Skip to main content

Salvadoran leftist claims win in presidential vote



By ALEXANDRA OLSON, Associated Press Writer Alexandra Olson, Associated Press Writer – 14 mins ago



Mauricio Funes, presidential candidate of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, looks up as he casts his vote during presidential elections in San Salvador, Sunday March 15, 2009.
(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)



SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – El Salvador's former guerrillas, behind the bespectacled, moderate face of a former TV journalist, took the lead in presidential elections Sunday that threaten to oust conservatives who have ruled since a bloody civil war, official results showed.

Mauricio Funes, plucked from outside the ranks of the rebel group-turned-political party Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, claimed victory and promised to unite a country after one of the most polarizing campaigns since the 12-year war that killed 75,000 people.

He would become the latest in a wave of leftist leaders to take power in Latin America at a time of uncertainty over how President Barack Obama will approach the region.

"This is the happiest night of my life, and I want it to be the night of El Salvador's greatest hope," Funes said. "I want to thank all the people who vote for me and chose that path of hope and change."

With votes counted from 73 percent of polling stations, Funes had 52 percent compared to 48 percent for Rodrigo Avila of the ruling conservative Arena party, said Walter Araujo, president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Nearly 2 million votes had been tallied, but Araujo did not say what percentage that represented.

He did not officially proclaim a victor, and there was no concession from Avila.

Jubilant red-clad Funes supporters poured into the streets of San Salvador, whooping, clapping, blowing whistles and waving large party flags.

Funes, 49, promises to crack down on big businesses which he says exploit government complacency to evade taxes. He hopes to capitalize on discontent with two decades of Arena party rule that have brought economic growth but done little to redress social inequalities.

Avila, 44, a former police chief with a boyish grin, is trying to bring Arena to its fifth straight presidential victory. He warns that an FMLN victory would send El Salvador down a communist path and threaten the country's warm relations with the United States.

Those ties saw El Salvador keep troops in Iraq longer than any other Latin American country and become a hub of regional cooperation with Washington against drug trafficking. The country's economy depends on billions of dollars sent home by 2.5 million Salvadorans who live in the U.S.

The Obama government has assured Salvadorans it will work with any leader elected — a marked departure from the Bush administration, which in 2004 suggested that an FMLN victory would hurt ties.

But U.S ties with some leftist leaders remain tense, including Venezuela's fiery Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who lashed out last week at the United States for holding back aid over an election dispute.

Funes has met with top U.S. officials and hopes to start off relations fresh if he becomes Latin America's first leftist president since Obama took office.

He promises to respect a free trade agreement with the United States and keep El Salvador's dollar currency. He also has made a point of reaching out to Latin America's moderate leftist leaders, especially Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

That has not reassured many Salvadorans with bitter memories of the 1980-1992 leftist insurgency. Television broadcasts have been flooded with campaign ads warning that a Funes victory would turn El Salvador into a Venezuelan satellite and emphasizing long-standing ties between the FMLN and Chavez.

"We don't want communists in this country," said Jose Daniel Avila, a 65-year-old retired pilot of no relation to the candidate. "Look what has happened in Nicaragua and Venezuela. Those are not examples to follow."

Chavez said Sunday his government is not taking sides in the election, adding that Venezuela wants to broaden its relations with whoever wins.

Many Salvadorans want change after two decades of Arena rule. Fuel and food prices have soared, while powerful gangs extort businesses and fight for drug-dealing turf, resulting in one of Latin America's highest homicides rates.

"What has Arena brought us in 20 years? They've only come to power to steal. Only the oligarchs are going to vote for Arena so they can protect their privileges," said Humberto Chavez, 73, a retired school teacher, talking over a woman standing next to him, who shook her finger and kept exclaiming, "That's not true!"

Avila has tried to address these mounting frustrations, promising 50,000 subsidized homes and incentives for companies that hire young workers.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/200...l_salvador_elections

Last edited {1}
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

"This is the Defeat of Ronald Reagan": Leftist Candidate Wins in El Salvador



By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!. Posted March 16, 2009.

Journalist Roberto Lovato on the historic win of FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes, whose victory ends two decades of conservative rule.


Amy Goodman: In El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, of the former rebel FMLN party, has won the country's presidential election, ending two decades of conservative rule. Funes won 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent for Rodrigo Avila of the ruling right-wing ARENA party. He conceded defeat late on Sunday.

ARENA had won every presidential election since the end of El Salvador's brutal civil war eighteen years ago. The FMLN was a coalition of rebel guerrillas who fought the U.S.-backed military government during almost two decades in which more than 70,000 people died. Tens of thousands, the majority of those people, died at the hands of the Salvadoran military or paramilitary forces.

Funes is a former television journalist who reported on the years of the conflict and is the first FMLN presidential candidate who is not a former combatant. In his victory speech, he stressed his moderate policies during his campaign and says he intends to maintain good relations with the United States.

President-elect Mauricio Funes:
[translated] To strengthen international relations and implement an independent exterior policy based on protection and the boosting the national interest, the integration of Central America and the strengthening of relations with the United States will be aspects of priority on our foreign policy agenda.


Amy Goodman:
The Obama government has assured Salvadorans it would work with any leader elected, a departure from the Bush administration, which in 2004 threatened to cut off aid to El Salvador if the FMLN won.

Close U.S. ties saw El Salvador keep troops in Iraq longer than any other Latin American country, with the last of its 6,000 soldiers returning last week. El Salvador had also become a hub of regional cooperation with Washington in the so-called drug war. The country's economy depends on billions of dollars sent home by 2.5 million Salvadorans who live in the United States.

We go now to San Salvador to speak with Roberto Lovato. He is a contributing associate editor with New America Media and a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine. He blogs at ofamerica.wordpress.com. He met with the President-elect, Mauricio Funes, last night and interviewed him. Roberto Lovato joins us now via Democracy Now! video stream.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Roberto. Can you tell us the climate now in San Salvador?

Roberto Lovato:
I would just say -- I'll just quote a song that says, "Y que venga la alegria a lavar el sufrimiento" -- "Let the joy come and wash away the suffering." It's something on an order I've never seen in my life. As a child of Salvadoran immigrants and as someone who's spent time here and as someone who saw the Obama experience, I really can't tell you what this is like, when you're talking about ending not just the ARENA party's rule, but you're talking about 130 years of oligarchy and military dictatorship, by and large, that's just ended last night. You're talking about $6 billion that the United States used to defeat the FMLN, as you mentioned earlier. You're talking about one of the most formidable -- a formerly political military, now political forces, in the hemisphere, showing the utter failure of not just the ARENA party but of somebody in particular, too, who has a special place in many of our hearts: Ronald Reagan. This is the defeat of Ronald Reagan, nothing less.

AG:
Explain what you mean.

RL:
Ronald Reagan -- well, you mentioned those 70,000 dead. If there's a single person responsible for the death squad apparatus that pursued many of our family members, that pursued some of us, that killed -- according to the United Nations, 95 percent of all the 70,000 to 80,000 people killed were killed by their own government. Ronald Reagan really, really started us along the road to the -- what's even called in Iraq now "the Salvador Option." And so, $6 billion -- it cost Ronald Reagan and the US $6 billion to try to destroy the FMLN.

And now the streets are red, not with the FMLN's blood, but with young children, boys, girls, elderly people, families dressed in red, joyously celebrating, singing revolutionary songs commemorating a victory that they've never known in their lives, coming out of a silence that this country has always known its whole life. And so, I mean, there were tears and not blood in the streets of San Salvador this morning and even now. It's about 6:00 a.m. You guys got me up a little early, but it's just something I've never seen in my life, and I'm so moved. I wish I had the words to tell you how moved many of us are here right now.

AG:
Can you tell us who Mauricio Funes is? Tell us his background.

RL:
Mauricio Funes is, I would say, one of the great symbols of the aspects of democracy brought to El Salvador, thanks to the FMLN bringing the United States and El Salvador to the negotiating table. Freedom of expression was not a possibility under a military dictatorship. And so, the peace accords brought a modicum of political space, in the media, in particular. And so, Mauricio Funes was like a talk-show host who became the biggest media star in El Salvador, one who happened to lean left, who lost a brother during the war, and who is extremely smart, extremely smart.

You know, I interviewed him for about twenty-five minutes last night, and I find him to be a very, you know, smart guy, in terms of foreign, domestic policies, and speaks with great details and not the usual inanities and simplistic nonsense that most Salvadoran politicians I've spoken of -- about for most of Salvadoran life. And so, he came as a breath of fresh air, to the point where even 46 percent of the evangelical vote in El Salvador -- an extremely conservative evangelical vote, I might add -- voted for him.

AG:
Explain, finally, Roberto Lovato, speaking to us from San Salvador, the significance of this election of Mauricio Funes, of the FMLN party, for Latin America.

RL:
Well, this is a continuation of the red and pink tide that's taken hold in the hemisphere. The big difference is that it brings us even closer to the north. It brings us even closer to the border wall. Remember, there are more Salvadorans here than there are most -- in the United States than there are any other South American country. So the Salvadoran population was here in force, as were many North Americans. People that -- like, I'm sure many in your audience, Amy, have supported the people of El Salvador since the 1980s, doing solidarity work, doing sanctuary work. So all of those people's hearts were moved last night. I'm sure a lot of people in the United States cried with joy. I'm sure a lot of people in United States know and are going to be committed to El Salvador. And so, you bring a tiny Latin American country with one of the most powerful solidarity movements in the United States right now. So, this is major.

This is major also because the Summit of the Americas is coming up, and now Barack Obama is going to have to deal with another Latin American country that has turned away from the United States agenda and that he's going to have to try to woo somehow, to back into some conversation and not confrontation with the US.

AG:
Roberto Lovato, we're going to leave it there, though we will continue to cover these developments. Again, the FMLN presidential candidate of El Salvador has won. Mauricio Funes is his name. Roberto Lovato, our guest, contributing associate editor with New America Media, frequent contributor to The Nation magazine, blogs at ofamerica.wordpress.com, in San Salvador covering the elections.



Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!

http://www.alternet.org/audits...alvador/?page=entire
LOL! How ironic, just last week I was having a debate with a conservative who was holding up El Salvador as a model of the "success" of neoliberal capitalism. I pointed out most of the problems caused by neoliberal reform but his only response was the problems must somehow be the fault of 'government intervention'.

Hopefully now we'll get to see some real change with a change in leadership.
quote:
Originally posted by Empty Purnata:
LOL! How ironic, just last week I was having a debate with a conservative who was holding up El Salvador as a model of the "success" of neoliberal capitalism. I pointed out most of the problems caused by neoliberal reform but his only response was the problems must somehow be the fault of 'government intervention'.

Hopefully now we'll get to see some real change with a change in leadership.


El Salvador a model of the "success" of neoliberal reform?

That's pretty funny. (In a tragic sort of way.)

A third of the entire Salvadoran born population lives outside of the country, mostly here in the USA, and mostly undocumented.

Some "success".

sck
quote:
Originally posted by ricardomath:
quote:
Originally posted by Empty Purnata:
LOL! How ironic, just last week I was having a debate with a conservative who was holding up El Salvador as a model of the "success" of neoliberal capitalism. I pointed out most of the problems caused by neoliberal reform but his only response was the problems must somehow be the fault of 'government intervention'.

Hopefully now we'll get to see some real change with a change in leadership.


El Salvador a model of the "success" of neoliberal reform?

That's pretty funny. (In a tragic sort of way.)

A third of the entire Salvadoran born population lives outside of the country, mostly here in the USA, and mostly undocumented.

Some "success".

sck


Hey, these are the same people who think sweatshops in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam is an excellent thing. What do you expect? td6 Glad to see neocons and neolibs' master plans starting to fall apart at the seams as the world starts turning to alternatives. Neoliberalism demonstrated itself to be a failure culminating in the 2008-? recession. Hopefully the world will take advantage of this like the neoliberals and neoconservatives took advantage of the 1973-1977 recession to declare Keynesianism a 'failure'.

Add Reply

Post
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×