energy is also an area of keen interest, as is food packaging and production, a key Georgia sector.
“You can imagine what you can create with all of these people that are looking for the best of the country,” Ms. Valenzuela said, expressing optimism about the next decade. “I see my constituency here in Atlanta, and I expect the best.”
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