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El Salvador election 2009: High hopes for FMLN

[Stop press, March 15, 2009: El Salvador: Victorious FMLN candidate promises `to benefit the poor rather than the rich']

By the National Committee of the War Veterans' Sector of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN)

El Salvador has entered a governance crisis the signs of which include the bare participation by the general public in the life of the nation. There is no attempt by the government to achieve consensus, or a will to reach agreement on public policy; and there is no tolerance of even a minimal participation by the citizenry in public affairs. Disillusion and scepticism are the predominant feelings amongst the general public. The country's institutional structures are weak and poorly developed. This impacts even upon political parties, which neither express nor channel popular demands and lack the capacity to play an intermediary role in the conflicts caused by the demands of different sectors of society.

Separation of powers exists only on paper -- the centralism of the executive power predominates. There are no oversight bodies, accountability systems or freedom of information, which has led to high levels of corruption. This has produced, in consequence, an erosion of the country's institutional structures and of democracy.

Poverty and inequality

The governance crisis is also founded in a lack of equality, which finds its expression in increased poverty, caused by economic and political imbalances. Rural life has collapsed. There is accelerated urbanisation, pressure on public services, employment and public safety; accelerated emigration. In the urban setting, employment opportunities are mostly absorbed by the informal sector, with the risks this entails for workers. Men predominate in regular employment and women in the informal sector and in maquiladora assembly plants, which means they are less protected. Schooling is low level and poorly funded, which does not favour the technological development required for an increase in productivity. Crime has worsened as a result of these inequalities. Law and order is a recurring public concern. A range of studies on the matter have produced recommendations for the development of public policies aimed at preventing, containing and addressing the situation, but the government has not shown much political will and its approach to the issue has been counterproductive and increased the problem to some degree.


As there has been no plan aimed at bringing about a lessening of social divisions, there has not been any democratisation of society and the state, but rather a greater concentration of power and greater authoritarianism. Inequality and authoritarianism have damaged the legitimacy of democracy and the political system. As socioeconomic conditions have worsened, people's demands upon the government have grown and governments usually resort to repressive measures to maintain the status quo, which is easy to do in an authoritarian society.

The country's viability requires the wealthy, the government and the social forces to arrive at minimal accords to reduce inequality. Accords have been the usual practice only amongst sectors with much in common, not with adversaries. Accords have been between the senior leadership of political parties, not with the sectors affected. The alliances proposed by previous governments as a governance and transparency tool were very soon forgotten. At present we have the practice of isolation, sociopolitical conflict, imposition, confrontation and polarisation instead of accords.


Democracy is unsustainable with such large social divisions. Governance, to be consistent, should be accompanied by viable proposals and/or should close these gaps. Democracy cannot be built with institutional structures lacking in legitimacy. Democracy also requires active social participation in the government. This does not just mean good electoral results. It is related, as well, to the channelling of social demands, social, legal and legitimate control. The democratic sustainability of the country is nourished by the preparation of pacts or accords, public discussion of problems and the prevention of conflicts.

The National Committee of the War Veterans' Sector of the FMLN, 9ª Av. Norte No. 229 entre 1ª y 3ª Calle Poniente, San Salvador, El Salvador.

Mauricio Funes, the FMLN candidate for hope

Excerpt from Amanda Shank, Upside Down World,

May 13, 2008 -- Mauricio Funes steps into the hotel surrounded by his campaign staff and supporters. Earlier in the afternoon in the hot Central Plaza of San Miguel, he was greeted with cheers, chants and fireworks by 8000 supporters donning FMLN red. Amid the excitement and exhaustion of El Salvador’s presidential campaign, where the FMLN has a strong possibility of breaking the right-wing ARENA party's 19-year grip on power, Funes searches the hotel lobby for his wife. Vanda Pignato checks her watch, 10pm, and suggests that they should order dinner from Wendy's. It's the only place open this late.

“Let's do this interview before dinner, Mauricio”, Vanda advises, “but change your shirt, first”. Energised by the day's successful events, Funes stops to think and admits that he could use a couple of minutes alone. He has already appeared at three public events, and held an afternoon press conference. With a packed agenda and plans to leave next week for Germany and then Brazil, he had to back out of a radio interview and turn down an invitation from a nearby community that had organised a welcome celebration.

After a ten-minute break in his room, Funes returns with a new shirt and invites me to take a seat at a nearby table in the hotel's outdoor restaurant. When I ask the first question, he speaks quickly and clearly, an ability that he has practiced and refined throughout 21 years of professional journalism and six months on the campaign trail.

Q: From the election of Hugo Chavez to the recent election of Paraguay's Fernando Lugo we’ve seen a leftward shift in Latin American countries. Where does the FMLN and your candidacy fit within this movement?

We are often asked, ``Well, what type of left do you represent?’’, and I have said: “We represent the left of hope. We are a sensible left, a reasonable left, a left that is betting on change, a stable change. We are looking for a type of society that builds functioning institutions in El Salvador, a democracy that functions, a viable nation.

Given the current international context, we do not aspire to build socialism in El Salvador. What we hope to build is a more dynamic and competitive economy, placing ourselves in the international playing field in a highly globalised and competitive world. We hope to have a stronger and more dynamic economy than what has been built up until now. To do this we need the institutions that work, and for democracy to become a symbol that also exists in our country.

We do not need to be close to Chavez, close to Lula or close to Bush in order for our institutions and democracy to work. What we need is to build a model of public management that responds to the needs of Salvadorans and that will resolve Salvadoran problems.

We respect the process being followed in Venezuela, as well as we respect and closely watch the new society which Lula is building, and the one that the new President Fernando Lugo in Paraguay has promised to build.

Those processes are a response to other circumstances. What we hope to build are relationships based on cooperation and solidarity with the people represented by each one of these countries. However, we are not going to follow the same recipe or model that might have worked in other countries, but has nothing to do with our reality...

People's Government Program of Hope

1. Completely founded in human rights All public policy and government action will be built upon, and aimed at reaching, the greatest degree of effectiveness in human rights, to better meet the essential needs and aspirations of the Salvadorean people, the basis of the legitimation of democratic governance which will begin with the Social and Democratic Inclusiveness Program.

2. Informed by gender policy Despite struggles, women still suffer discrimination and exclusion from decision making. Thus, for the People's Government, the exercise of democracy begins precisely with widening the spaces which rightly belong to women as co-actors in the history, present and future of El Salvador.

3. Environmental rehabilitation The People’s Government immensely values all life forms in the Salvadorean-Middle American ecosystem.

4. Local level strengthening The inclusiveness model proposed by the new government stems from an understanding that El Salvador’s development will include local development and co-ordinated gearing-up of its municipalities and regions.

5. Independent Integration in Central America The new government is integrationist and will launch an initiative, involving all the country's social and economic forces willing to contribute to the deepening of Central American and Caribbean integration, from the standpoint of the real interests of the people of El Salvador and the country's economic strengths, as well of those of our sister peoples. This means seeking benefits for people; an increase in our domestic and regional capacities; the promotion of knowledge; scientific and technological innovation; social rights; and environmental sustainability.

FMLN War Veterans’ campaign for 2009 elections

We, FMLN war veterans, were the driving force behind the foundation of the FMLN on 10 October 1980, and in addition we were the only vanguard force in the Salvadorean left, forged in the popular struggles of our people and in urban and rural guerrilla warfare in the decade of the 1970s.

Our aim was to take political power through armed revolutionary struggle to bring about social transformation with a people's revolutionary government for the benefit of El Salvador's poor majorities. All non-violent and political roads to power had been closed off to us, roads which the Salvadorean people sought at the time, as shown in practice through the massive demonstrations of all sectors of our people which took place in the very centre of San Salvador, demanding political, economic and social changes, and which were responded to by the fascist dictatorship governments of the day, with killing and repression of students, workers, peasants and any social sector which mobilised and protested.

In 1972 and again in 1977, the political opposition of our Salvadorean people won the presidency through the ballot box and both times was shamefully robbed of victory by the right wing and the military. What we confronted was a military dictatorship under the direct political, military, economic, ideological and intelligence control of the US governments of the day. The right-wing in our own country was considered the most stubborn and murderous in Latin America. It made use of all the US was able to develop in terms of counterinsurgency warfare in order to defeat us, as they thought.

For 12 years we fought them with success, and we can therefore now say, with pride, that we, the War Veterans' Sector of the FMLN, are the moral and historic reserve stock of the FMLN Party, and as such we can and should transmit our experience to the Salvadorean people, together with all our militancy, as adapted, of course, to the current historical and political moment in El Salvador. As veterans we have every capacity to train contingents of new comrades who will join and strengthen the party, in political schools based upon revolutionary principles.

In other words, the FMLN is the party born of the people and which cost tens of thousands of deaths of heroes and martyrs of the Salvadorean people. Therefore, as war veterans we have both the duty and the right to keep on developing and strengthening it to make it capable of taking political power in 2009, which is what our dead dreamt of, those who fell in the course of our struggle in past decades.

The signing of the Peace Accords on January 16, 1992, closed off a chapter in our history as the FMLN and as the people of El Salvador. War came to an end, weapons were silenced. We and the government signed for peace, aware that peace was not only signed for on paper; the peace we signed for would have to be with dignity and social justice, that is, with benefits in education, health, housing, nutrition and other aspects for all the marginalised of our country. And above all with respect for the human rights of the people of El Salvador, a transformation of the legal system and an end to impunity in all areas of power.

We knew that we had not achieved political power, but that we had managed to dismantle the military dictatorship which had been deeply entrenched for over 100 years. We also knew that with the signing of the Peace Accords we had opened the way towards a real democracy which would have to be built together with the people, making full use of the opportunities opened up through the negotiations and that could not be gone back on.

But now practically the opposite is happening. Once peace was signed, our party the FMLN worked to transform itself into a political party which could participate legally in Salvadorean politics, since that is a requirement laid down in our constitution, in order to take part in elections. Over the past five years we have been making an effort to organise FMLN war veterans (both men and women) with the aim of continuing the struggle to change our country into a more just society with a place for everybody.

The FMLN is the best-organised and strongest left-wing force in the country. The National Committee of the War Veterans' Sector of the FMLN wish to help strengthen the party and join in the social organisation of our people, to prepare favourable conditions to win government in 2009. In order to organise the youth, our plan is to foster demand-based, economic, political and social struggle. We plan to create 12 departmental committees, one in each of the 12 departments of El Salvador (San Salvador, La Libertad, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, Cabañas, Cuscatlán, Chalatenango, San Vicente, Usulután, San Miguel, Morazán and La Unión). This work will directly mobilise 15,000 people -- FMLN war veterans and their families -- for the 2009 elections. As part of the larger effort by the Salvadorean people for the 2009 elections, we are asking our compatriots, our friends and supporters in Australia -- all who can recognise the flame of hope in Latin America today -- to give us financial support to achieve our objectives.

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