El Salvador will hold its presidential elections on February 2, 2014. In 2009, current president Mauricio Funes of the former guerrilla FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) became only the second leftist to be elected president in El Salvador since the 1930s. Many in the country attribute Funes’ victory to the machinations of former president Antonio Saca (2004-2009) of the conservative ARENA party, who is alleged to have helped the FMLN to victory in a deal to avoid prosecution on corruption charges. Saca was expelled from ARENA in 2009 following the accusations. Today, Saca is again running for president under the banner of his own political party “GANA.” Many Salvadorians are concerned that if Mr. Saca’s vast fortune and media empire do not propel him to outright victory, then he will seek again to tip the balance in favor of the FMLN against ARENA.

In the case of the FMLN, while President Funes gave the party a relatively moderate face, it is clear that today the more radical elements of the party are less concerned about the party’s public image. The standard-bearer is Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a former guerrilla and well-known hard-liner. Behind the scenes, FMLN hard-liners have thrown in with Hugo Chávez’s ALBA group of countries. According to the press reports, the Venezuelan-funded ALBA Petroleos has been providing unfair advantages to the FMLN by routing non-transparent direct cash payments for overvalued El Salvadorian coffee through the party apparatus and not the government. There is also speculation that Venezuelan funds could also be provided to the Saca campaign to cut into the support of the ARENA candidate Norman Quijano.

The Candidates

Norman Quijano – ARENA

The current mayor of San Salvador, Norman Quijano, is the presidential candidate for the ARENA Party. Thus far, Quijano has shown a steady performance in the polls. Although poll results vary, at this stage it seems likely that Quijano could enter a second electoral round against his FMLN opponent, Sánchez Cerén, with a high probability of winning the presidency in a one-on-one match-up.

Salvador Sánchez Cerén

A controversial figure, Sánchez Cerén represents the radical wing of the FMLN and is well-known for his anti-Americanism and pro-Chávez and pro-Castro sympathies. Polls place him at a disadvantage when compared to his two opponents one-on-one. Despite the fact that the current government is an FMLN administration, a Sánchez Cerén victory would mean a stark shift to the left in El Salvador.

Sánchez Cerén is pictured at a campaign event below (on the right) with José Luís Merino, a well-known radical tied to the Colombian terrorist FARC). Interestingly, on the stage are featured the Venezuelan, PetroCaribe, and ALBA flags – a violation of Salvadorian campaign laws.

Antonio Saca

Former President Saca’s alleged corruption during his previous term has been a well-publicized issue in El Salvador. Several U.S. diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks note concerns about his rapid and apparently illegal accumulation of wealth. Many believe his current campaign is motivated by a desire to avoid prosecution for alleged past misdeeds. His past actions in the political arena as well as his current campaign make it seem likely that he will go to any length to achieve an electoral victory, or to at least see his ARENA rivals lose the election.

Latest Polls:

La Prensa GráficaPoll (September 3) gives Arena 29.8% of the vote, 24.6% to the FMLN, and 12.4 to GANA.

Centro de Investigación de la Opinión Pública SalvadoreñaPoll (August 28) gives Arena 29.8% of the vote, 28.7 to the FMLN, and 24.3% to GANA.


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