Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- about a war-like political campaign

There are 22 months to go before the March 2009 elections for President and National Assembly in El Salvador, but already the campaign is a major theme in the Salvadoran blogosphere. The current round of comments were triggered by a political rally led by president Tony Saca, where he made comments which many described as "war-like." Blogger Hunnapuh takes note(ES) of Tony Saca's call to the governing right-wing ARENA party faithful to create an army of "nationalist soldiers," with Saca warning that "he that sleeps loses, there can be no vacations."

According to Hunnapuh, Saca is "walking with a warlike and provocative discourse which contradicts his pose as a conciliator who is open to dialog and reconciliation." Echoing a theme seen on several blogs, Hunnapuh views Saca's proselytizing as flatly illegal and in violation Article 81 of El Salvador's Constitution which forbids political campaigning more than 4 months before the presidential election and Article 237 of the electoral code which forbids a public official from using his public office for partisan political ends.

The impending presidential campaign has prompted blogger Jjmar to write a two part series on internal divisions(ES) within the ruling conservative ARENA party. Noting that while the corporate media is ever eager to describe internal divisions in the leftist opposition FMLN, Jjmar finds there is a "curtain of smoke" over the problems and divisions within ARENA while the media is selling the image of ARENA as solid and unified.

One split Jjmar describes is between those in ARENA who believe that a campaign based on fear of the consequences of a victory by the left-wing FMLN is the best course (as it was in 2004 elections) and those who are concerned about increased polarization in the country and its impact on the business climate. Corruption is also one of their concerns:

La preocupación por la corrupción sin precedentes del actual gobierno, no solo tiene a la base la imagen, sino las ganancias. Antes los funcionarios se conformaban con “regalías”, ahora les exigen “comisiones”. Antes había funcionarios que con una botella de vino se quedaban felices y contentos, ahora piden entre el 10% y el 15% del total de la obra en licitación.

They are worried about the unprecedented corruption in the present government having not only an impact on the image, but their profits. Before, officials used to be influenced by "gifts", but now they demand commissions. Before a bottle of wine would have left officials happy and content, now they ask for between 10% and 15% of the total of the work being contracted.

"Los Torogoces" is a group composed of members of the strong, traditional business sector of the country who meet together for breakfast on a regular basis. According to Jjmar's sources, Los Torogoces want president Saca to step down as head of ARENA and for other government officials to step out of leadership positions in the party. They fear that without de-linking the government and the party, ARENA will be burdened with the errors of the government in future elections. Las Torogoces also oppose any plan to make Rene Figueroa, the Minister of Security, ARENA's nominee for the presidency.

Carlos Abrego criticizes Figueroa(ES) for Figueroa's public statements linking the FMLN to all the crime and disorder in the country but without any proof or bringing his accusations through proper scandals. Such statements would be bad enough as simple political party propaganda, but Abrego finds them to be even more reprehensible when they come from a government minister, the minister of security. These partisan accusations, Abrego worries, lead to greater polarization an instability in public institutions.

Finally, Ixquic laments the lack of progress(ES) on reform of the electoral process. Items such as the "residential vote" (where polling places are located close to the communities where people actually live), an agreement on auditing the voting lists, and control over campagin financing and propaganda, have failed to make headway in the country. She also looks to the upcoming presidential campaign where she expects the other right-wing parties, like the PCN, to need to find a way to distance themselves from the ruling ARENA party, if they expect to enjoy success at the polls.

Originally posted on Global Voices.