[Marxism] El Salvador's US Installed 'Democracy'
gojack10 at hotmail.com
Fri Mar 26 17:57:07 MST 2004
The Salvadoran election results hardly received a blip of attention this
week in the US, or elsewhere. This has to be a stiking example of the limits
of strictly, country based 'solidarity' campaigns, and a concrete example of
why the antiwar movement must not remain only focused on Iraq to the
exclusion of other areas of US interventionism. Today, there are far too
many deployments of US troops around the planet to remain only focussed on
What will the Democrats do when they take office early next year? They have
no plans to pull the US out of Africa, Central Asia, South America, the
Middle East, Central America, nor the Balkans. An antiwar movement that
forgets even where the US is intervening, is not going to be very active
when a Kerry begins to sweet talk. Here is a CounterPunch commentary on
current US intervention in El Salvador....
March 26, 2004
US Meddling in Rightwing Consolidation
Democracy in El Salvador?
By JOE DeRAYMOND
On March 21 in El Salvador, over 2 million Salvadorans went to the polls,
58% of whom voted for Tony Saca, the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista
(ARENA) party candidate for President. Schafik Handal of the Frente
Faribundi Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN) received 36%. I was
present at the election as an international observer working with the Center
for Exchange and Solidarity (CIS) at a voting center in a small municipality
in western El Salvador, Jayaque, where I saw bus after bus with ARENA flags
flying arrive at the park, jammed full of voters who evidently made their
crayoned "X" over the ARENA banner on their paper ballots. When the ballot
boxes were opened after 5 PM, the ARENA vigilantes could hardly contain
their glee as they collected fat piles of ballots for their party.
The Salvadoran people had voted, but there was little joy in the decision.
In San Salvador on the night of the 21st, after everyone knew the results,
an eerie quiet prevailed. ARENA had defeated the FMLN and two other smaller
parties who failed to achieve sufficient votes to maintain themselves under
Salvadoran election law, but had broken election laws at will, spent 10's of
millions of dollars, employed a vicious smear campaign, and enlisted the aid
of United States Congressmen and the United States State Department to do
ARENA is the right wing party created by Roberto D'Aubuisson in the early
1980's. He was named in the United Nations Truth Commission Report as the
intellectual author of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980.
It remains a far right political party whose main ideological idea is a
fervent anti-communism. This approach is described by Joan Didion in her
1982 book "Salvador": "to the right, anyone in the opposition was a
communist, along with most of the American press, the Catholic Church, and,
as time went by, all Salvadoran citizens not of the right...(the political)
left may mean, in the beginning, only a resistance to seeing one's family
member killed or disappeared."
The candidate of the FMLN, Schafik Handal, is a stalwart of the social
struggles. He represented a party which was born out of the guerrilla army
of the civil war which converted itself to the largest political force in El
Salvador. Last year for the first time, the FMLN garnered the most votes of
any political party in the local and legislative elections.
ARENA started their campaign in August with an intense advertizing campaign
introducing the fresh-faced ex-sports announcer Tony Saca. This was over 3
months before a campaign was legally allowed. They painted their blue, white
and red colors on almost every light pole in the nation. They employed a
vicious smear campaign against the FMLN candidate Schafik Handal, a veteran
of the civil war, who was labeled a kidnapper and a terrorist in a personal
attack campaign also illegal under the law. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal
was paralyzed by the ARENA voting bloc, and no adjudications of these
violations of law went forward during the campaign. According to Blanca Flor
Bonilla, a Deputy of the FMLN, ARENA spent $55 million of government funds
in their massive advertizing campaign.
There was a steady stream of United States government intervention in the
process, against the FMLN and in support of ARENA. Since 2003, officials of
the United States have been threatening the Salvadoran people with severe
consequences if they have the nerve to actually change their governement.
The last ambassador to El Salvador, Rose Likens, warned that an FMLN
government would have consequences for US-El Salvador relations. State
Department functionary Dan Fisk compared Schafik Handal to "firures of the
past" such as Daniel Ortega and Rios Montt. When current US Ambassador
Douglas Barclay met with Schafik Handal, and the FMLN later published their
picture together, he requested they retract the photo and not use it
anymore. On February 6, the Assistant Secretary of Western Hemispheric
Affairs for the U.S. State Department, Roger Noriega, said: "I think it is
fair to note that the FMLN campaign has emphasized its differences with [the
U.S] concerning CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement) and other
subjects. And we know the history of this political movement, and for this
reason it is fair that the Salvadoran people consider what type of relations
a new government could have with us."
The Special Envoy of the White House to Latin America, Otto Reich, laid it
directly on the line on March 13, in a telephone interview conducted from
the ARENA offices in San Salvador: "We would not be able to have the same
confidence in an El Salvador led by a person who is obviously an admirer of
Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, as we have today in (ARENA President) Flores."
Reich continued to warn that a win by the FMLN would cause a reevaluation of
the United States relationship with El Salvador.
In the days before the election, the major daily newspapers ran front page
articles about the efforts of United States congressmen such as Dan Burton
of Indiana, William Diaz Ballart of Florida, and Thomas Tancredo of Colorado
introduced bills threatening remesas and immigration should the FMLN take
Finally, there were many reports of employee coercion in this nation of
non-union workers. (Excepting the hospital workers, who in 2002 to 2003 had
to strike for many months to avoid a disastrous privatization of the public
health system.) Maquila, bank and business employees were told that a Frente
victory would mean that their employer would simply leave the coutry.
The closest analogue to this election I can recall is the 1990 Nicaraguan
election, during which the Nicaraguan people were told in no uncertain terms
that the economy would continue to be ravaged if they kept the Sandinistas
in power. In El Salvador 2004, United States officials and El Salvador
elites made it clear that all hell would break loose if the FMLN came to
power. In this small nation of 8 million, over 2 million of whom live and
work in the United States, and send over $2 billion dollars a year back to
their families (remesas), threats against this system of forced migration
are taken very seriously.
The Salvadoran people know quite well what these threats mean. There are
overtones of Chile's overthrow on September 11, 1973, by forces supported by
the United States, as well as the more recent abandonment of the elected
government of Aristide to the thugs of the coup of 1991, as well as the
bitter memories of the war years of El Salvador, when the United States
supported a series of dictators and military juntas amidst a sea of violence
against the civilian population.
Leslie Schuld, director of the CIS, which sponsored the largest
international election observer project this year (or ever) in El Salvador,
stated, "The huge election turnout was a positive sign, but as we review the
process we will be making suggestions for improvement. The fact that voters
were made to fear for their jobs, their immigration status or their remesas
was a setback."
The big losers of the election are the poor of El Salvador, the majority.
They will continue to live without health care, clean water, basic housing.
90,000 maquila workers will continue to struggle for $5.43 a day or less,
without the hope of unionizing, without government protection for
workers'rights. The agricultural sector will continue its plummet, as the
small and medium sized farmer will continue to have no credit, and markets
will be penetrated with ease under free trade agreements and unfair trade
advantages of the United States.
On March 24, three days after the election, the United States Ambassador to
El Salvador, Douglas Barkley, came out with a statement that the US
government would recognize any government chosen by the Salvadoran people,
and that the remesas and immigration policy were not at risk at any time.
What a bizarre, cowardly act, days after the election, after he had refused
to state this during the campaign, and had even refused to allow a picture
of him with the FMLN candidate to be published.
The elites of El Salvador and the rightwing multinational power brokers of
the United States put a gun to the head of the Salvadoran people in this
election. This election did not achieve democracy for El Salvador; it did
not allow the voice of a free people making a free choice.
Joe DeRaymond has been in El Salvador since February 29 on this 6th election
mission of the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS). He can be reached
at: jderaymond at enter.net.
U.S.-Backed Rightist Claims Victory in Salvador Election
By TIM WEINER (NYT)
Published: March 22, 2004
MEXICO CITY, March 21 After a bitter campaign for president in El
Salvador, a conservative pro-American businessman claimed victory Sunday
night over a battle-hardened former Communist guerrilla.
The ruling partys candidate, Antonio Saca, 39, a media mogul tacitly
supported by the United States, was winning 57 percent of the vote in early
returns. Schafik Handal, 73, a longtime left-wing leader, had 36 percent.
The campaign revived cold-war fervors from El Salvadors civil war. An
estimated 75,000 people died as an American-backed government fought
left-wing rebels between 1980 and 1992.
Mr. Saca's party, the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA, was
linked to death-squad killings in the 1980's. Mr. Handal's party, the
Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, was the rebel force that
fought the government. After a 1992 peace treaty, the FMLN became a
legitimate political party, and now controls 31 of 84 seats, a plurality, in
American officials who were behind-the-scenes players in Central America's
anti-communist campaigns during the 1980s had openly opposed Mr. Handal.
Otto Reich, President Bush's special envoy for the Western Hemisphere, and
Roger Noriega, an Assistant Secretary of State, inferred in public
statements that El Salavdor's commercial, economic and political relations
with the United States could suffer if the leftist won.
But ARENA has controlled power in El Salvador since the 1980's, and claimed
that it kept control tonight.
President Francisco Flores is among the most pro-American leaders in the
Western Hemisphere, and his apparent successor, Mr. Saca, has vowed to
continue his policies, including free trade with the United States and
adoption of the United States dollar as the nation's official currency.
ARENA, whose campaign colors are red, white and blue, argued that the United
States could cut the flow of money from Salvadoran migrants in the United
States if Mr. Handal won.
Mr. Handal promised to bring the 380-troop Salvadoran contingent home from
Iraq, restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, tax the rich more heavily,
increase government spending for the poor and still seek good relations with
the United States.
Claiming victory tonight, Mr. Saca promised to govern for all, not only his
supporters. This was the third presidential election since the 1992 peace
accords; ARENA party candidates won both previous ballots. But neither peace
nor the party have brought much prosperity to El Salvador. About a third of
the people still live on about $1 a day, and a global drop in coffee prices
has crushed small farmers. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the nation's
violence and poverty over the past two decades.
Vilma Romero, 42, a doctor in San Salvador, the capital, chose Mr. Saca
tonight, without enthusiasm.
"I'll stick with the devil I know," she said. "We're giving them another
chance. This should be a big lesson for the right. They have to draw the
conclusion that there are a lot of things that need to be fixed, and if they
don't fix them, this will be their last chance."
Gene Palumbo contributed reporting for this story from San Salvador, El
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