Funes, a tv journalist, is the next president of El Salvador

· Journalism, Latin America, Politic

A journalist and representing the socialist “Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional – FMLN against ARENA party, won the presidential elections of El Salvador. ARENA, a right-wind party, has been in power since 1989 and Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena, 49, has been one of its most representative critics. Although the results show the political divisions of the tiny Latin American nation, Funes proclaimed victory at 9PM in the Sheraton Hotel of San Salvador when more than 90 percent of votes were already scrutinized and the victory was definitely for FMLN. The event became historical for a country that comes from a long history of political instability throughout the 20th century. In his first speech as elected president, Funes mentioned Mgr Oscar Arnulfo Romero who was assassinated on 24th March 1980 by a paramilitary command of Roberto d’Aubuisson, the same founder of ARENA.

“Gobernaré como Monseñor Romero quería que los hombres de su tiempo gobernaran, (oyendo) el clamor de justicia del pueblo salvadoreño”.

I will govern like Mgr Romero wanted that the men of his time govern: listening the claims of justice of the Salvadorian people.

The arrive of FMLN to power marks a real change of era in the Central American nation and shows strengthening of its democracy. Funes declared that he will support the last months of government of president Antonio Saca, but at the same time will prepare his best to face the economical crisis of his country.

The elected president talked already of agreements with the private sector. He underlined the role of the Armed Forces in their respect for the elections and said that they demonstrated to be “a professional instrument at the service of the people.” He called the opposition party to work together in the reconstruction of the nation under a compromise of tolerance.

A journalist

A prestigious journalist not only in his country but in the international arena, Funes is the founder of the UCA Audiovisual Center and YSUCA Radio in 1991. For 12 years conducted interviews in the 12 Television Channel, while was nominated director of Noticiero Hechos in 1997. In 2007 he announced the end of his work as a journalist to dedicate to politics within the Farabundo Marti Front for the National Liberation. He obtained different national and international recognitions as journalist by UNICEF, the University of Columbia, the National Congress of El Salvador, the Salvadorian Association of Journalists and others. In 21 years as a television journalist, he was also reporter for the American CNN.

Funes has been the most well known critic of the administration of ARENA party in power for 20 years. Sin Censura (Without Censorship), was a program in Channel 12 where he reviewed any governmental decision and had hot discussions with different officials.

El Salvador for Funes

But the strong critic of any ARENA administration will not have an easy country to lead.

Although he calls for unity and tolerance, he has almost a 40 percent of the population that did not vote for him and that he must convince of his political projects. At the other site, El Salvador is known for being one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, with a deep problem in the distribution of land ownership, the same problem that was at the center of decades of civil wars and oppression.

The smallest country in the Americas mainland, is also among the smallest and more fragile economy with a continues inflation growing at the point that in order to reduce administration expenditures, the government of president Saca took measures in 2008 like the suspension of salary increases, reduction in the use of official cars and travel abroad and even reduction in calls, among others.

Undoubtedly, the dollarization of its economy makes the country more open to the consequences of the current financial crisis and the jumping of the oil prices that is worsening its inflation.

From a long political process

The history of El Salvador during the 20th century was of nightmares. The small state was trapped in the roulette of the Cold War that faced an army supported by US and a left-wind guerrilla supplied by Cuba. Even if the peace agreement of 1992 put end to a bloody civil war, the right-factions continue to lead the country for the next two decades, while FMLN became a political party but with little change to present its candidates for presidential elections, most of them former leaders of the guerrilla.

The appearance of Mauricio Funes in the spectrum of FMLN was without doubt a change in the face of the former guerrilla and surely a key factor in getting the support of those who were undecided in giving the vote of trust to the more socialist political proposal of his party. His active presence as journalist in television made his person and ideals familiar to the people that saw a moderate politician

But the election of a FMLN candidate to the presidency of El Salvador was presided already by a success in the legislative elections of last January where the leftist party won 42.6 percent in the Congress, while ARENA got 38.5 percent. In that case, Funes will have the advantage of his party in the national assembly, but ARENA will be a strong opponent, at least his invitation in joining a common project in the reconstruction of the country will win more support from those who restrained to vote for Funes.

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