Vanda Pignato, first lady of El Salvador, and Michelle Obama. (Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Michelle Obama unveiled a plaque on Tuesday expressing appreciation from the Salvadoran president and his wife for America's contribution to Ciudad Mujer — it means City of Women in English — a comprehensive care center for women southwest of the capital.
Joined by Vanda Pignato, El Salvador's first lady, Mrs. Obama toured the facility in Lourdes, under heavy security. She did not speak.
The center has a day care center for special needs children, a clinic, a micro-credit office, small-business workshops and legal and psychological help for domestic abuse victims. The plaque thanks the U.S. for help with equipment and furniture. There was no indication of the amount of aid.
"We were known for war, for poverty, for violence, but now we will be known proudly for the best project and policies in defense of the rights of women," Pignato said.
Mrs. Obama later joined daughters Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Robinson, to paint inspirational murals at a school for disadvantaged youth that is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"Superate" or "Succeed," in English, has six branches in the country. Students learn values, English and computer skills at classes inside a clothing factory in an industrial complex in the western outskirts of the capital.
Mrs. Obama spoke to the students in English, telling them they reminded her of herself and her brother, Craig. She says they both benefited from programs, like Superate, for gifted students.
"You all are well ahead of the game. So keep it up," she encouraged them.
A group of Salvadoran children whose parents are in the U.S. illegally or under temporary protected appealed to President Barack Obama to legalize their parents.
"The embrace of a parent is worth more than anything else. We make this plea so that you will help all Salvadorans in the United States, including my mother," an 11-year-old boy named Nelson said in a plaza in the capital. Nelson gave only his first name out of fear it could identify his mother, an undocumented immigrant in New York.
About 2.8 million Salvadoran immigrants live in the U.S., according to Salvadoran government figures. That includes about 217,000 covered by protected status granted by the U.S. government to prevent illegal Salvadorans from being deported after two earthquakes in the country in 2001.
The Obama administration issued an 18-month extension for those immigrants earlier this month.
The U.S. is donating $10 million to El Salvador's efforts to fight child labor.
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced the award hours after President Barack Obama arrived Tuesday for a visit.
Solis said the money will help rescue thousands of children from dangerous work situations and help give them access to education and job training. The Salvadoran Labor Ministry estimates the money will reach 5,000 households.
Government statistics say one in 10 Salvadoran children is in the work force.