In its discourse leading towards the 2009 elections, ARENA has tried to suggest that the armed forces will (or at least "should") oppose a communist FMLN electoral victory. Recently, there was a march of retired veterans of the armed forces, sponsored and promoted by ARENA and the Rodrigo Avila campaign. As described on the Sister Cites web site:
The Association of Military Veterans (ASVEM), comprised of ex-military members from the Salvadoran Civil War, marched in San Salvador joined by Rodrigo Avila, the presidential candidate for the right wing party National Republican Alliance (ARENA).
At the ASVEM meeting, Avila said that if the Mauricio Funes, the left wing presidential candidate from the Farabundi Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), wins the presidency, Funes will likely abolish the military, or overturn the 1993 Amnesty Law and bring the ex-military members to trial. He stated that if this were to happen, it would create social upheaval in the country. Mauricio Funes has denied both claims and assured that he will not abolish either institution.
In his speech to the veterans of El Salvador's armed forces, Avila expressed his worries about supposed intentions of the FMLN to abolish the armed forces. Avila proclaimed that thanks to the El Salvador's military "we continue to sing our National Hymn and not the Communist International. Here the blue and white flag waves, and not the flag of Venezauela or Cuba."
Weeks before, however, in his speech at the FMLN national convention, Mauricio Funes had attempted to pre-empt these appeals to the armed forces and included a section reaching out to the military:
We need to send a message of trust to the members of the Armed
Forces after the dirty and defamatory campaign of some communication media and phantom organizations directed b y the right wing that distort the thinking of the FMLN and its presidential candidate.
The FMLN has recognized the professionalism of the armed forces, its evolution and development after the peace accords, such that on July 4, 2003, it withdrew the reserve it had maintained since the time of said accords, committing itself not to promote constitutional changes that question the status of the armed forces as a permanent institution of the state.
In light of that, it will be a priority of the new government to strengthen the constitutional role of the armed forces in the function of consolidation of democratic governability, national security, and defense of sovereignty.
The strengthening of the democratic state ought to be accompanied by the modernization of its institutions, among them the armed forces. Strengthening in the case of the military institution by improving the living conditions of the troops and officers in the barracks, strengthening the cautionary system of the armed forces, as well as improving the functioning of the military hospirals and care to those disabled veterans.
Now the current Minister of Defense Jorge Alberto Molina has come out and rejected the political parties' attempt to use the role of the armed forces to advance a political agenda. His remarks quoted in El Faro were clearly aimed at Avila:
The Armed Forces are an apolitical institution that does not have to look for any election result. As an institution we are going to respect the results in accordance with how the Salvadoran people decide, both in the [legisltaive] elections in January as well as in the [presidential elections] in March.
I applaud the defense minister for his statements which will hopefully contribute to strengthen the democratic institutions of the country and keep the military out of politics (where it had been regularly involved from 1932 to 1992).