Rural schoolteacher turned rebel commander Salvador Sanchez Ceren was sworn in as president of El Salvador on Sunday, becoming the first former guerrilla will lead the Central American nation.
The 69-year-old leader began his 5-year term promising "honor, austerity, efficiency and transparency" at the inauguration ceremony attended by 13 heads of state or government....
The new president promised to focus on one of the country's biggest challenges: gang violence that has made El Salvador one of the world's most dangerous countries. He said he personally will head the System of Citizen Security. Security "requires that we work together against organized crime, drug traffic, extortions and all expressions of violence," he said.
To spur development, Sanchez Ceren said he was in talks to bring El Salvador into the Petrocaribe program under which Venezuela provides subsidized oil to countries in the region.
But the new president has said he intends to govern less like Venezuela's socialist leaders than Uruguay's folksy Jose Mujica, a former guerrilla who gives away most of his presidential salary, drives a 41-year-old Volkswagen and never wears a tie.
He has promised to maintain good relations with the United States, where hundreds of thousands of Salvadoran migrants live.
Here are some of my thoughts about the next five years under El Salvador's new president:
- The social programs started under Mauricio Funes will continue. Yet with little fiscal resources, it will be difficult for the government to expand them signficantly.
- Little significant legislation will be passed. The FMLN does not have a majority in the National Assembly, and it will be difficult for the left to advance any ambitious legislative agenda.
- US policy towards El Salvador will remain unchanged through 2016. But if a conservative Republican administration comes into office in 2017, expect to see a chill in relations on the US side for ideological reasons.
- Expect to see erratic policy on domestic security issues. No one in El Salvador has a consistent vision for how to confront the gangs, crime and violence. The incoming president has not articulated one. The first decision is what to do about the crumbling truce process with the gangs.
- Capital may flee the country. During the presidency of Mauricio Funes, internal capital investment greatly declined. Salvadoran owners of capital did not re-invest their capital domestically. They did not move their money out of the country, but simply sat on it. With the prospect of a movement farther to the left, the rich may start moving their dollars to Miami and elsewhere. Absent resolution of the security problem, don't expect foreign investment to increase significantly.
In summary, Salvador Sanchez Ceren comes into office in a polarized El Salvador, lacking the momentum and credibility of his predecessor Mauricio Funes. It will be difficult for him to accomplish the things which Salvadorans are demanding of their government. I hope I'm wrong.