As voters went to the polls in El Savador on Sunday, all eyes are on the presidential election set for March 15th. But results from Sunday’s parliamentary and mayoral elections could be indicative to what is forthcoming. Six political parties took part. According to many observers, however, the key battle is between the governing right-wing ARENA party and the former guerrilla movement FMLN (Farabundo Marti for National Liberation Front). Salvadoran’s current president, Elías Antonio Saca from the ARENA party, appealed for polling to go ahead in an orderly manner. Previous polls indicated the Front will increase its 32-seat delegation in the 84-member legislature while keeping the capital and winning most of the 262 mayors’ races.
El Salvador is no stranger to mass movement for social and democratic change. The entire decade of the 1970s was dominated by this type of struggle, which was seriously gaining strength and was about to win when the hard-win victory was thwarted by an army coup d’état that brought a vicious military junta to power. The FMLN was founded in the aftermath of the coup, precisely on October 10, 1980. A coalition of several left-leaning political organizations, the new front stemmed from the outrage and the urgent need to continue the struggle through other means. During the decade that followed, Salvadoran government forces and right-wing death squads were responsible for the torture and murder of some 70,000 civilians – which included the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and the killing of four U.S. churchwomen in 1980. CIA controlled Salvadoran military and, by extension, its death squad paramilitaries operated with impunity under the banner of the ultra right-wring ARENA party. A political consensus among the democratic movement emerged: Arm struggle would be the only means left at their disposal, so it must be used to the fullest. Using it to the best of their revolutionary capabilities, they were; and for ten years, the Front grew to become on of the world most sophisticated guerilla movements, winning battle after battle and controlling big chunks of territories even as the US government, especially the Reagan Administration fueled the war civil war through CIA funding training camps and the funneling of millions of dollars in high-tech weapons.
(Read the full text in the Dossiers section)