Secret Service Prostitution Scandal Expands to El Salvador

The U.S. Secret Service has expanded its prostitution scandal investigation to include an incident in El Salvador in 2011, in which agents allegedly visited a strip club and paid for sex with prostitutes, the agency said on Thursday.

The dust kicked-up after the last Secret Service scandal has not yet settled. Nevertheless we have a new scandal on our plate.

The latest allegation poses a problem for the agency, which had been claiming  the recent scandal in Colombia was only an allegation. As a reminder, on April 12,the Colombia scandal erupted when a fight over payment between a prostitute and a Secret Service agent occurred in the hallway of the Hotel Caribe. The agency argued that this is an isolated case and that it will do everything that is necessary to stop things like this from happening again. However, cases like these send a clear message of unprofessional behavior and provoke negative critics of the U.S. Moreover, they hurt diplomatic relations with the countries that are involved in a scandal; they are viewed negatively in Europe and they invoke adverse feelings within the local population.

The newest scandal broke with the threat from a Brazilian woman, Romilda Aparecida Ferreira. She is a Brazilian prostitute who plans to sue the U.S. Embassy, three Marines, and an American staff member after a fight with the Marines in a van left her with a broken collarbone. However, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the woman was not pushed out of a van, but injured as she fell while trying to open the door of the moving and locked vehicle. 

Even if the incident in Brazil does not end up being true, the whole situation damages the reputation of the Secret Service, and more importantly, the U.S. itself. It is difficult to reconcile the image of courageous agents assigned to protect the lives of the president and his family with the image of a fraternity atmosphere that was shown in these cases. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., praised the Secret Service as "wise, very professional men and women." It is left to be seen in which way the agency will deal with the agents that obviously behaved unprofessionally.

This proves that a thorough investigation about the behavior of federal agents must be conducted, especially in “third world” countries. The fact that all recent scandals occurred in Latin America is very interesting. It is unimaginable that something like this would happen in Europe. This is because the U.S. government pays greater attention to its actions in Europe. European governments would not be very keen to see this happening on their territory. It still remains to be seen what the official stand of the governments of Colombia, Brazil, and El Salvador is.

Last week, Secretary of State Clinton was accused of being a party animal and a disgrace to the State Department. She was also accused of ruining the reputation of the United States. However, scandals like this, involving the Secret Service are much more dangerous, especially because they occur in the countries that are, as it was seen at the last Summit of the Americas, weakening their support for the U.S. actions. 

Latin America is a very fragile continent. The U.S. is the biggest and the closest democracy to Latin American countries. It is unnerving to see that mutual relations are in decline because of the irresponsibility of people who are supposed to be the “top of the crop.” Therefore, the Secret Service must investigate these cases thoroughly and provide a public report. And we can only hope that Hillary Clinton’s next beer in the Latin America will help repair the damage. 

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Marko Ceperkovic

As Policy Advisor at the U.S. House of Representatives Marko is dealing with Foreign Affairs, Defense, Immigration and Human Rights issues. At the same time he is a fellow at Johns Hopkins SAIS, participating in the Aitchison Public Service Fellowship in Government. Before coming to Washington, Marko lived in France, studying at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. As former Executive Director's Assistant at Helsinki Committee for Human Rights he led Human Rights Schools for Western Balkans, while at the same time presiding over the Commission for Youth Rights in Serbia.

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