Leftists Poised to Win Presidency in El Salvador

After 17 years since the end of El Salvador’s civil war, the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) is poised to accomplish what its guerrilla predecessors never did: take over the national government.  Reliable polls unanimously project that FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes will win the March 15 presidential elections.  What all this means for El Salvador — and Latin America — is the subject of the new, in-depth report, "The 2009 El Salvador Elections: Between Crisis and Change."

A victory by Funes would break 20 years of one-party rule by the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), opening a new progressive chapter in the country’s long, violent history of war and dictatorships.  "The historical importance of the FMLN taking power cannot be overstated for this small Central American country," says Teo Ballvé, a contributor to the report and member of the North American Congress on Latin America.

If the FMLN wins, El Salvador will be joining an ever-growing group of left-leaning governments in Latin America.  The arrival of Barack Obama’s administration augurs well for the FMLN’s aspirations.  "In the past, El Salvador has been squarely under Washington’s thumb," says Ballvé.  "But with Obama in the White House, the country has a better chance of charting a truly independent path."

Although a majority of Salvadorans have high hopes for meaningful social change, a Funes administration will also face tremendous challenges: economic turmoil, grinding poverty, a virulent opposition party, rampant violence, and others.  Funes has promised a "people-centered" government to tackle these problems.  According to Ballvé, "It won’t be easy or quick, but the FMLN has an incredibly strong grassroots movement in its corner to help it fight against the entrenched interests that have blocked reforms in the past."

The 2009 El Salvador Elections: Between Crisis and ChangeTopics in the report range from the campaigns and the economy, to militarization and the diplomatic front, and much more.  These sections are, in turn, divided into more specific issues, such as free trade, water privatization, Plan Mexico, regional integration, and potential relations with the new Obama administration.  This timely report seeks to reflect on El Salvador’s current situation as well as the possibilities and challenges ahead at this pivotal moment for the nation’s future.

The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), and Upside Down World collectively edited the report.

Download the Report: nacla.org/node/5506