Salvadorean left-wing leader to tour Australia

Issue 

Jorge Schafik Handal Vega, leader of the Salvadoran left party Farabundo Marti for National Liberation (FMLN) and deputy in the Central American Parliament, will be visiting Australia in May.

Handal has been invited by the FMLN Committees in Australia to report on recent developments in El Salvador including the presidential election campaign due in March 2009. The FMLN campaign was launched in February in the largest football stadium in Central America, in Cuscatlan, at a mass rally of more than 100,000.

Bernardo Zamora, from the Australian FMLN Committees, told Green Left Weekly that despite ongoing government repression in El Salvador against activists, "There is every indication that El Salvador will follow the 'left tide' now sweeping Latin America and the FMLN win state power in the 2009 elections". Such a victory would offer the biggest hope to Salvadorans since the beginning of the peace accords in 1992.

The accords followed more than a decade of civil war when FMLN guerrillas captured 38% of rural El Salvador — the "liberated zones". By 1991 the FMLN had brought the Salvadoran military to its knees, despite the right-wing ARENA government receiving US$1 million a day from Washington.

The accords opened the way to the legal participation of the FMLN, and other political forces, into civil and political life, and have resulted in the FMLN's transition from a guerrilla army to be the dominant political force in the country.

Handal became an activist as a secondary student during the teachers' and students' strikes of 1968. He joined the Communist Party Youth and was the founder of the revolutionary youth combatant wing of the FMLN in the late 1970s.

Handal is the son of FMLN founder and prominent Marxist, "Comandante Simon" Jorge Schafik Handal Senior, who died in 2006.

As well as meeting local Salvadoran organisations and activists, Handal will meet with a range of Australian and international organisations. The Australian FMLN Committee aims to use Handal's visit to drum up support for a strong Australian observer presence at the national and presidential elections in January and March of 2009.

For more information about the tour which includes Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Brisbane, contact Bernardo, national coordinator of the FMLN Committees in Australia, on 0409 151 099.

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