Special Report: The Smear Campaign Continues – ARENA Alleges Elections Fraud by FMLN
On Sunday, September 22nd, Norman Quijano, current Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) presidential candidate, issued a public warning via televised interview of the “probability” of electoral fraud by the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party in the upcoming February 2014 presidential elections. Quijano, mayor of San Salvador from 2009 until just last month, represents a party which held power for twenty consecutive years in El Salvador, from 1989-2009, and has a documented history of systematic electoral fraud and voter intimidation practices over the years. ARENA presidential candidate Quijano bases his accusations on several factors, including the presence of a former FMLN mayoral candidate as the Electoral Attorney General, Rosa Evelyn Alvarado Osorio, citing concerns over her partisan affiliation. ARENA’s doubts over Alvarado Osorio’s ability to carry out her charge without bias have led them to ask the Salvadoran Attorney General, Luis Martínez, to remove her from her charge. Though Martínez has not yet responded to the request, a political leader from the FMLN José Luis Merino commented, “The Attorney [General] himself comes from the ARENA party and we have no doubt that these are both people who ultimately work in the country’s best interests.” Quijano also cast doubts over the validity of ARENA’s representation on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) over comments Walter Araujo, ARENA’s TSE representative, has repeatedly made expressing disdain towards Quijano’s candidacy. The two have been quarreling publicly for months, and just this Thursday, Walter Araujo announced he was leaving the ARENA party with no plans as of yet to join any other political movement, though he will remain on the TSE. Quijano also mentioned concerns regarding a TSE contract being given to one of two data monitoring companies, Smartmatic and Indra. The companies allegedly tallied votes in Venezuela's most recent elections, the results of which Quijano deemed “questionable.” The ARENA party’s cries of fraud come almost five months before election day and about a week before the October 2 official start date of the presidential campaign. Quijano's accusations set the stage to distort international opinion on the FMLN's role in the Salvadoran electoral process and clearly attempt to put the FMLN, and a possible FMLN presidential victory, under suspicion. The FMLN, the first leftist government in El Salvador’s history, came to power almost five years ago, overcoming decades of right-wing fraud and blatant voter intimidation even during the 2009 elections over which the left claimed victory. A startling example of this can be seen in CISPES’ 2009 Elections Observation Report, which states, “The night before the elections CISPES observers received reports of truckloads of foreigners coming into San Salvador and being housed in the ARENA headquarters. […] [O]bservers later learned that up to 20,000 foreigners [from Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala] were mobilized with the intention of having them vote [illegally] in the Salvadoran elections.” There were also multiple reports of people voting with false national identification cards, and with IDs issued to deceased or emigrated Salvadorans. Not so coincidentally, Salvadoran identification cards are manufactured by a private enterprise owned by allies of the ARENA party. Eugenio Chicas, the president of the TSE, denied any possibility of voter fraud by the FMLN, saying “There is no need to fear irregularities.” However, ARENA’s accusations leave the Salvadoran people and the international community with much to worry about, as this represents a dark omen for future targeted smears and outlandish accusations by the right as the election season officially kicks off next week. Interested in showing your solidarity with the Salvadoran people in exercising their right to free and fair elections? Join our election observer delegation this February to stop electoral fraud and prevent US intervention!