Mauricio Funes continues to build support one month before Salvadoran presidential elections
also in this update:
- Minister of Defense attends ARENA campaign event
- El Salvador completes 6th round of Free Trade discussions with European Union
The Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN) presidential candidate Mauricio Funes continues to grow his broad base of support as political parties, community leaders, and social movement groups endorse him. On February 10, the National Democratic Front (FDR) gave their support to the FMLN presidential ticket. The announcement of support came both from the party leadership as well as its voting base, who pledged to work with him to win the March 15 presidential elections. Ex-legislative deputy candidate for the FDR Ernesto Ramos spoke to the party base saying, I feel convinced that Funes is an incorruptible person and the only option to stop the corruption in the government is to change the party in power. FDR national leader, Julio Hernández, has endorsed the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party formula, effectively alienating him from the base of his party.
On Thursday, January 12, Funes held a rally in La Libertad that was attended by over 5,000 people waving FMLN, Christian Democratic Party (PDC), Democratic Change (CD) party, and National Conciliation Party (PCN) flags. Various PDC mayors have publicly endorsed Funes and the FMLN ticket, including the mayors of La Libertad, Sesori, and Texistepeque.
The wave of endorsements show the continued growth of support for Funes. In the month leading up to the March 15 elections, Funes says he will continue to build alliances with political parties and community groupsnot to win the election, but to better govern the country after he is elected.
Minister of Defense attends ARENA campaign event
On February 4, El Salvadors Minister of Defense Jorge Molina attended a campaign event for ARENAs presidential candidate Rodrigo Avila. As head of the Armed Forces, his attendance violates article 211 of El Salvadors constitution which requires the Armed Forces to be apolitical. Article 218 goes on to state that Functionaries and public employees are at the service of the State and not of a specific political fraction. They should not utilize their positions for party politics. One who does will be sanctioned in conformity with the law.
When asked whether his presence violated the constitution, Molina responded that he was only there to learn more about the proposals of the political parties; however, he then admitted he had not attended any other partys events. When questioned about the evenings presentation and the comments made by various speakers that the FMLN was a risk to national stability, he responded, Different positions that show themselves as extreme or orthodox could put [national stability] at risk.
Media analysts and movement leaders denounced ARENA for using the Armed Forces in their campaigning in September of 2008 when Avila gave a military salute to a group of 15,000 veterans. At that event he went on to warn the Armed Forces as an institution about the supposed risks that an FMLN victory would bring, using the rhetoric that the reds would take away civil liberties. .
El Salvador completes 6th round of Free Trade discussions with European Union
During the first week of February, Salvadoran officials attended the 6th round of discussions surrounding the Association Agreement of the European Union and Central America (AdA) in Belgium. The agreement, very similar to the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), has received harsh criticisms. Raul Moreno, an economist with the Foundation for the Study of the Application of Law (FESPAD) and an observer at the negotiations, said, We are before an instrument of domination, before a hegemonic instrument. He went on to say, The purpose of this instrument of domination is to exercise control over our natural resources, over our water, over our biodiversity, over our mineral resources, over our energy resources.
Much like CAFTA, the AdA would open commercial opportunities for the European Union in Central America including: privatization of public services and state-owned business, deregulation and greater protection for investors, control of natural resources by private businesses, and an increase in what is considered intellectual property. El Salvadors Minister of Economy Ricardo Esmahan, disputed Moreno saying El Salvadors small and medium business would benefit the most. Despite this statement, he later admitted that, Mr Moreno is correct in that there is a certain disadvantage [for El Salvador] in some specific products.
El Salvador, under 20 years of ARENA party administrations, has followed a program of implementing neoliberal economic policies such as CAFTA with the support of foreign governments. Social movement leaders have blamed these policies for increased costs of basic services, the decline of the agricultural industry, and the acceleration of megaprojects like mining and dams that have provoked backlash from environmental groups. Economists have expressed concern that the AdA will increase the economic crisis and that it will weaken the countries sovereignity. Any measure that obstructs the use of resource[s] as an object of commerce can be interpreted as an indirect expropriation [of international corporations], exposing the state to monetary penalties by international tribunals said Moreno. The mining corporation Pacific Rim has recently threatened to sue El Salvador under a similar investor protection article in CAFTA.