As El Salvador approaches elections in early 2009, articles are starting to appear in English language publications on the right and the left. Anytime you come across such an article, you need to figure out the ideological leaning of the publication and factor that into your evaluation. Consider excerpts from these three recent articles.
Chavez Expansion Plans by John R. Thompson in the very conservative National Review:
A mix of mistakes by the FMLN and the coming together of previously contesting ARENA factions has cut the difference to just four points, and ARENA leaders express confidence they will overtake the opposing ticket in the weeks ahead.
Most confident of all is Rodrigo Avila, ARENA’s presidential candidate. Soft-spoken and unpretentious, Avila served for ten years in the country’s National Civil Police force (with 20,000 employees the country’s largest enterprise, public or private). As chief for eight years, Avila had a reputation for incorruptibility and an appetite for taking the lead in dangerous situations.
Rodrigo Avila agrees that his candidacy is not typical, but he is determined to bring fresh approaches both to campaigning and to solving the country’s many challenges.
Avila is at his best campaigning one-on-one and speaking before live groups — the day we talked, he had shaken hands and chatted with some 1,200 voters and taken Polaroid photos with more than 700 of them.
El Salvador poised to turn left in the UK's liberal Tribune:
Funes wants to turn the FMLN into a pragmatic political party. At rallies, he doesn’t adopt the FMLN’s traditional red colours, preferring to campaign in a fashionable white guayabera shirt. It’s a symbolic move designed to contrast himself with many in the party who still wear their old guerrilla fatigues and wave flags of Che Guevara at campaign events.
President Antonio Saca of Arena, whose term ends next year, has mocked the FMLN’s supposed change, asserting: “If it flies like a duck, swims like a duck and eats like a duck, it’s a duck. The FMLN is a communist party. Its ideas haven’t changed.”
But, despite this dismissive rhetoric, Arena is genuinely worried that Funes might win. Facing the possibility of a humiliating defeat in March 2009, the Salvadoran right and its backers in Washington have gone into overdrive, trying to damage Funes by linking him with Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa. Arena has accused Funes of being a “little Chávez” and obtaining secret finance from the Venezuelan leader.
Funes has strongly denied having any financial links to the Venezuelan government and Chávez has also ridiculed the claim, adding that the FMLN did not need extra financial support, as it was a “solid” and “well-organised” party with popular backing. Chávez denounced the “gringo” allegations as another US attempt to discredit him and cause division in the region. “It’s a lie. We don’t need to do that and they don’t need it.”
Funes has said that he would seek a close working relationship with Venezuela and, indeed, the FMLN has been developing its relations with Chávez for several years.
A New Face to Salvadoran Politics? from the left-leaning Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Many Salvadorans looking for change doggedly oppose ARENA, stating that the party uses violent tactics to enforce its neo-liberal policies and governs in favor of the country’s elite, which continues to promote the interests of those deemed responsible for the atrocities in El Salvador’s years of bloody civil war in the 1980’s. A poll conducted by the Public Opinion Institute of the Central American University revealed that 63 percent of the population believes that ARENA should no longer govern the country, and 80 percent of the country feels that the conditions of El Salvador have generally worsened under the current government.
The aforementioned statistics give some indication that Rodrigo Avila’s chances of victory in March are somewhat slimmer than ARENA had expected, partially as a result of the fact that Avila is relatively mediocre in the political sphere.