El Salvador: Left support high amid fraud fears

Issue 

More than 300,000 people poured into the streets of San Salvador on March 7, for the closing rally of the campaign for Mauricio Funes, the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation's (FMLN) presidential candidate for the March 15 elections.

The desire for change, after suffering decades of civil war and dictatorship — followed by two decades of extreme right-wing government under the US-backed Arena party — is clearly in the air.

The crowd, wearing red T-shirts, was extremely youthful, but included people of all ages and walks of life. Chants of "This time it's different, Mauricio for President!" rang out at regular intervals.

"This moblisation of people is a confirmation of the triumph that we will have next Sunday", Funes declared, according a March 8 La Presna report.

"I ask you not to renounce your desire for change. We are voting for change, and also preparing to defend our vote [against attempts at fraud]."

Funes also challenged the Arena candidate for president, former police chief Rodrigo Avila, to participate in a "face to face" debate.

Urging vigilance against electoral fraud by Arena, Funes called on all "sympathisers and militants" to mobilise to "protect the vote".

"The party is gathering all the proof to present before the proper authorities and international observers", El Mundo reported on March 9. "For some days, buses and trucks loaded with Guatemalans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans have entered the country … guarded by the National Civic Police."

Funes stated Arena was giving those entering the country false identity documents to allow them to vote illegally.

Funes alleged that the documents were being fabricated by a security business owned by a departmental director of Arena in San Salvador.

Names of people who have died still appear on the electoral roll. "Therefore, these foreigners are going to replace the dead, the people who are in prison and El Salvadorans who are overseas", according to Funes.

He also alleged that various employers were ordering workers to take photos with their mobile phones of their voting papers, threatening them with the sack if they don't prove they voted for Arena.

This is part of a campaign of lies and intimidation run by Arena in the lead-up to the vote. Endless TV adverts have appeared claiming that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "wants to dominate El Salvador".

"We should not allow Mauricio Funes to deliver our country to Hugo Chavez", stated Rodolfo Parker, representing the Christian Democrat Party (PDC), which is supporting Arena in the poll.

Despite this campaign, backed by the big-business media, the FMLN campaign is gathering huge momentum as election day draws near. To finish his campaign, Funes is holding a series of public rallies across the country.

At the regional town of Zacatecoluca, in La Paz province, Funes addressed an enthusiastic crowd of thousands on March 10.

Australian Socialist Alliance activist, Coral Wynter, who is visiting El Salvador as an international election observer, presented solidarity greetings to the crowd.