Now that the FMLN has decided to have Mauricio Funes as its presidential candidate in 2009, various ARENA party officials are announcing their interest in running on the ticket of the conservative governing party.
Ana Vilma de Escobar, Vice President of El Salvador, announcing her interest in running the same day that the FMLN announced Funes as its candidate.
An article on the USAID website describes her background:
Vice President de Escobar worked for USAID for nine years, beginning in the 1980’s. She managed a $50 million project that promoted non-traditional exports, encouraged foreign investment and supported the development of small and medium business as a tool for economic growth. The program supported export-oriented industries and foreign investment in the country.
Vice President de Escobar played a critical role in USAID’s support for the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES), a think tank whose policy recommendations helped two successive governments design the country’s successful economic reform program.
After her work at USAID, Vice President de Escobar worked in the banking sector in El Salvador and was eventually named to the Board of Directors for the Arena Party. She was later asked to join former President Francisco Flores’ cabinet as head of the country’s National Social Security Institute, a department with over 11,000 employees and 200 service centers. There she oversaw the modernization and expansion of the country's retirement systems.
In 2003, then-Presidential candidate Tony Saca recruited her to serve as his running mate, and with him turned out a record 67 percent of El Salvadoran voters to earn a 22 percent victory over the opposition party. She began her five-year term as Vice President on June 1, 2004.
For some of Vice President de Escobar's views on El Salvador's progress you can read this interview with a South Carolina paper and her speech at Americas Competitiveness Forum sponsored by US Department of Commerce in June 2007.
Also announcing his interest is in running for the president is Rene Figueroa, Minister of Public Security and Justice. Figueroa is also the Vice President for Ideology of the ARENA party and the former Minister of the Interior.
In his role with responsibility for public security, Figueroa has been a controversial figure. He objected to conclusions of UN study recently which pointed out a very high level of homicides which went unsolved and unpublished.
In March 2006, the organization US-El Salvador Sister Cities called Figueroa "El Salvador's Karl Rove":
All these announcements are part of a highly calculated spin and propaganda campaign leading up to El Salvador’s legislative branch and municipal elections on March 12. It is all being coordinated by the current Minister of the Interior, who is also the Vice-President of Ideology of the ARENA Executive Council, Rene Figueroa. Figueroa is El Salvador’s version of Karl Rove, a slippery political adviser and coordinator with a non-stop slander and fear campaign. In 2003 Figueroa accused the FMLN of ordering protesters to throw rocks and destroy private property, and in 2004 he insinuated that the FMLN was behind the threats of terrorist organization Al Qaeda, and at the same time was buying weapons to hand over to gang members. Just 2 weeks ago Figueroa tried to link the FMLN to rising homicide rates in the country.
The ARENA campaign, led by Figueroa, has projected the FMLN party as a bunch of “social de-stabilizers” and protesters who seek to disrupt Salvadoran society. This campaign portrays the FMLN as organizers of the erupting protests in the streets against CAFTA and privatization, hiding behind “pseudo-social organizations composed of gang members.”
It isn’t the first time that Figueroa has taken advantage of the rampant social insecurity and generalized fear to accuse the FMLN of supporting, coordinating, or being gang members. In declarations last month, Figueroa assured reporters that many gang members attend FMLN meetings, and that this month instead of “Super Strong Hand Anti-Gang laws our party will apply Super ARENA Hand laws against the FMLN…” Figueroa went on to say that “only good and honest people come to our ARENA meetings.”
Also mentioned as possible ARENA candidates are César Funes, Rodrigo Ávila, Gerardo Suvillaga, Jorge Nieto, Francisco Laínez.