Today marks the second anniversary of Mauricio Funes taking power as El Salvador's first left-wing president. An opinion poll from the University of Central America shows that the grades which Salvadorans give Funes have been slipping over those two years, as El Salvador's intractable problems of crime and the economy show little improvement:
What I find most interesting is the almost identical pattern was experienced by El Salvador's last president, Tony Saca from the ARENA party. Saca started with a grade higher than 7.2 in UCA polling and was getting a grade of 6.2 on his second anniversary in June 2006. Salvadorans in 2006, as in 2011, reported crime and the economy as the biggest problems the country faced. In five years, the number of Salvadorans who feel the country is on the wrong track is still around 65%.
That is not to suggest that Funes and Saca are the same type of president. After all, Saca laid flowers at the tomb of Roberto D'Aubuisson who ordered the assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero, while Funes apologized on behalf of the Salvadoran nation for that crime. Saca was overtly partisan and a propgandist for the ARENA party; Funes has shown significant independence from the FMLN. Saca used anti-poverty programs like Solidarity Net to bestow largesse in areas where ARENA would get political reward. Funes' administration seems to be targeting its development and anti-poverty efforts more towards where there is need and not necessarily where there are FMLN supporters. Funes has opened up dialogues on social issues with many sectors of Salvadoran society; Saca's input seemed to come only from the business sector. Both presidents have worked to maintain good relations with the US.
The similar tracks of their approval ratings in public opinion polling simply reflect the pragmatism of the Salvadoran people. Salvadorans want to see their lives improving, and for many years they have not seen that. While they may value Funes' independence and his reputation for integrity, what they really want to see is results. And in El Salvador, those results are hard to come by.