Open letter from U.S. Academics on Salvadoran Elections


Wethe undersigned are North American academics who study Latin America.We wish to make known several concerns with regard to the electoralprocess now underway in El Salvador and which include legislativeelections in January 2009 and presidential elections in March 2009. Inparticular, as academics who have studied electoral processesthroughout the hemisphere, we believe that there are a minimal set ofnorms and conditions necessary for elections to be free, transparent,and democratic. These include the freedom to participate in civic andpolitical activities without fear of violence, repression, orreprisals, and the existence of rules and regulations that assuretransparency in the voting process and that safeguard against thepossibility of electoral fraud. We wish to make known in this regardthe following four concerns:

1) We are against foreign interference in the electoralprocesses and the internal affairs of other countries. We observe inthe Salvadoran case that the United States government has brazenlyintervened in previous elections to influence the outcome and that onceagain it appears to be undertaking such intervention. Among variousincidents we draw attention to statements made by the U.S. ambassadorto El Salvador, Charles Glazer, in May 2008 on alleged andunsubstantiated connections between the principal opposition party inEl Salvador, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) andthe FARC guerrilla organization of Colombia. Ambassador Glazer statedthat any group that collaborates or expresses friendship with the FARCis not a friend of the United States.1 Also, in February2008, the U.S. Director of Intelligence Director J. Michael McConnellmade public a report that, without any evidence whatsoever, chargedthat the FMLN was set to receive generous financing from VenezuelanPresident Hugo Chavez for its electoral campaign.2 In October, Ambassador Glazer made public reference to this report.3

Such statements constitute unacceptable outside interference in theelectoral process. They are a veiled threat against the Salvadoranpeople that, should they elect a government not to the liking of theUnited States, they will face U.S. wrath and possible reprisals. Weconsider this interference to be in violation of international normsand we call on the U.S. government to immediately desist from all suchinterference. The United States government must respect the right ofthe Salvadoran electorate to choose its government free from threats ofU.S. hostility or reprisals.

2) We are alarmed by the increase in political violence in ElSalvador over the past two years and the atmosphere of impunity withwhich this violence has taken place. There has been a spate ofassassinations the circumstances surrounding which strongly suggeststhat they have been political in nature. The victims of these crimeshave exclusively been leaders of trade unions, community and religiousorganizations and members or supporters of the FMLN. In 2007, accordingto the legal department of the Archbishopric of San Salvador, only 31percent of the homicides which that office investigated was attributedto maras (gang members) or to common crime, while 69 percent, showedclear signs of death-squad style and social cleansing crimes.45 In addition, the ElSalvador Human Rights Commission has denounced an increase in suchdeath-squad slayings against opposition leaders as the elections haveapproached and warned that these assassinations are generating aclimate of fear.The San Salvador-based Foundation for the Study of the Application ofthe Law has documented 27 murders of young social movement activistsand members of the political opposition over the past three years thatappear to be death squad slayings.

3) There have been a series of legal changes and reforms to theelectoral code that open up the possibility of fraud. Among these, weobserve that article 256 of the electoral law was partially derogatedunilaterally in December 2007 by the current government.6This article (256-D,c) stipulated that all ballots must be signed andsealed by election officials appointed to each voting center in orderto be valid, thus safeguarding against tampering with ballots once theyare deposited by voters. In addition, the current Salvadoran governmentunilaterally moved the official opening of the electoral period fromSeptember 17, 2008 to September 1, 2008. This meant that the electoralregister will be based on the 1992 national census rather than on thenew census conducted in 2007. The electoral register at this time lists4,226,479 Salvadorans registered to vote, on the basis of the 1992census. However, the new 2007 census indicates that there are only3,265,021 eligible voters, 961,458 less than the electoral register.7Relying on the outdated 1992 census opens the possibility ofballot-stuffing and related types of voter fraud by using the names ofpeople who are have died since 1992 or who have migrated and are nolonger residents of the country. Moreover, the Organization of AmericanStates concluding its audit of the electoral register at the end of2007 and in early 2008 presented its report, which included a list of103 recommended measures with regard to the electoral process,including 56 which that international organization characterized asobligatory, incompliance with which would put into jeopardy theintegrity of the elections.8 To date, the great majority of these recommendations have not been acted upon.

4) Finally, we are highly alarmed by statements issued in WashingtonD.C. on September 18, 2008, by the Salvadoran foreign minister, MarisolArgueta de Barillas, in a speech before the American EnterpriseInstitute (AEI).9 Ms. Argueta was personally invited by AEIvisiting fellow Roger Noriega, a U.S. assistant secretary of state forWestern Hemisphere affairs during the administration of George W. Bushand a man who shamelessly intervened in the 2004 Salvadoranpresidential elections. At that time, and while serving as assistantsecretary of state, he threatened that if the FMLN were elected theUnited States would seek to block the sending of remittances fromSalvadorans in the United States to their family members in El Salvadorand to deport Salvadorans residing in the United States.10In her speech before the AEI, the Salvadoran foreign minister openlycalled on the U.S. government to intervene in her countrys electoralprocess.

Ms. Argueta declared: The United States must pay close attention towhat is happening in El Salvador and the resulting national securityand geopolitical consequences, since our enemies are joining togetherand becoming stronger. The upcoming municipal and legislative electionsin January of 2009 and the next presidential elections in March 2009will be without a doubt, the closest electoral competitions in thehistory of El SalvadorThe opposition party is a remnant of the formerguerrilla movement. Some members of its leadership have been closelyrelated to ETA or to the FARC. Losing El Salvador will threaten thenational security of both El Salvador and the United StatesIt willgenerate instability in the country and in neighboring countries and itwill set El Salvador back 30 years, to when Central America was inturmoil. As President Ronald Reagan said 25 years agothe security ofthe United States is at stake in El Salvador.US foreign policy in theregion must be reassessed and there must be a review of growinganti-American sentiment and the coming to power of increasing numbersof anti-American governments in this backyard.11

These declarations virtually call for U.S. intervention in ElSalvador to avoid a possible electoral triumph by the FMLN, and toundermine in this way the right of the Salvadoran people to elect thegovernment of their choosing free from threats, pressures, andinterference by a foreign power. Given the long and sordid history ofU.S. intervention in El Salvador and in Latin America we view thesestatements with grave concern and we call on the Salvadoran governmentto desist from inviting U.S. intervention.

We wish to make these concerns known to the incoming Obamaadministration. We are hopeful that, with its renewed commitment tobetter diplomatic relations with Latin America and its message ofpolitical change, this new administration will not support anyintervention in the Salvadoran elections and nor will it tolerate humanrights violations and electoral fraud.


William I. Robinson, University of California at Santa Barbara

Hector Perla, University of California at Santa Cruz

Charles Hale, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2006-2007)

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University

Arturo Arias, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2001-2003)

Craig N. Murphy, Wellesley College and past president of the International Studies Association (2000-2001)

Ramona Hernandez, City College of New York and Director of Dominican Studies Institute

Helen I. Safa, Emeritus, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1983-1985)

Carmen Diana Deere, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1992-94).

Sonia E. Alvarez, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and pastpresident of the Latin American Studies Association (2004-2006)

Lars Schoultz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and pastpresident of the Latin American Studies Association (1991-1992)

Thomas Holloway, University of California at Davis and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2000-2001)

John L. Hammond, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY, andformer chair of the Latin American Studies Association Task Force onHuman Rights and Academic Freedom

Miguel Tinker-Salas, Pomona College

Greg Grandin, New York University

Manuel Rozental, Algoma University

Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, D.C.

Jeffrey L. Gould, University of Indiana

Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mark Sawyer, University of California at Los Angeles

Ramon Grosfoguel, University of California at Berkeley

Peter McLaren, University of California at Los Angeles

Gilberto G. Gonzales, University of California at Irvine

John Foran, University of California at Santa Barbara

Christopher Chase-Dunn, University of California at Irvine

Alfonso Gonzales, New York University

Gary Prevost, St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict

Sujatha Fernandez, Queens College, City University of New York

Howard Winant, University of California at Santa Barbara

Jon Shefner, University of Tennessee

Daniel Hellinger, Webster University

Agustin Lao-Montes, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Millie Thayer, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Jeffrey W. Rubin, Boston University

Ellen Moodie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Brandt Gustav Peterson, Michigan State University

Adam Flint, Binghamton University

Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University

Richard Grossman, Northeastern Illinois University

Manel Lacorte, University of Maryland

Ana Patricia Rodríguez, University of Maryland

Beth Baker, California State University at Los Angeles

Aaron Schneider, Tulane University

Misha Kokotovic, University of California-San Diego

Marc McLeod, Seattle University

Michael Hardt, Duke University

Bruce Ergood, Ohio University

Beatrice Pita, University of California at San Diego

Rosaura Sanchez, University of California at San Diego

Nancy Plankey Videla, Texas A&M University

Kate Bronfenbrenner, Cornell University

LaDawn Haglund, Arizona State University

Judith A. Weiss, Mount Allison University, Canada

Susanne Jonas, University of California at Santa Cruz

Robert Whitney, University of New Brunswick (Saint John), Canada

Aline Helg (U.S. citizen), Université de Genève, Switzerland

Stephanie Jed, University of California at San Diego

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, California State University

James J. Brittain, Acadia University, Canada

Margaret Power, Illinois Institute of Technology

Philip J. Williams, University of Florida

R. James Sacouman, Acadia University

Carlos Schroder, Northern Virginia Community College

Frederick B. Mills, Bowie State University

Judith Blau, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Egla Martinez, Carleton University, Canada

Walda Katz-Fishman, Howard University

Judith Wittner, Loyola University

Yajaira M. Padilla, University of Kansas

Tanya Golash-Boza, University of Kansas

Erich H. Loewy, University of California at Davis

Jonathan Fox, University of California at Santa Cruz

Steven S. Volk, Oberlin College

Marc Edelman, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

W. L. Goldfrank, University of California at Santa Cruz

Benjamin Kohl, Temple University

Lourdes Benería, Cornell University

Philip Oxhorn, McGill University

Ronald Chilcote, University of California at Riverside

Judith Adler Hellman, York University, Toronto

Barbara Chasin, Montclair State University

Matt D Childs, University of South Carolina

Sarah Hernandez, New College of Florida

Catherine LeGrand, McGill University

Nathalia E. Jaramillo, Purdue University

William Avilés, University of Nebraska, Kearney

Dana Frank, University of California at Santa Cruz

Robert Andolina, Seattle University

Sinclair Thomson, New York University

Patricia Balcom, University of Moncoton

Josée Grenier, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Manfred Bienefeld, Carleton University

Susan Spronk, University of Ottawa

May E. Bletz, Brock University

David Heap, University of Western Ontario

Dennis Beach, Saint Johns University, Minnesota

Aldo A. Lauria-Santiago, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

William S. Stewart, California State University, Chico

Sheila Candelario, Fairfield University

Erik Ching, Furman University

Marc Zimmerman, University of Houston

Maureen Shea, Tulane University

Héctor Cruz-Feliciano, Council on International Educational Exchange

Karen Kampwirth, Knox College

Marco A. Mojica, City College of San Francisco

Nick Copeland, University of Arkansas

Silvia L. López, Carleton College

Marie-Agnès Sourieau, Fairfield University

Karina Oliva-Alvarado, University of California at Los Angeles

Erin S. Finzer, University of Kansas

Dina Franceschi, Fairfield University

Lisa Kowalchuk, University of Guelph

Amalia Pallares, University of Illinois at Chicago

B. Ruby Rich, University of California at Santa Cruz

Edward Dew, Fairfield University

Nora Hamilton, University of Southern California

Deborah Levenson, Boston College

Linda J. Craft, North Park University

Thomas W. Walker, Ohio University

Jocelyn Viterna, Harvard University

Cecilia Menjivar, Arizona State University

Ricardo Dominguez, University of California at San Diego

María Elena Díaz, University of California at Santa Cruz

Guillermo Delgado-P, University of California at Santa Cruz

Guillaume Hébert, Université du Québec à Montréal

Leisy Abrego, University of California at Irvine

Michael E. Rotkin, University of California at Santa Cruz

John Blanco, University of California at San Diego

Steven Levitsky, Harvard University

John Beverley, University of Pittsburgh

Evelyn Gonzalez, Montgomery College

Tom O'Brien, University of Houston

Pablo Rodriguez, City College of San Francisco

John Womack, Jr., Harvard University

James D. Cockcroft, State University of New York

Mark Anner, Penn State University

John Kirk, Dalhousie University

Jorge Mariscal, University of California at San Diego

Susan Kellogg, University of Houston

Susan Gzesh, University of Chicago

Luis Martin-Cabrera, University of California at San Diego

Lawrence Rich, Northern Virginia Community College

Jeff Tennant, The University of Western Ontario, Canada

Meyer Brownstone, University of Toronto and Chair emeritus, Oxfam Canada

Charmain Levy, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada

Liisa L. North, York University

Denis G. Rancourt, University of Ottawa, Canada

Barbara Weinstein, New York University

Kelley Ready, Brandeis University


1) La Prensa Gráfica, 21 mayo 2008. /nacion/1063436.asp

2) La Prensa Gráfica, 6 febrero 2008. /nacion/983447.asp

3) El Diario de Hoy 1 octubre 2008. Informe 2007.

4) Informe 2007.

5) La Pagina de Maiz, No. 195, 5/23/08; "Presentacion de Denucia ante FGR", 2/12/08

6) Corte Suprema de Justicia.

7) La Prensa Gráfica 5 octubre 2008. /nacion/1152235.asp

8) "Aspectos Relevantes en el Informe de Auditoria Integral al Registro Electoral Realizada por La OEA", INFORMEDEOEA.pdf

9) Diario Colatino 3 octubre 2008. /nacionales/59433/?tpl=69

10) Noticen, 3/25/2004, Latin America Data Base, University of New Mexico.

11) Noticen, 10/16/2008.

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