Monday, February 15, 2010 -- It didn't take long for Mauricio Funes to wear out his welcome. With an egotism and arrogance matched only by his servility towards transnational capital and the U.S. empire, he has taken to firing minister and officials at whim, with the justifications that they either lacked loyalty to "the presidency" or that "the presidency" lacked confidence in their performance.
On January 4, Funes sacked the heads of ANDA (National Drinking Water Supply and Sewerage Administration), SIGET (Electricity and Telecommunications Administration), ISTA (Salvadoran Institute of Agrarian Transformation) and the national lottery. The first two officials had opposed the building of a controversial new hydroelectric project called El Chaparral, which falls under the jurisdiction of the CEL. Funes, who supports the projects, had left Nicolás Salumé, whose father lent $2.2 million to Funes's campaign, in charge of the CEL. But there is no connection between Funes's support for El Chaparral and the campaign credit, according to the president. The only commitment he has to Salumé Sr. is to repay him, presumably out of his $5,181-per-month salary.
Salvadorans were also enraged on January 26 when the president threatened to veto a bill which would eliminate the $9.42 monthly basic rate for fixed line telephones. This bill was sponsored by the FMLN and passed with 78 votes. The transnational phone companies (ANTEL, the state telecommunications company was privatized in the 1990s) reacted to the legislation saying it was a negative precedent for the investment climate of the country. América Móvil, which belongs to billionaire Carlos Slim, controls 95% of the fixed lines in the country. It also controls the former state telephone companies which have been privatized in Nicaragua and Guatemala. The Spanish transnational, Telefónica, is the second largest in Central America. ANTEL was sold for only $97 million and América Móvil collects much more than that every year from just the $9.42 basic rate. Funes still refuses to sign the bill into law (he is trying to reach a compromise on a lower rate) and continues to publicly criticize FMLN deputies.
This week Funes fired Secretary of Culture, Breny Cuenca. Cuenca claims that the day before she was fired, she got a call from the office of the presidency requesting that she replace Director of Arts Oscar Soles with a friend of the president. Twenty-two Culture directors and an equal number of employees have since resigned in support of Cuenca.
The firing of Cuenca set off a firestorm of protest from prominent cultural figures such as Roberto Quezada of Yolocamba Itá, journalist Juan José Dalton, and many others. In fact, Cuenca was accomplishing a lot in a country where support for culture is almost nonexistent, as neither the state nor the transnational capitalists (which are one and the same thing) are willing to pay. The "National Library" doesn't even have its own building, and there are no public libraries outside of the universities.
Finally, it was announced today that the group, Friends of Mauricio, which was formed to collect non-leftist endorsements and contributions to the presidential campaign, has split. The details are too long to go into, but it seems that one year after they won the election and the government posts had been duly handed out, they couldn't figure out what to do next.