As US State Department cables continue to come into the public domain via WikiLeaks, five cables have recently been published by the Spanish paper El Pais coming from the US Embassy in San Salvador. The cables are reports back to Washington on current events and the political environment in El Salvador in 2009 and 2010.
The cables are all written by Robert Blau, who as Charge d'Affaires was the senior US official in the Embassy prior to the arrival of current US ambassador Aponte. His clearly-written cables give an insight, not usually available, into the issues the US finds of importance in El Salvador.
|Robert Blau and Mauricio Funes with their wives on the night|
of Funes' election as president of El Salvador
XXXXXXXXXXXX said Funes and those in his inner circle were concerned about both his personal security as well as technical security of their communications. XXXXXXXXXXXX also lamented the state of physical security around Casa Presidencial, the presidential office compound. XXXXXXXXXXXX said he suspected elements in the (left-wing) FMLN were monitoring phone calls of the President, XXXXXXXXXXXX, and other non-FMLN members of the Government. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Funes would welcome U.S. assistance in both areas. Charge [Blau] offered to arrange a meeting with Funes and appropriate Embassy staff.One week later Blau advised the US State Department that street protests seemed to be organized by the FMLN to undermine president Funes:
A recent wave of protests organized by a so-called environmental group, "La Coordinadora Nacional de Medio Ambiente (CNMA)", are likely part of a movement by hard-line elements of the FMLN to undermine President Funes. Over the past several weeks, the CNMA has carried out large-scale, coordinated protests throughout the country ostensibly protesting GOES plans to continue with the construction of the hydroelectric dam "Chaparral" and perceived inequities in the seed disbursement program to farmers. It seems that hard-line members of the FMLN party are using this relatively unknown organization to vent their frustration about the direction of economic policy and directly challenge the President.The hard line leadership of the FMLN was again a theme in a cable from December 2009 which discussed the FMLN's 25th anniversary convention and a meeting with FMLN party leadership and Embassy officials:
The FMLN's historic, guerrilla roots run deep, and the rhetoric of years on the battlefield and two decades in opposition will not disappear quickly, or maybe ever. While our outreach to the FMLN during the 2008-2009 campaign and since Funes' inauguration has paid off in open channels of communications, we continue to combat old suspicions of U.S. motives in El Salvador and the region. On the other hand, good relations with the U.S. enjoys a 90 percent approval rating. If the FMLN overdoes its radicalism, it will have a hard time sustaining its current electoral advantages.A lengthy cable on January 26, 2010 summarized the current situation in El Salvador:
Eight months into the Funes presidency, the GOES [government of El Salvador] can best be characterized as schizophrenic. The part of the government that Funes controls is moderate, pragmatic, responsibly left-of-center and friendly to the USG. The part he has ceded to hard-line elements of the (left-wing) Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) is seeking to carry out the Bolivarian, Chavista game-plan, including implacable hostility towards the USG [US government]. Divisions on the right have given the FMLN a dominant position in the Legislative Assembly. However, the FMLN does not have an outright majority in the legislature, and it faces strong opposition in the popular and independent-minded President Funes.The relationship between Funes and hard-line elements in the FMLN was once again a theme of a February 23, 2010 cable from the Embassy:
Funes's popularity could erode quickly if his administration does not start showing visible results in reducing violent crime and reviving the economy. The government's long-run inability to tackle crime or produce economic growth, coupled with petty infighting and corruption within the country's political parties, raises questions about the future of democratic governance in El Salvador.
The GOES's inability to make gains in public security, continued anemic growth and the disintegration of the right taken together present a challenging road ahead for democracy in El Salvador, especially if coupled with a Funes-FMLN split. Funes's persistent high popularity ratings, now well over 80 percent, make it too soon to sound the alarm, but democratic institutions are vulnerable. Sanchez Ceren's recent call for sweeping constitutional reforms to institute "participatory democracy" is a timely reminder that the hard-line FMLN's threat to Salvadoran democracy is real. The Embassy, allied with civil society, will continue to engage and support moderates in the GOES while working with democratic forces across the political spectrum to strengthen Salvadoran constitutional institutions.
There is a growing division between Funes and the party that brought him to power. Funes joined the FMLN at the end of the 2009 presidential campaign. Throughout the campaign, he maintained a close group of pragmatic, non-FMLN advisors (the Friends of Mauricio), a fact which rankled some FMLN hard-liners. Since Funes took power, tensions between Funes's centrist camp and the far-left FMLN leadership have grown. Funes has publicly rebuked his own Vice President, FMLN hard-liner Salvador Sanchez Ceren, and other members of the FMLN for advocating policies that sharply depart from Funes's moderate reform strategy. The FMLN appears content to ride Funes' high approval numbers while applying pressure via street protests, radical rhetoric, high-profile travel to Havana and Caracas, and back-room legislative maneuvering. So far, the fragile pact between Funes and the FMLN remains intact, but the relationship is clearly strained.There are reportedly 1119 cables concerning El Salvador in the WikiLeaks database. There may be many more topics for blog posts....