Washington, DC – IRI will honor 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.

“Twenty-five years ago El Salvador was the most divisive foreign policy issue in Washington, but Ronald Reagan determined to stand with El Salvador’s democrats against the violence of the right and left,” said IRI Chairman Senator John McCain.  “As a result of the steadfastness of the good people of El Salvador, backed by the United States, the country today is a model of democratic and economic development for other nations.  President Saca has shown that it is possible to lift people out of poverty and adhere to democratic principles.  Advocates of freedom have no better ally in the region than President Saca.”

The youngest president in El Salvador’s history, President Saca has built on the strong legacy of his ARENA forebears by linking economic growth with democratic governance, and vigorously defending freedom at home and abroad.  His administration’s slogan, “Government with a Human Touch,” reflects Saca’s commitment to ensuring that free-market democracy benefits all citizens.

President Saca began his career as a sports journalist and quickly built a successful business as a radio station owner.  In the 1990s, he joined the Salvadoran Radio Association and became its president in 1997.  It was at this time that he became involved with the ARENA party and joined the International Radio Broadcasting Association, where he chaired the Permanent Committee of Freedom of Speech. President Saca’s involvement in business and civic associations made him a recognized opinion leader on issues of national concern and on March 21, 2004, Elías Antonio Saca González was elected President of El Salvador with 60 percent of the vote.

President Saca has made poverty reduction a central focus of his administration.  His commitment to democracy and good governance helped earn the country $461 million in Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funding aimed at reducing poverty in the Central American nation.  In signing the MCC compact, Ambassador John Danilovich, CEO of MCC said, “Sound economic policies, solid democratic institutions responsive to the needs of the people, enhanced human capital, and improved infrastructure are the basis for sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and employment creation.  This agreement is a testament to El Salvador’s strong commitment to good governance and to building the necessary institutional framework for aid to be used effectively.”

The event will be held on November 28, 2007, in Washington, DC. President Saca will be in attendance to accept his award.

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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