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Former guerrilla appears poised to win El Salvador presidency

By Ken Hanly     Mar 8, 2014 in Politics
San Salvador - Sanchez Ceren of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front or FMLN has a lead of from 10 to 18 percentage points in the runoff election for president scheduled for Sunday (March 9).
Formerly a Marxist rebel, Ceren is now a social democrat and "pragmatic capitalist". The FMLN is already the governing party in El Salvador and Ceren promises to continue the popular social programs of president Mauricio Funes.
Ceren's opponent from the conservative Nationalist Public Alliance orARENA party, Norman Quijano is the mayor of the city of Salvador. While he is quite popular as a mayor his campaign to defeat Ceren is based upon Ceren's Marxist past as Ceren was one of the top commanders in the 12 year civil war in which the U.S. backed the Salvadorean government to stop " the spread of communism"in Central America. Ceren helped negotiate the 1992 peace accords that ended the civil war. For many voters the Quijano campaign does not work.
Salvadoreans have already experienced government by the former revolutionary FMLN party after it defeated ARENA in 2009. The social programs are popular and many voters simply do not believe the inflated rhetoric of Quijano who said: "The FMLN proposals are based in giving the country's sovereignty to Venezuela," Political analyst Alvaro Arftiga said that Quijano's "Cold War Strategy" only works with one sector of Salvadorean society the most conservative strata who still fear any FMLN electoral victory.
Many in the electorate are more concerned with crime, gang violence, and a sluggish economy rather than threats of communism. Ceren claims he will take a moderate approach and form an inclusive government. He takes as his model not Chavez of Venezuela but Jose Mujica of Uruguay perhaps better known for his legalization of pot.
Quijano's has taken a very hard line against crime whereas Ceren negotiated a truce between gangs that led to a temporary decline in the murder rate but it now seems to be trending up again. El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Ceren says he will fight crime by increasing community investment, but also strengthen the police, and continue programs that give books, shoes, and uniforms to school children. The government also provides seed and fertilizers to the poorest farmers and a small old age pension.
Ceren almost won in the first round of voting with 48.9% of the vote as compared to Quijano's 38.9%. The radical nature of some leftist Latin American government is often over-emphasized. What they have in common is a rejection of the Washington neo-liberal model. While Venezuela is arguably the most radical in taking areas under public ownership and trying to organize and empower poorer citizens to some degree, even there capitalism still holds sway. Venezuela even has its own Boligarchs who are part and parcel of the Bolivarian revolution even under Chavez: Inflation has become a particular challenge for Chavez who has vowed to lead his country to what he calls "21st century socialism". But despite his policies and views, a new economic class, known as the "boligarchs", have surfaced. These are businessmen and government officials who support Chavez's changes but have also become millionaires during his rule.
The president of Brazil is also an ex-Marxist guerrilla but her policies too are social democratic rather than in any way revolutionary. In fact on some issues Dilma Rousseff is less progressive than many U.S. liberals: Rousseff opposes gay marriage, but supports same-sex civil union.[52] She said, "Marriage is a religious issue. I, as an individual, would never say what a religion should do or not. We have to respect them."[52] About same-sex civil union, Rousseff said that "basic civil rights should be recognized in a civil manner."[52] She also opposes the legalization of illegal drugs, stating that "Brazil today is unable to propose the decriminalization of any drug."[53]
I include a You Tube video by the American Enterprise Institute. They are obviously with Quijano still worrying about the triumph of the communist and socialist hordes.
More about El Salvador, Sanchez Ceren, Mauricio Fuentes
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