Noticias, News

El Salvador struggles to come to terms with violent past

Written by Linda Cooper & James Hodge
For National Catholic Reporter
Monday, March 24 2014

The election of a former Marxist guerrilla as El Salvador’s next president is not likely to spell the end of the country’s controversial amnesty law that has shielded war criminals from prosecution in the killings of thousands of Salvadorans, including the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero 34 years ago Monday.

President-elect Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a top commander of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) before it became a political party, has been backing away from his 2013 pledge to seek the repeal of the 1993 amnesty law as a way of bringing about justice and closing the wounds of the 12-year armed conflict that left more than 75,000 dead.
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But his thin margin of victory — a mere 6,300 votes — and the fact that his party does not control the Legislative Assembly would make it difficult for him to repeal a law that so deeply divides the country. At least not without international pressure and rulings from the Salvadoran Supreme Court.

Sánchez Cerén, the incumbent vice president, was declared the winner of a runoff election by the Supreme Electoral Authority on March 16, defeating Norman Quijano, a right-wing candidate staunchly opposed to the law’s repeal.

Quijano was the candidate of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), founded by the late Maj. Roberto D’Aubuisson, a graduate of the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas — now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation — and a death squad leader known as “Blowtorch Bob” for using blowtorches during interrogations. The U.N.’s Commission on the Truth for El Salvador concluded he gave the orders to assassinate Romero.
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The ARENA party was in power when the Salvadoran military assassinated six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989, and the U.N. Truth Commission announced in 1993 that 85 percent of the wartime killings were committed by the Salvadoran military and its death squads, and only 5 percent by the FMLN.

The Truth Commission had been given the task of “putting an end to any indication of impunity on the part of officers of the armed forces,” but five days after the commission’s report was released in 1993, the ARENA party pushed the Legislative Assembly to pass the amnesty law granting blanket impunity.

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Left candidate wins in El Salvador elections

20140313-041719.jpgESTEBAN FELIX — AP

Written by: Emile Schepers
For People’s World

Tuesday, 12 March 2014

The candidate of the left wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Salvador Sanchez Ceren, appears to have won the Mar. 9 presidential runoff elections in El Salvador, although by a much smaller margin than polls had predicted.

Sanchez Ceren had won a plurality of votes in the first round of the election on Feb. 2., but with 48.93 percent of the vote, to 36.96 percent for the right wing ARENA (Nationalist Republican Alliance) party’s Norman Quijano, Sanchez Ceren was not able to avoid a runoff. In the first round, former President Antonio Saca, also a rightist, had won 11.44 percent of the vote.

Polls going into the runoff showed Sanchez Ceren far ahead of Quijano, but when the votes were counted, although the FMLN candidate was still ahead, the difference was much smaller, at 50.11 percent for Sanchez Ceren to 49.89 percent for Quijano. Both candidates claimed victory and Quijano, yelling fraud, asked for a recount, while also hinting that intervention by the military might not be a bad idea. The recount is going forward but election officials think the original count will hold.

If his election is confirmed, Sanchez Ceren will succeed current President Mauricio Funes, who was also elected with FMLN support in 2009. But whereas Funes, a popular media personality, was not part of the FMLN in its guerrilla days in the Salvadoran Civil War of 1980 to 1992, Sanchez Ceren, currently Funes’ vice president, was an important commander of Marxist guerrilla forces which fought against a series of extreme right wing, military-dominated governments supported by the United States. Specifically, he was a leader of the FPL, the Farabundo Marti People’s Liberation Forces, which became one of the five main branches of the FMLN. So by some both in El Salvador and out, Sanchez Ceren was seen as “to the left” of Funes. Sanchez Ceren’s running mate for vice president, Oscar Ortiz, is the popular mayor of the city of Santa Tecla, and was a member of the same guerilla group as Sanchez Ceran during the civil war.

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In the Face of an Expected Election Defeat, El Salvador’s Right-wing ARENA Party ‘Prepared for War’ ,

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Written by Alexis Stoumbelis
For Upside Down World
Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Dancing to the festive sounds of cumbia and ska music, thousands of Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) supporters celebrated the expected victory of their candidate, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, as the vote counts poured in on election night. After waiting until the preliminary results had reached an “irreversible trend,” Sánchez Cerén took the stage to address the hopeful, exhausted crowd. Though he did not declare himself president, he celebrated that, “We won in the first round and we’ve returned to win in the second.” Sánchez Cerén, El Salvador’s Vice-President and former Minister of Education, is the first union leader and first to commander of one guerrilla forces that joined forces to become the FMLN to be elected president of El Salvador.

But his was not the only victory rally to take place on Sunday night. Across town, Norman Quijano, the mayor of San Salvador and candidate for the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, was exhorting supporters to defend his victory. Quijano declared his refusal to respect the decision of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), whose preliminary results gave a narrow but decisive margin of victory to the FMLN. With 99.9% of voting tables counted, the FMLN led right-wing opponents by a 50.11 to 49.89%.

Quijano incited the crowd not to “allow this victory to be stolen from us like it was in Venezuela.” He declared that ARENA was “prepared for war” and called on the international community and the Salvadoran armed forced to “defend the country’s democracy” in the face of the supposed fraud carried out against them.

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