Elections Update: Obama letter, FMLN continues to lead, dirty campaign and attacks continue
Impact of Obama victory in El Salvador; Open letter to president elect regarding upcoming election in El Salvador
The victory of Barack Obama in the United States was heralded in ElSalvador, where people celebrated the end of 8 years of Republicanrule. Perhaps most importantly, Obamas victory was a major blow to theSalvadoran right-wing which has depended on a tight relationship withthe Bush Administration to remain in power. Many Salvadoran socialmovement leaders recognize that Obamas victory only represents apossibility for change and that much work remains to be done to bringabout a significant shift in US foreign policy.
The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections in El Salvador (whichincludes the Share Foundation, CISPES, US-El Salvador Sister Cities,and Voices on the Border) is collecting organizational signatures foran open letter to president-elect Barack Obama related to the upcomingelections in El Salvador. The letter calls for US neutrality andnon-intervention in the elections, and asserts that immigration policywill not be affected by the results; it also pledges that theundersigned organizations will take action should the State Departmentor Congressional members attempt to sway the results of the elections. The letter can be downloaded atwww.cispes.org/documents/Open_Letter_to_Obama_ElSalvador.pdf
We hope to get this letter published in the main newspaper of El Salvador during the first week of January 2009. If your organization wishes to sign on to the letter, send an email to [email protected] or call 202 521-2510 before December 20. This is an organizational sign-on letter and not meant for individuals.
We also hope that organizations signing the letter can make a contribution towards the cost of the paid ad in El Salvador. For local groups with a budget less than $50,000 were asking for a contribution of $50; for national organizations with a budget between $50,000 and $$200,000, were asking for a contribution of $100; for those with budgets over $200,000, were asking for $150-$300.
FMLN Continues Lead in Polls Despite Right-Wing Efforts to Quell Support
Manipulation of TSE
As recent polls in El Salvador show that the leftist FMLN party is 15% ahead over the right-wing presidential candidate from the ruling ARENA party. Out of fear of the FMLNs rise in popularity, the right-wing dominated Supreme Electoral Tribunal, a neutral body that governs El Salvadors electoral process, decided to separate the municipal, legislative, and presidential elections in 2009, elections originally scheduled to take place in a single voting day. The right-wing feared that with a combined municipal and presidential election the FMLNs rise in local support would translate into a national presidential victory for the FMLNs candidate Mauricio Funes, or, conversely, that support for Funes would lead to an FMLN sweep in the local elections. By separating the elections, the right hopes to open up a space for electoral fraud and launch their fear-based campaign to sway the results of the elections.
Therefore, the legislative and municipal elections will take place on January 18, 2009 and the presidential elections will occur on March 15, 2009. This partisan decision not only costs the state more that it can afford to pay, but it also heightens the possibility of early and voting day fraud as well as increases the already-existing tensions and violence in the country.
At the Peace Accords in 1992 the TSE was created as a neutral non-partisan entity to regulate and implement the electoral system of El Salvador. This entity was originally to be composed of 5 magistrates representing the major different political parties in El Salvador. Currently, the neutrality of the TSE has been lost. The president of the TSE, Walter Araujo, is an ARENA militant, and 3 of the 5 other magister seats now lie in the hands of the right wing bloc ARENA, PCN, and PDC. This dominance of the TSE by the right wing underscores the rights continued effort to manipulate the electoral process, a move which results in an unfair and unconstitutional functioning of the TSE.
Fuerza Solidaria and new dirty ads
ARENA has fallen back on its old dirty tricks as ads by its right wing Venezuelan ally Fuerza Solidaria came out recently threatening that an FMLN victory will mean the end to remittances. Such fear-based tactics were used in 2004 to manipulate and sway the Salvadoran vote, and many expect them to increase as the March 2009 elections approach.
In October a series of television advertisements hit the Salvadoran airwaves attempting to link the FMLN and its presidential candidate Mauricio Funes to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The ads incite fears by stating that a FMLN victory would mean the end to good relations with the US government and thus an end to remittances sent home from Salvadorans living in the US. In addition to threatening remittances, the ads also threaten Salvadoran Americans Temporary Protective Status (TPS) which allows over 200,000 Salvadorans to remain in the US. During the 2004 elections US Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and ARENA made similar threats, stating an FMLN victory would force the US to cut remittances sent to El Salvador. Such lies turned a close electoral race into a decisive victory for the right-wing ARENA party, and once again they are part of US government and the ARENA partys consistent and systematic effort to interfere in and manipulate the Salvadoran electoral process.
Attacks Targeting FMLN Activists
Political violence in El Salvador has continued setting a stark tone for the January and March 2009 elections. For example, on September 4, party workers from the FMLN were violently assaulted in San Salvador, resulting in the hospitalization of four party members including Otilia Matamoros, Assistant Coordinator of the FMLN Womens Secretariat. This attack carried out against the FMLN communications brigade was attributed to armed supporters of Norman Quijano, the right wing candidate for the mayor of San Salvador. Quijano later confirmed that activists associated with his campaign are routinely armed and therefore, dangerous.
The use of political violence to instill fear in the Salvadoran population and sway and manipulate the vote is nothing new; 23 activists have been murdered in the last 2 years and the ARENA government refuses to investigate. In 2006, Alex Flores Montoya and Mercedes Penate de Montoya, two well-known FMLN leaders were found dead in the municipality of Coatepeque. Furthermore, in 2008, the FMLN mayor of Alegría, Wilber Funes, was killed, preventing him from running for mayoral reelection in the 2009 elections. Like fear caused by advertisements and declarations, such deaths and violence are another part of the right-wings strategy to instill fear in the Salvadoran left as we near the 2009 elections.
In response to the attacks, Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna stepped up to compensate for the right wing-dominated Supreme Electoral Tribunals lack of response and called for a Non-Violence Accord among all of El Salvadors political parties an initiative proposed by the FMLN prior to the September attacks. While ARENA refused to make a commitment to non-violence until after the Sept 4 attacks, FMLN legislative deputy Robert Lorenzana stated, We want a peaceful campaign. We regret the incidents [of September 4], and for this reason it is necessary to coordinate information among the parties to avoid such incidents.