Tuesday, March 17, 2009

FMLN wins presidency in El Salvador

Of course I'm pleased.

But I feel about the victory as I did about Obama's: I've viewed it as a certainty for almost a year now. It's long overdue. The candidate's program is far less progressive than I'd prefer. And the road ahead is daunting, with the country in sorry shape from so many years of right-wing rule.

On the other hand, I should take my own advice, so:


Tim's El Salvador Blog has an excellent round-up of excerpts and links from post-election coverage.

Update: 4:30 pm, 17 March - {Sigh.} Many reports and opinion columns in the English-langage press repeat the same lie: "Funes is the first FMLN presidential candidate who was not a combatant/guerrilla commander/etc. in the civil war."

In the elections of March 1994, the first in which the FMLN participated as a legal political party, their candidate was Ruben Zamora, who was never a combatant or an FMLN member at any point in the decades of armed conflict before the peace agreement of 1992. He was one of the leaders of the FDR (Democratic Revolutionary Front), a political coalition formed in 1980 that allied with the FMLN.

Given the historic nature of the 1994 elections ("the elections of the century"), you might think it would be hard for such a bogus factoid to get going. But ignorance of what happened in El Salvador before, during, and after the U.S.-sponsored war was vast, and remains so. Mainly, the first non-combatant candidate bit is just too convenient to give up, true or not, for the "FMLN grows up" narrative the media have decided to push.

[Disclosure: I was a volunteer for the FMLN election effort in 1994, doing data entry and computer support. Despite serious, systemic fraud on the part of the governing-party-dominated Elections Tribunal, mainly worked by the omission of FMLN voters' ID numbers from the lists posted at the polling places, the FMLN won 25% of the legislature, coming in second to ARENA's 45%. Zamora got 25% of the presidential vote; ARENA candidate Calderon Sol was denied an absolute majority at 49%, but in the later runoff crushed Zamora 68%-32%.]

Update 2: 12:40 pm, 2 April - A fine post-election report by Robert Lovato that captures the double-edged emotions of the FMLN victory. Salvadorans have moved forward only by reclaiming their history; we could learn a thing or two from them. A detail from the story that embodies the fusing of defiance, sadness, liberation, memory, and commemoration: the FMLN's official celebration (in image above) was staged on Escalon Boulevard, a main street through the richest neighborhood in San Salvador and the site of intense fighting in the November 1989 offensive.

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