Funes Accuses ARENA of Fomenting Violence and Destabilization
On Saturday, August 10, President Mauricio Funes accused the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party of fomenting violence and working to destabilize his government in his weekly national radio show, “Conversing with the President.” The President blamed ARENA for orchestrating a series of recent protests in order to undermine his governance and turn public opinion against the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party administration in the months leading up to the February 2014 presidential elections. “Since they have nothing more to offer, they base their campaign on attacking the government,” said Funes. The President claimed that recent doctors’ union strikes at several public Social Security hospitals had “political goals” and were intended to harm patients. “They intend to privatize the ISSS [Social Security Institute],” warned Funes, charging the right-wing party with impeding care in order to jeopardize the public healthcare system and impose a for-profit model. Funes also accused ARENA of being behind recent violent veterans’ protests. Last week, demonstrators belonging principally to Armed Forces veterans’ associations and in smaller part to an FMLN veterans’ group demanded government reparations and pensions, shutting down major highways and points along the El Salvador-Honduras border and resulting in 92 arrests following clashes with police. In response to declarations by ARENA legislators condemning the plight of the veterans’ sector, Funes emphasized that while the veterans’ claims are legitimate, “the historic neglect to which they have been subjected is the responsibility of the [previous] ARENA governments.” He added that the dialogue opened under his administration in 2010 with FMLN veterans was the first step in securing healthcare and other benefits owed to the abandoned sector, and called on the Legislative Assembly to reorient available funds to ensure the payment of due veterans’ pensions.