Two weeks after Salvadorans went to the polls in polarized elections, here are some additional observations about the process:
Joe DeRaymond is an activist who has been an election observer several times in El Salvador. He writes a lengthy account of his observations and experiences in Counterpunch. The whole article is worth reading, but one interesting section is his description of the role of the US:
Also, the role of the United States cannot be underestimated in a critical election. This year, the US played a relatively reduced role, yet still managed to extend Temporary Protective Status to 250,000 Salvadorans living in the United States on February 24, with the well publicized lobbying of Tony Saca. On election day, the US Ambassador to El Salvador, H. Douglas Barclay, personally accompanied the ARENA Vice President of El Salvador, Ana Vilma de Escobar, to a busy polling center in San Salvador, making clear his sympathies toward ARENA to the voters at the polls.
El Faro is a weekly periodical on the internet, which in my view has some of the most insightful reporting and analysis coming out of El Salvador. During the past week, the opening page of its web site contains only a single statement:
El Faro condemns the attack on the institutions and the democratic process of the country perpetrated by the president of the republic, the leadership of ARENA and the FMLN, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and those supporters who opted for violence.
In an editorial titled "The Broken Process," El Faro's editorial staff sets out its concerns. First, they condemn Tony Saca for choosing to become the leading partisan figure for ARENA during the election campaign. But in El Faro's view, his greatest failing was on the night of the elections, when wearing ARENA party colors, he declared Rodrigo Samayoa winner of the election in San Salvador. This was precisely the time when he should have been acting as president, above the electoral fray, and urging the public to respect the integrity of the vote counting process going on before the TSE. El Faro faults the TSE for failing to act promptly, with credibility and transparency in the vote count, which the periodical blames on the fact that the TSE is composed of representatives of the political parties rather than being nonpartisan. Finally, El Faro strongly criticizes the FMLN leadership for sending its supporters out into the streets, with orders to march on the Radisson Hotel where votes were being counted, and provoking a violent confrontation with anti-riot police. Such an action was particularly irresponsible when the vote was so close that no one could state the likely outcome of the mayoral election in San Salvador.
El Faro also has a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at the events leading to both the FMLN and ARENA declaring themselves winners in San Salvador, a process that apparently started when a miscommunication with an FMLN vote-counter led the party leadership to believe it had pulled significantly into the lead. What the FMLN believed was 491 votes in its favor, was actually only 49 votes.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports on six US citizens who ran for election in El Salvador, March 12. At least one, Ramon Cardona, the former executive director of the Central American Resource Center in San Francisco, won his race. Cardona won a legislative seat the department of Libertad.
Exit polling by La Prensa Grafica reveals some information about which parts of the population support which party. Looking just at the major parties, the poorest and richest segments are more likely to support ARENA and those in the middle are more likely to support the FMLN. As education level increases, a person is more likely to support the FMLN. Young people and men are more likely to support the FMLN than the elderly and women. Urban dwellers support the FMLN more than rural citizens. La Prensa's colorful chart showing these correlations for all the parties can be found here.