FMLN calls for election observers from Australia

May 10, 2008

The Australian speaking tour of Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) leader Jorge Schafik Handal Vega began in Sydney on May 6, with a public meeting attended by 50 activists, most from the local El Salvadorean community.

Handal Vega, son of the legendary FMLN founder "Comandante Simon" Jorge Schafik Handal, joined the militant left in El Salvador in 1968 as a student. He was a combatant commander throughout the people's war in the 1970s and '80s and, following the 1991 peace accords, was integral to the successful transition of the FMLN's combatant structures into the political and civil institutions of El Salvador. He is currently a deputy for the FMLN in the Central American Parliament.

Handal Vega is touring Australia to build solidarity with the FMLN's 2009 election campaigns, a message that was enthusiastically received at the Sydney meeting. All recent opinion polls in El Salvador indicate that the FMLN will win both the mayoral and presidential elections next year, wresting the last Central American country to be governed by the extreme right wing out of its control. Desperate to prevent this, the US-backed ruling Arena party has launched a massive campaign of bribery and intimidation, which is accompanied by a growing number of brutal attacks on, and murders of, FMLN leaders and activists.

The FMLN is expecting Arena to also use fraud to try to win the elections, and is urging Australian activists to travel to El Salvador in December-January to act as international observers of the election.

On May 9, Handel Vega was welcomed to Canberra at a well-attended reception hosted by the embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The 50 guests included local union representatives, Indigenous activists, members of the El Salvadorean community, Cuban and Venezuelan solidarity activists, and members of the Socialist Alliance. They were entertained by local guitarist Jose Viera, as well as Aboriginal artists Jandemarra — an elder from the Ngarigo people — Jo and Swainy.

After a welcome to country from Jandemarra, Venezuelan charge d'affaires Nelson Davila Lameda opened proceedings, before Handel Vega addressed the group, explaining the dire situation in El Salvador under the current right-wing government, and arguing that an electoral victory for the FMLN in the coming elections would be important for the whole of Latin America.

Handal Vega will also address public meetings in Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Brisbane. For more information about the FMLN's call for election observers, contact <>.

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