ARENA Plays the Victim in New Destabilization Strategy

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As more corruption cases emerge involving members of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), recently defeated in a presidential election for the second consecutive time after 20 years in power, the party of El Salvador’s oligarchy is seeking to recast itself as victims of systemic repression. On Wednesday March 19th Jorge Nieto, El Salvador’s former Minister of Public Works (2007-2009) wanted by Interpol since November of last year, turned himself in to Salvadoran authorities. Nieto, who served during the ARENA administration of Tony Saca, is charged with embezzlement in connection with the multimillion-dollar Diego de Holguín Boulevard corruption scandal. Prominent ARENA party leaders have defended his innocence, including  former President of El Salvador Armando Calderón Sol, who said that Nieto has been “a victim of the system,” as part of the party’s new self-victimization strategy. Nieto’s arrest comes a few weeks after it was announced that two ARENA legislators, Ana Vilma de Escobar and Roberto D’Aubuisson (son), could be charged for making slanderous comments against President Funes, calling him a womanizer and insinuating that he is an alcoholic and a drug-user. In response, the two legislators have initiated a publicity campaign, erecting signs all over San Salvador with the slogan “Stop Political Persecution” above the image of a white ribbon. De Escobar is also currently being investigated for supposed financial irregularities detected in a job creation fund she administered between 2004 and 2009 — a case she has also tried to paint as part of widespread campaign of political persecution against the right. Both of these incidents arise in the aftermath of the March 9th elections in which ARENA demanded a vote-by-vote recount and called the results “a fraud,” alleging that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), El Salvador’ maximum electoral authority, was stacked against them. In right-wing demonstrations demanding a recount, ARENA supporters held signs reading “S.O.S. El Salvador” in an effort to garner international attention to the issue.

Billboard reading Billboard reading "Stop Political Persecution Against Roberto and Ana Vilma"
For the first time in history, under the Funes administration, the Salvadoran oligarchy no longer has control over the majority of state entities. While in the past ARENA was able to embezzle state funds, ostracize and eliminate their political opponents in legislature, and manipulate government institutions to commit fraud and secure their seat in power with total impunity, now some of its members are beginning to have to answer for their crimes.  Meanwhile, instead of contending with the new role of minority opposition party and allowing the country to evolve democratically, the party is diversifying its destabilization strategies in preparation for the incoming Sánchez Cerén government. The self-victimization strategy from the right shamelessly appropriates a human rights discourse in order to set off warning bells to an uninformed public and international community, effectively setting the stage for potential “humanitarian” intervention by the United States in the future, as has occurred in Venezuela, Iraq, and Syria, among many others. Traducción del inglés al español por Kasha B.

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