Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sí podemos!

El Salvador goes to the polls on Saturday, and things are looking positive for an FMLN victory. Mauricio Funes, the party's presidential nominee and former El Salvadoran TV personality, is helping to solidify the new, tamer image of the once revolutionary guerrilla organization.

The right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) has held control of the government in El Salvador since 1989, thanks in no small part to the political pressures of the United States. ARENA was eager to receive all W. in particular had to offer ($$$) and implemented not only economic policies that would make Milton Freedman cry with joy, but human rights abuses that made many more weep in despair. And then there's their joining the Coalition of the Willing, the only Latin American country to do so. Thanks, guys! In return, you of the highest crime rates in the world. And freedom, of course.

As Dick Cheney said (and really sorry for making everyone remember Dick Cheney) in 2004: "[T]oday El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections."

Free elections? Really?

In 2004, several members of the U.S. congress threatened to block remittances of El Salvadoran workers if FMLN won the elections. This time around, more than thirty members of the U.S. congress have signed a letter to President Obama calling for non-interference in the elections.

In an ironic turn of events in both the U.S. and El Salvador, this election has FMLN tying itself to the new U.S.American government. Funes has been using an image of Barack Obama , as well his catch-phrase, in FMLN campaign advertisements. Of course, there are those who scoff at such a comparison. The once radical Obama (in the eyes of the conservative news media) becomes a holy beacon of American values when compared to the next Hugo Chavez. William Booth is quick to point out the long-standing friendship between ARENA-led El Salvador and the U.S.:

Funes's opponent is Rodrigo Ávila, 44, former chief of the National Police, who represents the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), which was formed by Cold War conservatives and was the winner of the last four presidential contests. Ávila says Funes is a puppet who will serve his true masters -- the FMLN hardliners who want to turn El Salvador into a Venezuelan satellite, under the influence of President Hugo Chávez.

As for the Obama comparison, Ávila is skeptical. "I don't know what he's talking about," Ávila said in an interview before a midday rally at a soccer field in San Vicente on Sunday, as he was being mobbed by women and children wanting a hug. "He's claiming a lot of different things. I don't know about the comparison. Obama speaks English. Obama graduated from college."

Ávila speaks fluent English and graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in industrial engineering. He also attended the FBI National Academy. Funes speaks little English and did not finish his literature degree at the University of Central America.

Obama speaks English? Really? Obama lives in America! How 'bout this one: Obama's monolingual too. Also, only about 1/3 of El Salvadorans even make it past the ninth grade. Man of the people, perhaps? But really, way to take a ridiculous campaign statement and try to pretend it's relevant, Booth. Next thing you know, Avila will be claiming he's just like Alvin Ailey because their names both start with "A" and you'll be all like, ahh yes, and here's a list of other people whose last names start with "A." But then again, if women and children love him...

Clearly, Funes is piggy-backing on the power of change. As Roger Atwood noted in Mother Jones:
Just as Americans overcame the nonsense about Obama being a Muslim or terrorist, so Salvadorans can overcome the fear of electing a leftist as president.
It's only fitting that a change in American politics can help bring about change worldwide.Yes we can? Sí podemos!

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