Electoral Update: 3 Right-Wing Attack Ads Censored
On October 23, in an effort to enforce new rules against smear campaigns and attack ads, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) moved to censor three televised campaign spots by right-wing political parties for violation of the recently updated Electoral Code. The 2014 presidential elections in El Salvador are the first in which the Tribunal is not controlled by right-wing magistrates, impeding the right’s customary dirty campaign tactics that have characterized past races. One of the pieces censored was from the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party attacking the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) candidate Salvador Sánchez Cerén, and two were commercials by the Grand Alliance for Unity (GANA) party against ARENA candidate Norman Quijano. Media directors were ordered to remove the videos within 72 hours or face criminal charges, and GANA was later fined $4,000 for one of the videos. The rulings were the result of complaints filed by both the FMLN and ARENA with the TSE against televised commercials attacking their respective candidates. However, ARENA and GANA have both subsequently voiced their discontent with the Tribunal’s sanctions. President Funes, on the other hand, congratulated the TSE for its ruling, as did FMLN candidate Sánchez Cerén, commenting: “The TSE is trying to guarantee that this campaign be one of opportunities, so that the population can feel properly equipped to vote. This can only be achieved if the parties contribute by not using lies or threats in the campaign.” Indeed, the FMLN is the only one of the three principal presidential contenders yet to produce attack ads against its opponents, promising to continue to run “a clean, proactive campaign." Despite this first move by the TSE to regulate negative campaign material, the right-wing parties are continuing to produce direct personal attacks by indirect means. A new controversial video features the daughter of former Minister of Education Carlos Herrera Rebollo, assassinated in 1979, falsely accusing Sánchez Cerén of the attack. On Monday, November 4, Maritza Herrera Rebollo, a former ARENA legislative candidate herself, filed a petition to annul Cerén’s candidacy, which was immediately rejected by the TSE. In a 3-2 split decision, however, the Tribunal also refused an FMLN request to censor the campaign ad, saying the regulations could only apply to campaign materials produced by political parties, and not individual citizens. With the right wing no longer in control of the national electoral apparatus, the corporate and oligarchic elite face unprecedented challenges in executing the dirty campaign tactics of past elections. Nevertheless, the smear campaign against the FMLN has many faces, from corporate lobbyists to conservative congressmen, and with the stakes set high for the 2014 elections, we can expect a good deal more dirt from the right both in El Salvador and the US before the nation faces a historic vote on February 2nd. Join CISPES this winter as an elections observer in this historic race, and help defend against US intervention and right-wing fraud! Apply today—the deadline is less than a month away!