El Salvador: elections marred by violence, irregularities
On Jan. 18, Salvadorans went to the polls to elect 262 mayors, one for every municipality in the country, as well as 84 deputies in the national assembly. After a tense day of voting and claims of violence and intimidation, both the leftist FMLN and the right-wing ARENA celebrated victories—the FMLN winning the most seats in the legislative assembly and ARENA taking the government of the capital San Salvador. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal has yet to verify the results.
The FMLN also won some key municipalities that it had previously not governed, including La Unión, Izalco, and Zacatecaluca, as well as winning most of the other largest cities surrounding San Salvador, such as Mejicanos, Apopa, and San Marcos. Overall, the FMLN will likely win between 80 and 90 municipalities, far more than the 59 that the party currently controls. (CISPES, Jan. 19)
The FMLN in many districts charged that large numbers of foreigners—particularly Nicaraguans and Guatemalans—were bussed in on Election Day, presumably in an attempt by the right wing to commit voter fraud. FMLN representatives reported that six buses of foreigners were detained in the department of La Unión, another three in the department of Usulután, and the National Civilian Police reported another bus of Nicaraguans in the municipality of San Miguel.
US activists from the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) participating in the International Observation Mission reported numerous irregularities, such as polling places not being opened by 7 AM as required by law. (CISPES, Jan. 18)
There were also incidents of violence in the lead-up to the elections. A father and son, both FMLN activists, were shot and killed in their home Jan. 9 in the small town of Las Minitas. Maximino Rodríguez, 26, and his father Delfo de Jesús Rodríguez—an ex-guerilla—were attacked by a group of six or seven masked and heavily armed men who were reported to be disguised as police officers. The style of the assassinations—in which the men arrived in a vehicle and unloaded their weapons indiscriminately into the Rodríguez house—recall the death-squad killings of the 1980s. (CISPES, Jan. 12)