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CSMS Magazine Staff writers

Central America applauded with an awesome glee the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) victory in the presidential election last Sunday. The front has defeated ARENA (Nationalist Republican Alliance), one of the most brutal/fascist political parties in Latin America’s history, a party founded by Major Robert D’Aubuisson, the leader of the death squads that carried out much of the violence against the population. D’ Aubuisson was given the nickname of “Major Blowtorch” for his diabolical ways of dealing with his victims. D’Aubuisson was later described by the famous US ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White, as a “pathological killer.” However, in defeating ARENA, FMLN paves the way for renewed hope among the masses after more than 20 years of political repression at the hands of ARENA leaders, who engineered and unleashed the infamously feared death squads on millions of innocent civilians to make sure the people of El Salvador remained pinned down, wallowing in poverty forever.     

El Salvador is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in Latin America. It is also one of the most sharply divided nations in the region. This, according to many experts, constitutes the main drive behind keeping the scars of war unhealed nearly 17 years after the civil war ended with a peace accord signed in 1992 between the FMLN and ARENA. The country never fully recovered from a 12-year civil war that began in 1980 and claimed the lives of nearly 100,000 people. During the decade-long war, Washington openly backed the country’s military, armed it with one of the most sophisticated weaponry and with hundreds military advisers in an attempt to crush the FMLN resistance. A UN report in 1993 blamed the US sponsored Salvadoran army for 85 percent of the crimes carried out during the war.

Will El Salvador finally find salvation?

As the FMLN commanders traded their green-olive military uniforms of the jungles for their new navy blue suits of the parliament building in San Salvador, no one was under any illusion that the root causes which started the war in 1980 had somehow vanished. If there was a change in attitudes towards the repressive political machine of ARENA, it was not from the masses which supported the Front against all odds during the darkest moments of the war. It was the Front leaders themselves who became change agents with a petit-bourgeois agenda to morph into estranged revolutionaries as they turned into traditional politicians seeking acceptance from Washington and other European capitals.   

Their veer to the “center” did not come overnight. As chameleons, their color changed in progression, blending with the political environment and leaving behind the revolutionary principles that guided and held them high against the odds during the war. From red, they turned to pink, then to white and, now, to a colorless entity that, many watchers agree, will please those who once up a time sought their heads with bounties posted all over the Salvadoran capital.

They came a long way. Joaquin Villalobos, the legendary guerilla commander with a boyish face, whose revolutionary romanticism surpassed no other, once swore to either bring to bear the aspirations of the Salvadoran people by force or he would die with his Kalashnikov rifle in hands under the starry nights of the mountains fighting for that cause. But as the war subsided in 1992, Villalobos was one of the first to trade his rifle as well as his green olive uniform in exchange for a triumphant entry into the San Salvador airport. Then, he swore never to go back to the jungles, implicitly acknowledging his “guilt” for fighting on behalf of the disenfranchised masses of El Salvador. Shortly thereafter, one by one, other commanders followed suite, and their contrition became the best weapon in the enemy’s arsenal used to neutralize the enraged masses left to survive on their own at the hands of the military dead squads.

Ideologically fragmented, the Front, like its brother in arm in Nicaragua—The Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), what united them in war loosens them in peace as traditional politics too often necessitates change in attitudes and in actions. So the recipe could not be better than a reluctant social democracy totally at odds with the agenda ante. Thus, this explains why Mauricio Funes, a former correspondent for CNN’s Spanish language station and talk show host who joined the party just last year for the sole purpose of running for office was the FMLN preferred choice. Funes’ only credential was that, as a journalist in the 1980s, he reported the FMLN side of the war.

In countless interviews with western press, Funes claimed what he foresaw for El Salvador was a Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva model, totally rejected the Chavez’s one, which indicates what he really wants is some kind of cosmetic change with the introduction “of minimal social assistance programs combined with support for big business that have characterized the corruption-plagued Workers Party in Brazil,” commented Van Auken of the WS. Not surprisingly, Funes is “married to Vanda Pignato, a Brazilian woman who served as both Brazil’s cultural attaché and the representative of the Workers Party in El Salvador.”

Then he went on to clarify in an interview with the Honduran daily La Prensa. “The Chávez model is not my reference point, rather it is the model of President Lula in Brazil. Why Lula? Because he has made efforts in the three years of his second term to rid businessmen of the traditional fear that they have had of the left.” What does that is supposed to mean? Does the job of the “people’s” party is to rid the bourgeoisie of its fear of the masses or to be the vanguard of the masses aspirations? One could understand why affirmative sentences like these sway many from the bourgeois press and a substantial fraction from the highest layer of the dominant class. This, according to the WS website, “included a group calling itself “Amigos de Mauricio Funes, which raised funds, provided advisers and recruited supporters for the FMLN candidate.”

This group also includes, according to Infolatam.com, a Spanish news website, dubious figures like Luis Ángel Lagos, the founder of the paramilitary group ORDEN; businessman Gerardo Rafael Cáceres; economist Álex Segovia; ex-military officer David Munguía Payés; and businessman José Miguel Menéndez Avelar and Nicolás Salume, which prompted everyone to suggest that this group is closer to Funes than to the FMLN leaders. This may set the stage for a classic repeat of what happened in Haiti in 1990 with the election of Jean Bertrand Aristide—former priest and liberation theology preacher parachuted by the Democratic Convergence, and grouping of leftist petit bourgeois, who wanted to reach the corridor of the presidency by any means. Aristide later dealt them the biggest political coup with a swift volte face to rule by and for himself at the destruction of those who conspired at electing him into office. In El Salvador, victory may seem sweet, but the outcome remains as blurry as it can be. (End of Part 1) 

Also, see: Mauricio Funes is poised to take the FMLN to the zenith of political power in El Salvador

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