[Marxism] A promising interview with El Sal. pres-elect Funes

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Mar 18 09:41:02 MDT 2009

A Conversation with Mauricio Funes 
By Roberto Lovato & Josue Rojas

March 17, 2009

Funes captured 51 percent of the vote, to 49 percent cast for Rodrigo Avila
of the Nationalist Republican Alliance party, which had been in power for
twenty years. 

Though Funes, a former journalist, is the best-known Salvadoran on his
country's TV networks, he is little known outside the region. Thanks to a
collaboration between The Nation and New America Media (NAM), reporters
Roberto Lovato and Josue Rojas had the opportunity to interview El
Salvador's next president on the night of his election. What follows is an
excerpt from this interview with Funes, who addressed numerous issues: the
meaning of his presidency, El Salvador's relationship with the United
States, immigration and other domestic and foreign policy concerns. 

Immigration has become one of the defining issues of the US-El Salvador
relationship. How will your administration's approach to this issue differ
from that of the outgoing Saca administration? 

The fact that we're going to rebuild the democratic institutions--enforce
the constitution and make of El Salvador a democratic state that respects
the rule of law--is the best guarantee to the United States that we will
significantly reduce the flows of out-migration. 

Salvadorans who leave to go the United States do so because of the
institutional abandonment, the lack of employment and dignified ways to make
a living. This forces them to leave in search of new possibilities in the
US. It's not the same for us to ask the US government to renew TPS
[temporary legalization] without a Salvadoran effort to avoid further
migration flows, as to do so from a position in which we have undertaken
efforts to reduce the migration flows. 

What's the first message you'd like to send to President Obama? 

The message that I would like to send to President Obama is that I will not
seek alliances or accords with other heads of state from the southern part
of the continent who will jeopardize my relationship with the government of
the United States. 

Opinion polls in El Salvador indicate that large majorities of its citizens
reject key policies that define, in many ways, the relationship between El
Salvador and the United States, specifically CAFTA, dollarization and the
Iraq war. What will your approach be to these issues? 

We can't get mixed up in repealing CAFTA...nor can we reverse dollarization,
because that would send a negative message to foreign investors, and then
we'd be facing serious problems because we wouldn't have enough investment
to stimulate the national economy. 

What do you think the United States government should be concerned about
with regard to El Salvador at this time? 

To the degree that we do our part, which is to rebuild our productive
capacity and to create a coherent social policy that improves the quality of
life, there will be fewer reasons to leave for the US and we'll reduce
migration flows. And that should be a concern for the US. 

Where will the effects of the transition in power be felt most immediately? 

We're going to change the way we make policy. And one of the most
significant changes is that we will no longer have a government at the
service of a privileged few. And we will no longer have a government that
creates an economy of privileges for the privileged. Now, we need a
government like the one envisioned by [Archbishop of El Salvador] Óscar
Arnulfo Romero, who, in his prophetic message, said that the church should
have a preferential option for the poor. 

Paraphrasing Monseñor Romero, I would say that this government should have
preferential option for the poor, for those who need a robust government to
get ahead and to be able to compete in this world of disequilibrium under
fair conditions. 

This government implies a break from traditional policy-making. 

Now, what we're going to do is put the government and the structure of the
state at the service of the Salvadoran people--the totality of the
Salvadoran people--but fundamentally, of that great majority who are
oppressed and excluded from the country's social and economic development.
[The people who for] not just the last twenty years but for last 200 years
or more have not had the possibility of participating in the formation of
public policies. 

A government like the one I'm going to create will give them the
protagonist's role, which, until now, they have not had.

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