Observer at El Salvador elections

[IWP news release] Anti-democratic movements win when they have outside support and when the US stands aside as a disinterested “neutral” party. That’s Professor J Michael Waller’s conclusion after he returned from witnessing the historic March 15 presidential election that brought a former Communist guerrilla group to power.

The ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party invited Waller as an official observer. Waller has been close to ARENA since he first worked in El Salvador in the early 1980s to help defeat the Soviet-backed Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). Founded in Cuba in 1980, the FMLN consisted of five warring Marxist-Leninist factions that sought to copy the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. Named after Comintern agent Farabundo Marti, the FMLN was behind the murders of US military service personnel. All the killers remain at large under a United Nations-brokered amnesty.

“The FMLN won by only 60,000 votes, and it pulled fewer votes this month than ARENA did in the last presidential election,” said Waller. “Its president-elect, Mauricio Funes, is ‘moderate’ by FMLN standards and is only a figurehead. Real power rests with vice president-elect Salvador Sanchez Ceren, one of the five FMLN commanders during the war who is known as a ruthless murderer and remains a doctrinaire Leninist.”

“Sanchez Ceren is unrepentant about those killings and the killings of thousands of his own countrymen, including more than a thousand of his own people in the FMLN itself,” Waller said. “He cheered the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States and remains an open supporter of terrorism around the world. El Salvador is a longtime ally but risks becoming a different country under an avowed supporter of terrorism. Salvadorans joke that Sanchez Ceren is only nine millimeters away from the presidency.”

Waller sees the possibility of President-elect Funes not being able to govern without ARENA, and therefore unable to deliver the goods for the extremist leadership of the FMLN. “No party commands a majority of the Salvadoran legislature, and Funes doesn’t even control his own party. Not a single FMLN lawmaker is loyal to him. That means that if ARENA plays its cards right, it can build a legislative majority and neutralize the FMLN through parliamentary means. That will show the FMLN rank-and-file that the extremist leaders can’t deliver for them, and that Funes doesn’t need them in order to be a successful president,” Waller said.

“Even so, it was not necessary for the FMLN to win. Had the US shown interest in El Salvador’s political affairs, El Salvador could have remained a strong ally without turning over democracy to the Marxists. El Salvador is a case study of a hugely successful American-backed counterinsurgency, democratization, and free market success story. Victory for the FMLN is not a victory for democracy. It’s a victory for Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez who invested in the FMLN while Washington neglected the region.”

The FMLN has killed many Americans, including the following US servicemen: Lt. Cdr. Albert Schaufelberger USN, whom the FMLN assassinated in his car; Sgt. Bobby J. Dickson USMC, Sgt. Thomas Handwork USMC, Cpl. Patrick R. Kwiatkowski USMC and Cpl. Gregory Weber USMC, all off-duty US Embassy guards whom the FMLN assassinated as they were eating dinner at a sidewalk restaurant; SSG Gregory Fronius USA, singled out to be killed in an FMLN attack on a Salvadoran army base (the FMLN then booby trapped his body); CW2 Daniel S. Scott USA, killed when the FMLN shot down his helicopter; and PFC Earnest G. Dawson Jr. USA and Lt. Col. David H. Pickett USA, both of whom survived a helicopter crash only to be murdered while in FMLN captivity.