Critical elections in El Salvador; FMLN activists assassinated

Latin Radical -- Burke Stansbury from the Washington office of the US-based Committee with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) talks with community radio about the first round of the El Salvadoran elections -- legislative and municipal -- to be held on January 17, 2009. Burke reports that the chances of an FMLN victory (supported by a 10 to 15 point lead in the polls over the last year) are good, with the voting population shrugging off the scare tactics of the ARENA party's media blitz.

There are still fears that ARENA, with a history of violence, intimidation and terror (the founder of ARENA was also the head of the notorious death squads of the 1980s), may resort to more drastic tactics, before the presidential elections in March. There is a loud call from the opposition FMLN party for international observers to ensure the integrity of the elections.

Original audio source

Urgent update: Two FMLN activists assassinated by heavily armed group dressed as police

Monday, January 12, 2009
High tensions on eve of El Salvador’s municipal and legislative elections

A father and son, both activists of the leftist FMLN party in El Salvador, were shot and killed in their home on January 9 in the small town of Las Minitas, El Salvador. 26 year-old Maximino Rodríguez and 63 year-old Delfo de Jesús Rodríguez – an ex-combatant of the former FMLN guerrillas – were attacked by a group of six or seven heavily armed men who were reported to be dressed up to look like special unit police officers. The style of the assassinations, in which the masked men arrived in a vehicle and unloaded their weapons indiscriminately into the Rodríguez house, recall the death squad killing of the 1980s. 

The FMLN immediately denounced the assassinations as part of an escalation of political violence, and called on the government to carry out a full investigation. Already the National Civilian Police and the attorney general have implied that the killings were carried out by gang members, an assertion that friends and party leaders of the FMLN see as ridiculous. At least two suspects have been detained by the police, but no charges have yet been filed. The FMLN declared that continued impunity for the perpetrators of such political violence is a severe setback for the 1992 Peace Accords. Please respond to the CISPES alert from last week about political violence and the right wing dirty campaign.
The FMLN also warned against further campaign violence as the country moves toward the first round of voting. The Salvadoran municipal and legislative elections will take place on January 18; the mayoral campaigns throughout El Salvador officially end on January 12, and tensions have been high for months.

One such highly contentious race is for mayor of San Salvador, in which Violeta Menjivar, current mayor and candidate for the FMLN, has a 14 point lead over Norman Quijano, the candidate for the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party. This race has already seen several incidences of electoral violence.  In November, campaign workers for ARENA candidate Quijano attacked and injured a group of FMLN members campaigning door-to-door, actions denounced by Salvadoran human rights organisations and El Salvador’s Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna. Quijano’s campaigners also attacked vendors and shoppers at the Montserrat Market who refused their campaign flyers, turning over a market stall and breaking a vendor’s cooking supplies. In response to the attacks, Quijano infamously stated that his campaigners are usually armed and should be “considered dangerous.”