March 14, 2009

El Savador's Presidential Candidate Lifts Ex-Guerrillas

ONE OF the candidates in Sunday's presidential election in El Salvador, who was once a soldier in the Salvadoran army and who now is stomping the campaign trail on behalf of the gurerrilla movement he once battled, said recently, "It is time for a change." (Sound familiar?)

The important election has two leading candidates. Leftist Mauricio Funes, a dapper former TV journalist, is leading polls for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front as he promises to soften the blow of the world economic crisis on El Salvador's poor yet get on well with ex-foe Washington. The other candidate is Rodrigo Avila, a former national police chief running for the long-ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance, ARENA, is close behind in the latest polls.

I had planned to serve as an observer at this important election (in the end, however, work commitments kept me from traveling south). The election held special interest for me because I have visited the country before and have friends there. Plus the fact that the election had such unique characteristics - as I mentioned above, the candidates are interesting and have vastly different points of view and the campaigns have received large amounts of money from outside interests like Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela.

The Los Angeles Times said today, "...for the first time in the nation's history, the left has a real chance of victory. The vote is a test of whether El Salvador has changed significantly in the 17 years since the war ended and can open up beyond the single-party system that has governed it since, or whether the stubborn, locked-in-the-past elements on both the right and left will once again prevail and seal the status quo."

There are over 10,000 observers in the country to make certain this election is honest. And that's in addition to the 90 observers from the European Union, 80 from the Organization of American States and 43 from the Inter American Union of Electoral Organism, which represents 28 countries in the Americas.

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