El Salvador: FMLN activists attacked

From the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), Sept. 16:

On September 4, party workers from the Salvadoran FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) were assaulted in San Salvador, resulting in the hospitalization of four individuals. The attack, carried out against members of the FMLN’s Communications Brigade, was attributed to armed supporters of Norman Quijano, the right-wing ARENA party candidate for Mayor of San Salvador.  The aggression took place on the street of San Jacinto a neighborhood that is only few miles south of San Salvador’s downtown. The victims included Otilia Matamoros, Assistant Coordinator of the FMLN Women’s Secretariat.

At a press conference the following day, FMLN Campaign Coordinator Lorena Peña placed the blame for the violence squarely on the shoulders of Quijano, who later confirmed that activists associated with his campaign are routinely armed, and therefore “dangerous.” Such violence has set a stark tone for El Salvador’s campaign season. The country holds legislative and municipal elections in January 2009, with voting for president to follow in March.

In response to these acts of violence, Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna called for a Non-Violence Accord among all of El Salvador’s political parties. Initial talks to sign an agreement to establish that violence will not be used as a campaign tactic took place among party representatives and Mr. Luna on September 12.

The FMLN had proposed a similar accord among El Salvador’s political parties earlier in the summer, though ARENA refused to make such a commitment until after the September 4 attack. FMLN legislative deputy Robert Lorenzana stated, “We want a peaceful campaign. We regret the incidents of [September 4], and for this reason it is necessary to coordinate information among the parties to avoid such incidents.”

Institutional crisis within National Civilian Police worsens
National Civilian Police (PNC) Director Francisco Rovira resigned from his position on August 19, after only six months as head of the institution. Rovira’s resignation was officially “voluntary,” however several PNC officials have publicly stated that Rovira was under pressure to step down after being accused of hiring advisors with links to gangs, among other internal issues. President Antonio Saca confirmed Former PNC Assistant Director José Luis Tobar Prieto to take over the top position in the institution on September 2.

Rovira’s departure is seen by some as sign of the PNC’s continued decline. According to David Morales, a lawyer for legal well respected community oriented Foundation for the Study and Application of the Law (FESPAD), “the regrettable thing about Rovira was his brief tenure, in which he made demagogic promises for the purpose of projecting a good public image.”

Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna reiterated prior reports by his office which show that the PNC is the institution most frequently accused of human rights violations. It is hoped that the change of directors will improve the conduct of the PNC. Luna and Morales concurred that the institution has sharply deteriorated since its creation as part of the 1992 Peace Accords. Recent years have seen a sharp increase in repressive and politically motivated operations carried out by the PNC. Furthermore, there are credible reports of death squad-like structures operating within the PNC’s ranks.

The role of Rodrigo Ávila—the former PNC Director who resigned in January in order to become the ARENA party’s presidential candidate—has been called into question by the FMLN. According to FMLN legislator Benito Lara, a member of the Assembly’s Public Security Commission, “Ávila must answer for this. Rovira was only there for six months.” Lara added that the institutional deterioration of the PNC has been detected since shortly after the Peace Accords brought it into existence.

FMLN holds convention, candidates officially register for ballot

The FMLN held its 24th General Convention on August 17, during which the party presented its Plan of Government for 2009-2014. This document was produced through the party’s Open Social Dialogue, an extensive process of consultation with citizens throughout El Salvador.

The plan, unanimously adopted by the delegates, lays out a strategy for achieving the true realization of the 1992 Peace Accords, which ended 12 years of civil war. The ARENA party, in power since 1989, has been accused of ignoring and neglecting numerous provisions of the Accords. Additionally, the FMLN’s program emphasizes health care, education, and the strengthening of the national economy.

In other electoral news, FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes took part in an event to officially join the party on August 27. The ceremony was attended by a large crowd representing various social sectors, as well as party officials and activists. Shortly thereafter, Funes and his running mate, Salvador Sanchez Cerén, officially registered as candidates with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

On the other hand, ARENA has yet to select it’s vice presidential candidate or present its plan of government. Instead, the right wing party seems to have devoted its energies to attempting to delegitimize the FMLN, largely through attacks in the media against policies such as Alba Petróleo, an international program that brings cheap oil imports from Venezuela.

See our last posts on El Salvador and Central America.