An article today in the Miami Herald looks at the FMLN's prospects in upcoming 2009 presidential elections in El Salvador:
Hoping to ride the Latin American wave of ''21st century socialism,'' El Salvador's former Marxist guerrillas appear to be in their best position ever to win power. Though the vote is more than a year away, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), now a political party, is considered the early favorite after nearly 20 years of right-wing rule by the ARENA party, one of Washington's closest allies in Central America.
Polls suggest that a majority of Salvadorans are ready for change, and the FMLN claims it's ready to capitalize on that sentiment and piggyback on the recent electoral success of other left-wing parties in the hemisphere.
''Like in the 1960s through '80s, when we saw a tendency in Latin America of breaking the dictatorships, there is a new movement now to break the current model of government,'' Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the FMLN's vice-presidential candidate, told The Miami Herald.
''People want more democracy, where the citizens participate and exercise power,'' he said. ``This is the new current in Latin America, and the left is better prepared to lead it.''...
''The FMLN has its best chance to win now, not because it is doing things well, but because there has been no renovation on the [political] right,'' said Hector Silva, a former FMLN mayor of San Salvador who later defected from the party. ``There is a feeling that now is the moment for the left.''
Sánchez said that the FMLN's choice of [TV news personality Mauricio] Funes has ''confused the right'' and signifies ``an alliance between the party and the people.'' ... The FMLN softened its revolutionary message into one of ``peace and hope for a new El Salvador.''
Sánchez said his campaign hasn't even mentioned socialism or revolutionary change.
What kind of a government would the FMLN bring to El Salvador? The Miami Herald asked others on El Salvador's political left wing:
Not everyone is convinced the FMLN has changed much.
Facundo Guardado, a former guerrilla leader and the FMLN's presidential candidate in 1999, said his former party's hard-line Stalinist element has taken over. Attempts to reform the FMLN and make it more of a Social Democratic party over the years have failed, he said, resulting in massive defections over the past decade.
''The FMLN was more democratic during the war,'' Guardado said. ``Now they are fascinated with authoritarianism and fundamentalism.''
Guardado says he has no doubt that if the FMLN wins, El Salvador will become the next partner in Hugo Chávez's ''21st century socialism,'' forming a Central American bloc with Nicaragua. FMLN municipal governments already buy discounted oil from Venezuela.
Sánchez downplayed the influence that Chávez has on the FMLN and denied that the Venezuelan leader is funding the party's campaign.