El Salvador: Left president inaugurated, signs cheap oil deal with Venezuela
“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,” CISPES.org said on June 3.
“At a formal session of El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly, held before a crowd of thousands at the country’s international convention center, the presidential sash was officially handed over … to Professor Salvador Sanchez Ceren, elected in a runoff election on March 9 of this year.”
Sanchez Ceren was a founder of the militant teachers union, ANDES-21 de junio later became a commander of El Salvador’s left-wing guerrilla forces, organised under the FMLN umbrella. The FMLN fought an armed struggle against the US-backed military dictatorship between 1980 and 1992, when peace accords were signed.
CIPSES.org said after the peace accords, Sanchez Ceren remained a leading voice in the party for a revolutionary, democratic and socialist vision. It said this makes “his victory all the more significant as a departure from two decades of hard-right rule by the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party and a further step to the left from the progressive Funes administration” that was elected with FMLN support in 2009.
As Angela Sanbrano, president of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC) and former Executive Director of CISPES commented: “This victory is deeply rooted in the democratic revolutionary movement and represents the possibility of creating a new El Salvador, a just El Salvador … that can serve as an example to all of Latin America.”
The historic memory of the Salvadoran struggle against state repression was a strong theme throughout the inauguration, a marked distinction from Funes’ inauguration in 2009, CISPES.org said.
Long struggle for justice
After being sworn in, President Sanchez Ceren addressed the public, saying: “After long years of struggle for justice and democracy in my country, I humbly and with deep respect accept this presidential sash. I receive it with a commitment to exercise the presidency for all Salvadorans, here and abroad.”
Cispes.org said Sanchez Ceren outlined the three key pillars of his administration: security, employment and education. He indicated some early plans, including creating a women’s ministry, expanding programs for free school uniforms and school, and an agenda for environmental sustainability that includes “taking action against the environmental crisis and climate change”.
“To the youth: I invite you to be participants in this government,” Sanchez Ceren said. “Not only because you are the present and the future but because you should be the dynamic force in the work of public policy.
“The well-being of the children and the youth is the well-being of all of society.”
Declaring the country’s national resources “sacred”, Sanchez Ceren’s strong call to end corruption and for active citizen participation in government oversight was cheered by thousands of people energized by Funes’ unrelenting quest to bring justice to former ARENA officials accused of corruption, CIPES.org said
It said: “The overriding theme of the speech, however, was a call to national unity, and the need to unite diverse sectors in the country in order to advance a national agenda and to resolve the problems the country faces, especially the high levels of violence.”
“United, we all grow,” Sanchez Ceren emphasised.
CIPSES.org said no direct mention was made of ARENA’s bid to reverse the results of March’s election nor concerns that the right wing will follow in the footsteps of the Venezuelan opposition and try to destabilise the new government. However, it said “the president’s call to unity was a sign to the country, and to the international community, that there is one political force that stands in the way of progress in El Salvador – and it’s not the FMLN”.
Sanchez Ceren paid special tribute to other leaders of El Salvador’s revolutionary movement, saying: “This government begins with a lot of hope and happiness. This is only possible due to the labors of our heroes and martyrs, those men and women, visionary people, who gave their lives dreaming of a democratic country.”
The formal ceremony was peppered with excited cheers from the crowd, CIPSES.org said, including chants of “The People United Will Never Be Defeated” and “They won’t be coming back!”
International support, popular celebrations
Delegations from over 100 countries attended the inauguration. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Bolivian President Evo Morales and Cuban Vice-President Salvador Valdas Mesa “were greeted with the loudest cheers as they descended the staircase into the auditorium, a demonstration of the support of El Salvador’s organized social movement for further integration into the leftist bloc in Latin America and the Caribbean”, the article said.
“No one from the United States joined the parade down the red carpet, as the US sent only a low-level delegation, another departure from the Funes inauguration, which was attended by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
“A popular celebration was held later in the afternoon in San Salvador’s historic Plaza Civica, the site of the Salvadoran armed forces’ horrific 1980 attack on the crowd gathered at the adjacent cathedral to attend the funeral of Monseeor Romero …
“In a rousing speech, El Salvador’s new president ended the day talking once more about dreams … he shouted, ‘El Salvador is worth the struggle. It’s worth sacrificing ourselves. And it’s worth struggling all of our lives for our dream …
“‘In my dream, El Salvador will become a country of buenvivir, where everyone can have happiness, where inequality is torn down, where we all see each other as brothers and sisters — this dream is worth fighting for.”
Two days after Sanchez Ceren’s inauguration, El Salvador was confirmed as a member Petrocaribe, Venezuelanalysis.com said that day. Petro caribe is “an alliance forged by late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez with many Caribbean states to promote economic and social integration by trading oil at preferential prices”.
It said: “The decision to include the Central American nation was approved in the 13th Petrocaribe Ministerial Council, which was held in the Salvadorian capital, San Salvador.”
Salvadorean foreign minister Hugo Martinez said El Salvador has no natural petroleum resources, meaning that access to it via Petrocaribe would give the country the chance to better fulfill its energy needs, “under the principles of cooperation, solidarity, fair prices and mutual benefit”.
Upon becoming a member of Petrocaribe, Martinez said the country “will receive preferential treatment, sometimes in pricing, other times in medium or long-term credit, which should allow El Salvador to put at least 40% of what it should be paying up front into social program investments”.
As well as Venezuela, other member states include Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Granada, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Guyana, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Saint Vicente and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and Surinam.