El Salvador will elect a new president this weekend. And it looks like the revolutionaries--who gave up the bullet for the ballot box--will win fair and square. Abrazos all around.
For the first time since the civil war ended in 1992, a left-wing former rebel, Mauricio Funes, is leading in the prediction polls. Funes is a member of the FMLN, a revolutionary organization that became a political party after a ceasefire established by the 1992 Chapultepec Peace Accords.
President George W. Bush used economic strong arm tactics to influence the last election, in 2004. He was promoting a "pro-US business" Arena party. This time around, the Bush Doctrine is out, and with the US remaining neutral it looks like the FMLN will win. After years of struggle, the people of El Salvador will finally be able to vote for the revolution.
Mauricio Funes at May Day rally in 2008
The FMLN (The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) was named after the rebel leader Farabundo Marti, who led workers and peasants in an uprising to transform Salvadoran society after the devastation caused by the eruption of the volcano Izalco in 1932. In response, the military regime led by General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, who had seized power in a 1931 coup, launched "La Matanza," ("The Massacre") killing some 30,000 people under the guise of being supporters of the insurgency. The price of rebellion was clear.
Violent repression in the streets of San Salvador; the weapons came from the USA.
In recent years, the FMLN fought a guerrilla war, going underground like the French Resistance. Ronald Reagan portrayed the rebellion as "communist," meaning Soviet-directed, which simply wasn't true but this pitch garnered the support of conservatives with a Cold War mindset. If not for the Russians, he seemed to say, why would peasants even think of revolting?
George Bush, wrong again
George W. Bush continued this mindset, supporting the right wing, Arena party, because it was pro-business and anti-communist. Arena was started by Roberto D'Aubuisson, the man who brought the term "death squads" into our vocabulary, and the man widely believed to be responsible for the assassination of Archbishop Romero while he served mass. A fascist in the true sense, he admired Hitler for his Final Solution, and once told the Washington Post of "the need to kill 200,000 to 300,000 people to restore peace to El Salvador." D'Aubuisson died of cancer in 1992, but his party has remained in power.
The rape and murder of four American nuns by the military helped cut off US military aid--for a time
The reason for rebellion wasn't a directive from Moscow. People were forced to fight a corrupt government after decades of extreme poverty, repression, military juntas, death squads, and the "disappearance" and torture of dissidents. The Salvadoran oligarchy--the infamous "fourteen families" that ran the country as a private plantation--gutted the poor with the help of the United States government. Their recent attempt to "privatize" water was the last straw.
Viva la revolucion.
Read a good article on the Salvadoran election from Frontline here.