The International Republican Institute (IRI) honored Elías Antonio Saca González with the 2007 Freedom Award for his leadership in building on a quarter century of dramatic democratic and economic progress in El Salvador.  The award was presented at a luncheon in Washington, DC on November 28, 2007.    

In a taped greeting, IRI Chairman Senator John McCain praised President Saca and El Salvador for the progress the country has made since the civil war of the 1980s.  “It is El Salvadorans, including President Saca, who deserve the credit for what has happened there since the war.  El Salvador’s politics and economy have been transformed.  Today, former guerillas are free to stand peacefully for public office and economic growth is gradually eroding poverty,” said Senator McCain.

In accepting his award, President Saca recalled his country’s struggle for freedom during the Cold War, “During that struggle we were fortunate to have the unwavering support of the United States…Although the decision to be free was the Salvadorans’ decision, we will never forget the firm support of President Reagan.”

President Saca went on to remind the audience that the work of strengthening and protect democracy continues in Latin America.  “When the leaders of the free countries lose their social awareness they are paving the way for our countries to become fertile ground for the populist sermons which the totalitarians disguise themselves with.”

IRI Board Member Ambassador Richard S. Williamson presented the award to President Saca.  During his remarks he recalled President Ronald Reagan’s commitment to supporting democracy in Latin American.  “Back then the front line in the march to freedom was Central America.  I remember those close vote counts, in the early 80s, when Ronald Reagan was going against the majority in Congress who didn’t want to support the freedom fighters in El Salvador, Nicaragua and elsewhere.  Fortunately, he prevailed and 25 years later El Salvador is a beacon of freedom.”

The 2007 ceremony was the 11th year the award was presented.  Past honorees have included President George W. Bush, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, First Lady Laura Bush, then-National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Vice President Dick Cheney and Mrs. Lynne Cheney, and Nobel Laureate and Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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