The FMLN held its national political convention over the past weekend in San Salvador. The event featured the unveiling of the left-wing party's campaign platform and an address by its presidential candidate Mauricio Funes.
The overwhelming theme of Funes' discourse was that his campaign was a campaign to bring change to the country. This passage sums up his message:
Those who have denied happiness to the Salvadoran people are those who have wasted the opportunity of converting the country into a modern, democratic, equitable and supportive society. They are the same ones that now offer you a "different country" that they have not wanted to, nor been able to, construct.
If they have not been able to do it for so many years, even less are they going to be able to do it now.
To those gentlemen that are in the government, to those who have kidnapped the apparatus of the state for their own benefit and for that of a few friends, to those who have put their stingy and egotistical self interests above the common interest, I say to you, I insist of you: your time has ended; now is the hour of change.
Funes stated that the greatest problem facing El Salvador is unemployment and underemployment. His administration would focus on addressing this problem. The "economy of privilege" will be dismantled. The country needs the rule of law, strong institutions with integrity and the ability to correct market failures.
Reaching out to assuage fears of business, Funes announced that there would be no elimination of private property or the market economy. Instead Funes stated that from the start he had worked for a grand alliance of businesses of all sizes. His number one priority will be adopting policies which will generate jobs to support families. The largest section of his speech was devoted to the importance of job creation.
In addition, an FMLN government will combat inflation, with emphasis on food security and supporting agriculture. There will be programs of micro-credit, first jobs for youth, and job training. Also needed are clear rules of the game in the finance and investment sector to encourage productive investment in the economy. The FMLN will not seek to abrogate free trade agreements entered in the past. His government will look for new markets for El Salvador's products.
Funes spent relatively little time on the crime problem facing the country except to say his administration would have a massive program of prevention to combat crime, especially focused education.
Funes announced a variety of other FMLN initiatives:
- A grand alliance for learning.
- Expand the social insurance system beyond the formal economy to independent workers, domestic workers, and those in the informal economy. Improve the healthcare institutions.
- A universal basic pension for the elderly which increases with increases in the cost of living.
- Policies favoring environmental stability.
- Fiscal reform in the taxing, accounting, spending and borrowing in the country with an emphasis on transparency.
Funes also sought to assure the armed forces that the FMLN respected their role in the country and that the government would work to assure good living conditions for the troops.
Those are a lot of promises and a lot of high goals. The elections will show whether the population believes the FMLN can deliver and whether it wants to let the FMLN try. At the moment, it appears that the desire for change is giving the FMLN its best chance ever for electoral success.