El Salvador: Video -- Unidos por el cambio (Democracy and the 2009 Salvadorean election)

By Committee with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)(USA)

Recent polls in El Salvador show that the leftist FMLN party is 15% ahead over the right-wing presidential candidate from the ruling party. This only confirms what Salvadorans in the social movement, members of the FMLN, and the general public have been saying all along: El Salvador is the next in line to join the Latin American shift to the left!

The Committee with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) has a long solidarity relationship with the Salvadoran people. One way CISPES continues to support real democracy in El Salvador, opposing US economic, military, and political intervention, is by bringing international observers delegations to El Salvador. You too can support free and fair elections and learn about the current situation in El Salvador by joining the CISPES delegation from March 9-19, 2009.

As international observers, we will help to ensure that the elections are carried out in a peaceful climate for people to vote. We will work to guarantee that dirty tricks used in the 2004 elections by the US government and the right-wing ARENA party don’t happen again. And we will denounce any political violence and fraud that might occur during the election.

In addition to being present on the March 15 Election Day, we will:

  • meet with social movement groups to talk about the current economic and political situation
  • learn Salvadoran electoral law and the role of observers
  • prepare people to mobilise in the US through CISPES chapters and the emergency response network in order to challenge fraud OR defend a democratic victory.

Contact CISPES for more information about this delegation!

Contact your local CISPES committee by going to www.cispes.org or the national office at (202) 521-2510 and Elizabeth@cispes.org

Open letter from US academics on Salvadoran elections

December 10, 2008 -- We the undersigned are North American academics who study Latin America. We wish to make known several concerns with regard to the electoral process now underway in El Salvador and which include legislative elections in January 2009 and presidential elections in March 2009. In particular, as academics who have studied electoral processes throughout the hemisphere, we believe that there are a minimal set of norms and conditions necessary for elections to be free, transparent, and democratic. These include the freedom to participate in civic and political activities without fear of violence, repression, or reprisals, and the existence of rules and regulations that assure transparency in the voting process and that safeguard against the possibility of electoral fraud. We wish to make known in this regard the following four concerns:

1) We are against foreign interference in the electoral processes and the internal affairs of other countries. We observe in the Salvadoran case that the United States government has brazenly intervened in previous elections to influence the outcome and that once again it appears to be undertaking such intervention. Among various incidents we draw attention to statements made by the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Charles Glazer, in May 2008 on alleged and unsubstantiated connections between the principal opposition party in El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the FARC guerrilla organization of Colombia. Ambassador Glazer stated that “any group that collaborates or expresses friendship with the FARC is not a friend of the United States.”1 Also, in February 2008, the U.S. Director of Intelligence Director J. Michael McConnell made public a report that, without any evidence whatsoever, charged that the FMLN was set to receive “generous financing” from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for its electoral campaign.2 In October, Ambassador Glazer made public reference to this report.3

Such statements constitute unacceptable outside interference in the electoral process. They are a veiled threat against the Salvadoran people that, should they elect a government not to the liking of the United States, they will face U.S. wrath and possible reprisals. We consider this interference to be in violation of international norms and we call on the U.S. government to immediately desist from all such interference. The United States government must respect the right of the Salvadoran electorate to choose its government free from threats of U.S. hostility or reprisals.

2) We are alarmed by the increase in political violence in El Salvador over the past two years and the atmosphere of impunity with which this violence has taken place. There has been a spate of assassinations the circumstances surrounding which strongly suggests that they have been political in nature. The victims of these crimes have exclusively been leaders of trade unions, community and religious organizations and members or supporters of the FMLN. In 2007, according to the legal department of the Archbishopric of San Salvador, only 31 percent of the homicides which that office investigated was attributed to maras (gang members) or to common crime, while 69 percent, showed clear signs of “death-squad style” and “social cleansing” crimes.45 In addition, the El Salvador Human Rights Commission has denounced an increase in such death-squad slayings against opposition leaders as the elections have approached and warned that these assassinations are generating a climate of fear. The San Salvador-based Foundation for the Study of the Application of the Law has documented 27 murders of young social movement activists and members of the political opposition over the past three years that appear to be death squad slayings.

3) There have been a series of legal changes and reforms to the electoral code that open up the possibility of fraud. Among these, we observe that article 256 of the electoral law was partially derogated unilaterally in December 2007 by the current government.6 This article (256-D,c) stipulated that all ballots must be signed and sealed by election officials appointed to each voting center in order to be valid, thus safeguarding against tampering with ballots once they are deposited by voters. In addition, the current Salvadoran government unilaterally moved the official opening of the electoral period from September 17, 2008 to September 1, 2008. This meant that the electoral register will be based on the 1992 national census rather than on the new census conducted in 2007. The electoral register at this time lists 4,226,479 Salvadorans registered to vote, on the basis of the 1992 census. However, the new 2007 census indicates that there are only 3,265,021 eligible voters, 961,458 less than the electoral register.7 Relying on the outdated 1992 census opens the possibility of ballot-stuffing and related types of voter fraud by using the names of people who are have died since 1992 or who have migrated and are no longer residents of the country. Moreover, the Organization of American States concluding its audit of the electoral register at the end of 2007 and in early 2008 presented its report, which included a list of 103 recommended measures with regard to the electoral process, including 56 which that international organization characterized as “obligatory,” incompliance with which would put into jeopardy the integrity of the elections.8 To date, the great majority of these recommendations have not been acted upon.

4) Finally, we are highly alarmed by statements issued in Washington D.C. on September 18, 2008, by the Salvadoran foreign minister, Marisol Argueta de Barillas, in a speech before the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).9 Ms. Argueta was personally invited by AEI visiting fellow Roger Noriega, a U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs during the administration of George W. Bush and a man who shamelessly intervened in the 2004 Salvadoran presidential elections. At that time, and while serving as assistant secretary of state, he threatened that if the FMLN were elected the United States would seek to block the sending of remittances from Salvadorans in the United States to their family members in El Salvador and to deport Salvadorans residing in the United States.10 In her speech before the AEI, the Salvadoran foreign minister openly called on the U.S. government to intervene in her country’s electoral process.

Ms. Argueta declared: “The United States must pay close attention to what is happening in El Salvador and the resulting national security and geopolitical consequences, since our enemies are joining together and becoming stronger. The upcoming municipal and legislative elections in January of 2009 and the next presidential elections in March 2009 will be without a doubt, the closest electoral competitions in the history of El Salvador…The opposition party is a remnant of the former guerrilla movement. Some members of its leadership have been closely related to ETA or to the FARC. Losing El Salvador will threaten the national security of both El Salvador and the United States…It will generate instability in the country and in neighboring countries and it will set El Salvador back 30 years, to when Central America was in turmoil. As President Ronald Reagan said 25 years ago…the security of the United States is at stake in El Salvador.…US foreign policy in the region must be reassessed and there must be a review of growing anti-American sentiment and the coming to power of increasing numbers of anti-American governments in this backyard.”11

These declarations virtually call for U.S. intervention in El Salvador to avoid a possible electoral triumph by the FMLN, and to undermine in this way the right of the Salvadoran people to elect the government of their choosing free from threats, pressures, and interference by a foreign power. Given the long and sordid history of U.S. intervention in El Salvador and in Latin America we view these statements with grave concern and we call on the Salvadoran government to desist from inviting U.S. intervention.

We wish to make these concerns known to the incoming Obama administration. We are hopeful that, with its renewed commitment to better diplomatic relations with Latin America and its message of political change, this new administration will not support any intervention in the Salvadoran elections and nor will it tolerate human rights violations and electoral fraud.


William I. Robinson, University of California at Santa Barbara

Hector Perla, University of California at Santa Cruz

Charles Hale, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2006-2007)

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University

Arturo Arias, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2001-2003)

Craig N. Murphy, Wellesley College and past president of the International Studies Association (2000-2001)

Ramona Hernandez, City College of New York and Director of Dominican Studies Institute

Helen I. Safa, Emeritus, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1983-1985)

Carmen Diana Deere, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1992-94).

Sonia E. Alvarez, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2004-2006)

Lars Schoultz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1991-1992)

Thomas Holloway, University of California at Davis and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2000-2001)

John L. Hammond, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY, and former chair of the Latin American Studies Association Task Force on Human Rights and Academic Freedom

Miguel Tinker-Salas, Pomona College

Greg Grandin, New York University

Manuel Rozental, Algoma University

Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, D.C.

Jeffrey L. Gould, University of Indiana

Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mark Sawyer, University of California at Los Angeles

Ramon Grosfoguel, University of California at Berkeley

Peter McLaren, University of California at Los Angeles

Gilberto G. Gonzales, University of California at Irvine

John Foran, University of California at Santa Barbara

Christopher Chase-Dunn, University of California at Irvine

Alfonso Gonzales, New York University

Gary Prevost, St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict

Sujatha Fernandez, Queens College, City University of New York

Howard Winant, University of California at Santa Barbara

Jon Shefner, University of Tennessee

Daniel Hellinger, Webster University

Agustin Lao-Montes, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Millie Thayer, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Jeffrey W. Rubin, Boston University

Ellen Moodie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Brandt Gustav Peterson, Michigan State University

Adam Flint, Binghamton University

Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University

Richard Grossman, Northeastern Illinois University

Manel Lacorte, University of Maryland

Ana Patricia Rodríguez, University of Maryland

Beth Baker, California State University at Los Angeles

Aaron Schneider, Tulane University

Misha Kokotovic, University of California-San Diego

Marc McLeod, Seattle University

Michael Hardt, Duke University

Bruce Ergood, Ohio University

Beatrice Pita, University of California at San Diego

Rosaura Sanchez, University of California at San Diego

Nancy Plankey Videla, Texas A&M University

Kate Bronfenbrenner, Cornell University

LaDawn Haglund, Arizona State University

Judith A. Weiss, Mount Allison University, Canada

Susanne Jonas, University of California at Santa Cruz

Robert Whitney, University of New Brunswick (Saint John), Canada

Aline Helg (U.S. citizen), Université de Genève, Switzerland

Stephanie Jed, University of California at San Diego

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, California State University

James J. Brittain, Acadia University, Canada

Margaret Power, Illinois Institute of Technology

Philip J. Williams, University of Florida

R. James Sacouman, Acadia University

Carlos Schroder, Northern Virginia Community College

Frederick B. Mills, Bowie State University

Judith Blau, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Egla Martinez, Carleton University, Canada

Walda Katz-Fishman, Howard University

Judith Wittner, Loyola University

Yajaira M. Padilla, University of Kansas

Tanya Golash-Boza, University of Kansas

Erich H. Loewy, University of California at Davis

Jonathan Fox, University of California at Santa Cruz

Steven S. Volk, Oberlin College

Marc Edelman, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

W. L. Goldfrank, University of California at Santa Cruz

Benjamin Kohl, Temple University

Lourdes Benería, Cornell University

Philip Oxhorn, McGill University

Ronald Chilcote, University of California at Riverside

Judith Adler Hellman, York University, Toronto

Barbara Chasin, Montclair State University

Matt D Childs, University of South Carolina

Sarah Hernandez, New College of Florida

Catherine LeGrand, McGill University

Nathalia E. Jaramillo, Purdue University

William Avilés, University of Nebraska, Kearney

Dana Frank, University of California at Santa Cruz

Robert Andolina, Seattle University

Sinclair Thomson, New York University

Patricia Balcom, University of Moncoton

Josée Grenier, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Manfred Bienefeld, Carleton University

Susan Spronk, University of Ottawa

May E. Bletz, Brock University

David Heap, University of Western Ontario

Dennis Beach, Saint John’s University, Minnesota

Aldo A. Lauria-Santiago, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

William S. Stewart, California State University, Chico

Sheila Candelario, Fairfield University

Erik Ching, Furman University

Marc Zimmerman, University of Houston

Maureen Shea, Tulane University

Héctor Cruz-Feliciano, Council on International Educational Exchange

Karen Kampwirth, Knox College

Marco A. Mojica, City College of San Francisco

Nick Copeland, University of Arkansas

Silvia L. López, Carleton College

Marie-Agnès Sourieau, Fairfield University

Karina Oliva-Alvarado, University of California at Los Angeles

Erin S. Finzer, University of Kansas

Dina Franceschi, Fairfield University

Lisa Kowalchuk, University of Guelph

Amalia Pallares, University of Illinois at Chicago

B. Ruby Rich, University of California at Santa Cruz

Edward Dew, Fairfield University

Nora Hamilton, University of Southern California

Deborah Levenson, Boston College

Linda J. Craft, North Park University

Thomas W. Walker, Ohio University

Jocelyn Viterna, Harvard University

Cecilia Menjivar, Arizona State University

Ricardo Dominguez, University of California at San Diego

María Elena Díaz, University of California at Santa Cruz

Guillermo Delgado-P, University of California at Santa Cruz

Guillaume Hébert, Université du Québec à Montréal

Leisy Abrego, University of California at Irvine

Michael E. Rotkin, University of California at Santa Cruz

John Blanco, University of California at San Diego

Steven Levitsky, Harvard University

John Beverley, University of Pittsburgh

Evelyn Gonzalez, Montgomery College

Tom O'Brien, University of Houston

Pablo Rodriguez, City College of San Francisco

John Womack, Jr., Harvard University

James D. Cockcroft, State University of New York

Mark Anner, Penn State University

John Kirk, Dalhousie University

Jorge Mariscal, University of California at San Diego

Susan Kellogg, University of Houston

Susan Gzesh, University of Chicago

Luis Martin-Cabrera, University of California at San Diego

Lawrence Rich, Northern Virginia Community College

Jeff Tennant, The University of Western Ontario, Canada

Meyer Brownstone, University of Toronto and Chair emeritus, Oxfam Canada

Charmain Levy, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada

Liisa L. North, York University

Denis G. Rancourt, University of Ottawa, Canada

Barbara Weinstein, New York University

Kelley Ready, Brandeis University


1) La Prensa Gráfica, 21 mayo 2008. http://archive.laprensa.com.sv/20080521/nacion/1063436.asp

2) La Prensa Gráfica, 6 febrero 2008. http://archive.laprensa.com.sv/20080206/nacion/983447.asp

3) El Diario de Hoy 1 octubre 2008. Informe 2007. http://www.tutelalegal.org/

4) Informe 2007. http://www.tutelalegal.org/

5) La Pagina de Maiz, No. 195, 5/23/08; "Presentacion de Denucia ante FGR", 2/12/08

6) Corte Suprema de Justicia. http://www.jurisprudencia.gob.sv/Lgreformas.htm

7) La Prensa Gráfica 5 octubre 2008. http://archive.laprensa.com.sv/20081005/nacion/1152235.asp

8) "Aspectos Relevantes en el Informe de Auditoria Integral al Registro Electoral Realizada por La OEA", http://www.isd.org.sv/trans_electoral/documents/ASPECTOSRELEVANTESENELINFORMEDEOEA.pdf

9) Diario Colatino 3 octubre 2008. http://www.diariocolatino.com/es/20081003/nacionales/59433/?tpl=69

10) Noticen, 3/25/2004, Latin America Data Base, University of New Mexico.

11) Noticen, 10/16/2008.


January 8, 2009

10 Days Until First Round of Salvadoran Elections

Take Action to Oppose Dirty Campaign!

US State Department must respond to false statements threatening immigrants

On the eve of the first round of El Salvador’s most contested elections since the 1992 Peace Accords, a right-wing campaign of dirty propaganda, media misinformation, provocation and violence continues to escalate. Beginning in late October and continuing to this day, Fuerza Solidaria—a right-wing organization founded in Venezuela—has flooded the Salvadoran airwaves and streets with a series of advertisements attempting to frighten Salvadoran voters with threats of U.S. retaliation.  The ads state that an FMLN victory would mean the end to good relations with the U.S. government and thus the end to remittances sent home from Salvadorans living in the U.S.  They also claim that an FMLN victory would threaten the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) which allows over 200,000 Salvadorans to remain in the U.S. These absurd threats are similar to the ones made back in 2004 by members of the U.S. Congress, together with the governing ARENA party; such threats turned a close election into a decisive victory for the right-wing party.  In the face of Fuerza Solidaria’s blatant misrepresentation of the ramifications of an FMLN victory, the U.S. State Department—which has privately pledged neutrality in El Salvador’s electoral process—has remained silent rather than refute these claims.

The right wing’s dirty campaign has not stopped at propaganda and misinformation. Over the past year, political violence carried out by ARENA and their allies has continued to rise, ranging from street attacks to uninvestigated murders of more than a half dozen FMLN and social movement leaders in 2008 alone.  In September, ARENA campaigners attacked FMLN supporters conducting door-to-door visits, sending four people to the hospital in San Salvador.  In response to these attacks, ARENA's mayoral candidate for San Salvador, Norman Quijano, publicly admitted that his campaigners are armed and should be "considered dangerous."  Numerous other incidents of government violence have occurred since the beginning of the year. 

With ten days to go until the municipal and legislative elections (the presidential election will be on March 15), the U.S. continues to be complicit in the dirty campaign by not countering right-wing propaganda related to its foreign policy.  This is not neutrality!  Demand that Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon make a public statement refuting the right wing’s fear-based threats and declare that the US will maintain a positive relationship with any government freely elected by the Salvadoran people.

Take Action!

1) CALL Hillary Thompson at the El Salvador desk of the State Department at (202) 647-4161 and tell her to urge Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon to refute the baseless threats related to U.S. policy (see call script below.)  You can also email Shannon directly at shannontaB@state.gov

2) PARTICIPATE in the CISPES week of action from January 12-18.  Contact your local CISPES chapter in Boston, New York, Washington DC, Seattle, Olympia, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles (go here for contact info.)  Or organize your own local action - more information at www.cispes.org


3) ATTEND a delegation to monitor the March elections.  More information at www.cispes.org/delegations


You can use the following script to contact Hillary Thompson at the El Salvador Desk of the State Department – (202) 647-4161

1. I am calling to urge Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon to publicly support democracy in El Salvador by refuting Fuerza Solidarida’s baseless threats, and to state the U.S. government’s intention to maintain a positive relationship with any government
freely elected by the Salvadoran people

2.  Recent ads in El Salvador attempt to scare voters by stating that an FMLN victory would mean the end to good relations with the U.S .government and thus an end to remittances sent home from Salvadorans living in the U.S.

·         In addition to threatening remittances, the ads also threaten Salvadoran American’s Temporary Protective Status (TPS) which allows over 200,000 Salvadorans to remain in the U.S.

·         Similar statements were made in 2004 by Roger Noriega of the State Department and by Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, among others.

·         These statements caused many Salvadorans to vote out of fear of U.S. retaliation, rather than according to their convictions. As someone who believes in democracy, I want to make sure the U.S. does allow untrue, fear-based threats to affect elections again in 2009.


3. It is extremely important that the State Department stand up for the Salvadoran people’s right to freely elect their government, without fear of foreign retribution.  I am calling on Mr. Shannon to denounce the Fuerza Solidaria’s baseless statements regarding the U.S. relationship with El Salvador, and to assert that the United States will maintain a positive relationship with any government freely elected by the Salvadoran people.  When a third party lies about U.S. policy, it is the responsibility of the Department of State to correct those statements.


For more background information:

·         read this CISPES article in the latest issue of Z magazine

·         check out recent CISPES updates and press releases

·         Read the summer CISPES fact-finding delegation report challenging the US government role in human rights violations and intervention

·         watch “Unidos Por El Cambio”, the CISPES video about the upcoming elections