El Salvador’s New Battlefield

Source: Jacobin

Twenty-five years after laying down their arms, the FMLN continues its struggle.

On January 16, 1992, representatives of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the right-wing, US-backed government of El Salvador signed a historic peace treaty that brought an end to a bloody twelve-year civil war.

The Salvadoran Civil War is notable among the last century’s liberation struggles in several respects: for one, the sheer brutality of the military regime’s response; for another, the negotiated transition to peace that saw an armed leftist insurgency transform into a successful political party. Unlike the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions, which initially conquered power through military victories, the FMLN won the presidency at the ballot box nearly twenty years after laying down their weapons. Today, the party, defined by its statutes as “democratic, revolutionary and socialist,” is in the midst of its second consecutive presidential term.

The peace accords were essentially a military draw, but they were celebrated as a major victory by the FMLN and its supporters. The war had been long and brutal, and the guerrillas had forced a vicious regime that was sustained by the largest military power on earth to the table.

Twenty-five years have passed since the signing of the accords. Much of the structural inequality that led to the war remains entrenched in Salvadoran society, as the sobering homicide rates and mass northward migration attest. Yet much has changed. As most of the world seems increasingly wrenched to the Right, the quarter-century anniversary of the peace accords offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the victories and challenges of El Salvador’s extraordinarily resilient Left.

Over the years, the FMLN has evolved into a leading political force with a militant grassroots base. But ferocious right-wing opposition and international pressures have curtailed the dramatic revolutionary project that many FMLN supporters envision for the country and threaten the important social reforms achieved under the leftist party’s governance. Today, the FMLN must overcome both internal and external obstacles in order to fight the tide of militarized neoliberalism and advance a democratic socialist program for El Salvador.

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