Press Statement: 51 Members of Congress Call for US Neutrality in Salvadoran Elections

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Members of Congress Call for US Neutrality in Upcoming Presidential Elections in El Salvador, Highlight Democratic Advances

Media contact: Alexis Stoumbelis, Washington, DC, (202) 521-2510 Glenda Anderson in San Salvador, (011-503) 7335-9652 On Monday December 16, 51 members of the House of Representatives called on the State Department to publicly adopt a position of neutrality with regard to El Salvador’s upcoming February 2 presidential elections. The letter, sponsored by Representatives Vargas (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), and Pocan (D-WI), highlighted several “important steps” that the current government has taken to “strengthen its democratic system and expand the right to vote to all citizens,” including those living outside of the country, who will be voting by absentee ballot for the first time in February. Since the election of Mauricio Funes, the first President from the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, the government has increased the number of polling places four-fold to increase accessibility, especially in rural areas. “We’re glad to see so many Members of Congress expressing respect for the right of the Salvadoran people to determine their own future. That's an attitude that’s sorely lacking in much of the US’ policy in Central America, especially with regard to economic policy,” said Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director for the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), in Washington, DC, which has observed every post-war election in El Salvador, starting in 1994. Prior to El Salvador’s last Presidential election, several Republican Congressman made threats against Salvadoran immigrants in an attempt to dissuade voters from electing the FMLN. In a letter to Secretary Kerry in October of this year, Representatives Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) attempted to discredit Salvador Sánchez-Cerén, El Salvador’s current Vice-President and the FMLN’s 2014 candidate, who holds a significant lead in the polls. Friday’s letter comes on the heels of a November statement by Representative Elliot Engel (D-NY), the Democratic leader of the House Foreign Affairs committee, who also addressed the State Department, saying, “We must overcome the unfortunate baggage left by some past US administrations that have historically been nakedly partisan in Central American politics... [By] words and deeds, the burden is on us to actually persuade our Central American friends that we do not have a finger on the electoral scale, and that we will work with whoever is elected.”

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Read the Congressional letter to Sec. Kerry, including the names of all 51 signers. Read the official press statement by Rep. Vargas on the Congressional letter.

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