El Salvador

Political parties in El Salvador formally wrapped up their campaigns on February 25 ahead of local and legislative elections schedule for March 1, with polls showing the left-wing Farabundu Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) ahead of right-wing rivals. Electors in Latin America's smallest country will head to the polls to elect mayors as well as representatives to the country's Legislative Assembly.
Australian-based company OceanaGold is suing El Salvador for US$301 million for its “right” to continue operating a gold mine that is destroying the Central American nation's water supply. The El Dorado goldmine was originally owned by Canadian company Pacific Rim, which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of OceanaGold last year. The Australian company is continuing Pacific Rim's lawsuit, suing the Salvadoran government over a moratorium on mining permits. In 2008, the right-wing National Republican Alliance (ARENA) government was forced by public demand to issue the moratorium.
Since the start of the year, many newspapers have dedicated article after article to predictions of a looming demise of South America's so-called “Pink Tide” The term “Pink Tide” is used to refer to the wave of left-of-centre governments elected in South America in recent years. Several such governments have recently been up for re-election. Pollsters and commentators alike argued that for many, their time in government was up. Instead, on October 26, Brazilians re-elected Dilma Rousseff as president, ushering in a fourth consecutive Workers’ Party administration.
The administration of Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren celebrated its 100th day in office last month, taking the chance to report on actions taken to advance towards equality. Among the achievements of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) administration is the opening of 43 new community health clinics, along with the first specialised pharmacy for patients with chronic illnesses.
People gathered outside the World Bank office in Sydney on September 5 to protest the bank’s involvement in an Australian mining company’s attempt to sue the government of El Salvador for US$301 million. Pacific Rim, a Canadian company that was bought by Australian OceanaGold last year, applied to mine gold in northern El Salvador in 2004. The Salvadoran government refused it permission, arguing the company did not own or have rights to the land it proposed to mine, it did not have environmental permissions and it did not submit a final feasibility study for the project.
El Salvador approves progressive tax reforms El Salvador’s National Legislative Assembly passed a package of tax reforms on July 31, on August 13. The laws aim to shifting the fiscal burden from the nation’s poor majority to the wealthy elite and ease the country’s dependence on international loans to finance important social investment. The bill was approved despite a fierce campaign against it in the nation’s conservative media.
El Salvador joined four other Latin American countries in recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest against Israel’s bloody attack on the Gaza Strip, on July 30. Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru have all recalled their diplomatic representatives to Israel.
Marta Harnecker, a veteran Chilean-born author and politcal analyst who as an advisor to the government of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez between 2004-11, spoke to Jose P. Gurrero about the new left-wing government in El Salvador.
Venezuela: Social programs expanded in poorest communities The Venezuelan government has initiated its policy of expanding social programs in the country’s most deprived areas in a bid to eradicate extreme poverty, on June 30. The initiative, called “Red Sundays”, involves teams of social program workers visiting poorer communities every Sunday to diagnose which households are deprived of certain basic needs and which social programs are required to attend to these needs.
“On June 1, 2014, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, historic leader of the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN), was inaugurated as President of El Salvador,” on June 3.
El Salvador's Legislative Assembly approved the Social Development and Protection Law on April 3. The law was presented by President Mauricio Funes last year to ensure the groundbreaking social services initiated by his administration continued. These programs are designed to address the needs of historically abandoned and excluded sectors. The law mandates a “legal framework for human development, protection and social inclusion that promotes, protects and guarantees the fulfillment of people’s rights”.
Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the presidential candidate of El Salvador’s left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, was declared the winner of the country’s run-off presidential election on March 12. Ceren won 50.11% of total votes. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) declared the victory after voting sheets were cross-referenced with preliminary results from election day.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ebulliently congratulated president-elect Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador’s FMLN party, who was declared winner on March 10 by just 6000 votes after a tense electoral race. The left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) resisted a string of US backed governments throughout the 1980s during El Salvador’s devastating civil war. Maduro wrote on Twitter: “Sanchez Ceren is a legendary leader for democracy and human rights in El Salvador. The results mean another triumph for left-wing Latin America, thank you for waking up history.”

Dancing to the festive sounds of cumbia and ska music, thousands of supporters of the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) celebrated the expected victory of their candidate, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, as the vote counts in El Salvador’s presidential run-off election poured in on the night of March 9.
On a hot and breezeless day at the end of January, representatives from 83 unions across El Salvador gathered in the Casa Sindical (a shared union hall) in San Salvador to greet a delegation of international election observers. We had come to ensure that the presidential election would be free of fraud, violence and intimidation. The images and names of their fallen comrades loomed on the walls behind them in black paint. Febe Elizabeth Velasquez. Juan Chacon. Ten unionists were martyred in a 1989 bombing by right-wing death squads, targeted because they were union leaders.
With more than 99% of polling places reporting, the candidate for the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Salvador Sanchez Ceren, easily won the first round of El Salvador’s presidential elections on February 2. Sanchez Ceren scored nearly 49% of the vote, more than ten-points higher than Norman Quijano of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), who placed second with 39%. Former president Tony Saca garnered just over 11% of the vote. The FMLN and ARENA will head to a run-off on March 9.

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