Right-wing Taking Further Steps Toward Electoral Fraud in 2009
Also in this update:
- More neoliberal measures to alleviate economic crisis
- Attacks instead of solutions
In a press conference held on May 9, Walter Araujo, president of El Salvadors Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), announced that the TSE is currently working on the creation of new restrictions on international observers for the municipal, legislative and presidential elections of 2009. Aruajo is the representative of the right-wing governing party, ARENA, on the TSE.
Araujo explained that the new restrictions being developed intend to regulate that no group of observers come and take part in political activity in the country. Araujo threatened that meddling in the electoral process will result in expulsion from the country. The absence of a clear definition of meddling could leave the door wide open for the arbitrary application of these new restrictions.
Among the problems with the new census are inconsistencies identified by officials from the northern municipality of Las Vueltas, in the department of Chalatenango, who criticized the fact that the census attributes only 940 habitants to the town, while the population reflected in the central governments Solidarity Network program is 1,491. The difference of 551 people between the results of the census and other official records is believed to be a result of manipulation to favor the governing party in the upcoming elections, and may also result in a reduction of governmental funds awarded to some municipal governments. Las Vueltas, governed by the FMLN since 1994, is part of a list of FMLN municipalities whose populations have been reduced in the official census. Especially alarming are the cases of large cities like Santa Tecla, with a supposed 34% reduction, and Soyapango, which shows a 19% decrease. The FMLN has denounced the coincidence of having many FMLN municipal strongholds experience a significant reduction in population. Even the right leaning Christian Democratic Party (PDC), through its deputy Mauricio Rodriguez, has questioned the results of the census.
More neoliberal measures to alleviate economic crisis
In the context of the economic crisis and the outcries of the agricultural sector, Salvadoran President Antonio Saca is pushing for the prompt approval of the Land-Lease Law, which seeks to legalize land tenure and thus increase local production of basic grains. Various campesino and social organizations, such as the National Agricultural Workers (ANTA), have denounced that the law is a step back from the land reform of the 1980s.
Equipo Maiz, a popular education organization, explains that this law is part of the ongoing implementation of the neoliberal economic model in the rural areas of El Salvador. Under the proposed new law, President Saca intendes to promote establishment of maquiladoras (textile manufacturing plants) in rural areas, export-oriented fruit orchards, and transnational hotels. These sectors would promote neither national food sovereignty nor local production. The ARENA partys policies have worked to legally concentrate landholdings among large national and international corporations, which tends to work against local production, food sovereignty, and the interests of cooperatives and campesino workers.
Attacks instead of solutions
The mixed public-private enterprise established by FMLN municipal governments known as Energy for El Salvador (ENEPASA) continues to come under attack by the ARENA central government. Instead of recognizing the direct benefits ENEPASA, a program created under the Latin America-wide ALBA trade initiative that imports subsidized oil from Venezuela, the government seeks to further politicize the issue and distort those benefits.
According to the Economy Minister Yolanda de Gavidia, ENEPASA is an example of disloyal competition, given that major gas stations cannot offer the same low prices that ENEPASA does. However, ENEPASA president and mayor of Soyapango Carlos Ruiz defended the transparency of the enterprise and has reiterated its openness to a possible government investigation.
In just four months, ENEPASA has provided savings to Salvadorans through its low gas prices and contributed over $5 million to the governments budget through taxes paid. Currently, the concrete solutions presented by the FMLN party to the economic crisis in El Salvador are subject to attacks and investigations by the central government, which has at the same time been strongly criticized for its lack of initiative and ability to offer solutions to the crisis.
Even founding members of the ARENA party such as Hugo Barrera have publicly alerted their party that they should focus more on the problems facing the nation, rather than attacking the FMLN. Mr. Barrera made these comments in relation to Sacas latest smear campaign, which seeks to link FMLN leader Jose Luis Merino to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Barrera warned both ARENA presidential candidate Rodrigo Avila and the partys leadership to not go around talking about [relations between the FMLN and the FARC] anymore. However, ARENA has continued to assert such connections through the national media.