"For us in the FMLN [Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front], the victory in the presidential elections is a demonstration that our people are in a state of constant revolution, and understand the necessity for real change", Rigoberto Diaz, assistant secretary of the FMLN international relations commission, told Green Left Weekly.
Diaz was speaking the day after the victory of Mauricio Funes, the FMLN presidential candidate, in the March 15 elections. Funes won more than 51% of the vote despite significant evidence of widespread electoral fraud by the right-wing incumbent Arena government.
"The people lost their fear of electoral fraud, and showed that they have the will to construct a better future", Diaz said.
"In many departments [provinces], the FMLN won the vote by a small margin. This was achieved despite all the fraud, and attempts by Arena [which has ruled El Salvador for two decades] to divert the desire of the people for change.
"There is a lot of evidence of this fraud. In San Miguel, a mayor sold out to the government, including signing a contract, in which he offered votes in exchange for money."
However, Diaz said, "the people defeated him. The mayor was elected for the PDC [Christian Democratic Party], but he went with Arena and promised to provide 100,000 votes in exchange for funding a local project.
"This is a violation of the constitution, but they claim this isn't fraud."
Diaz told GLW: "We have had 20 years of an Arena government that strengthened these structures of power, of cheating, lies and maintaining this corrupt system that does nothing to help the ordinary people."
Diaz pointed out that the FMLN had also won the vote in the capital, San Salvador, despite the fact that it lost the January elections for mayor.
"We have to remember", he said, "it was a huge apparatus that Arena utilised to implement the fraud in the capital at that time. We know they carried out a massive fraud in San Salvador in many of the localities then, but were defeated this time."
For the presidential poll, "the people were ready. And we should state that it was the Salvadoran people who are responsible for this victory, with the FMLN in front leading the way.
"It was the people who didn't sleep on Friday and Saturday nights, watching the streets and places where they knew there was the presence of foreigners [brought in by Arena to vote illegally].
"The people are the true heroes of the moment. They are the ones who prevented the fraud stealing this election."
Diaz explained that Arena's electoral fraud included providing false accreditation documents to people from outside Nicaragua. "In addition to this, they are given double identity documentation [DUIs], or even three DUIs, so they can vote in several different parts of the country.
"It is very difficult to detect this fraud, because the government just produces more DUIs than are properly authorised. It is very difficult to put an exact figure on this fraud because we have had no access to this information."
Diaz told GLW that "we know that there are an average of 50 people in a bus, and 100 buses makes for 5000 bogus voters. We had expected to win the presidential elections by more than 100,000 votes, but actually won by only 68,000 votes."
Diaz said: "International solidarity was crucial for us. We managed by all means to get accreditation for more than 1000 international observers for the FMLN [4000 observers were accredited by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal overall], because we were wanted this international presence to dissuade Arena from committing some of the fraud.
"In reality, solidarity saved El Salvador.
"El Salvadorans owe an enormous debt to the international effort — not only now, but throughout the years of struggle. From the period of the 1970s and '80s, when our people began to fight against the military dictatorship, we have had solidarity from all over the world.
"This is something that makes us feel deeply grateful to those who have helped us and continue to help us.
"This victory in the presidential elections gives us great happiness, but begins a process in which we will need continuing help, because the right wing won't give up easily."
Diaz pointed out that "we have been assisted by Salvadorans who came back from other countries. And it was because of the repressive government of Arena that they left in the first place, not because they like adventure, tourism, or because they are restless and like to travel.
"No, they left because of the threat of death, because they had to survive. In the beginning, emigration was because of political issues; afterwards, it was because of economic necessity.
"All the Salvadorans who emigrated, but kept thinking about what was happening in El Salvador, and love their homeland in Central America, have a place to which they would like to return.
"Many have now completely rebuilt their lives outside of the country. But they have always held in their hearts the desire to return.
"But, because of the disastrous situation we have had here under Arena, they have not been able to do so, until now.
"We hope that with the FMLN in government, we can create the conditions so that many of these comrades can come back some day.
"They can return any time, and if they want to stay, they can be certain that they will be received with open arms", Diaz concluded.
[FMLN members living in Australia will present a workshop on the struggle in El Salvador after the elections at the World at a Crossroads conference in Sydney, April 10-12. For more information, or to register, visit http://www.worldatacrossroads.org.]