Our Life and Times
El Salvador leftist win
by Kevin A. Barry
The leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN)
scored a major victory in nationwide legislative and mayoral elections in March.
It received more total votes than the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance
(ARENA), which controls the presidency. The FMLN not only won the mayoral
elections in ten of the 14 largest cities, but in the capital, San Salvador, the
FMLN also took 100% of the city council seats.
In the new national legislature, the FMLN will control 31
out of 84 seats, to ARENA's 27. Since ARENA cannot command a majority, it is
possible that the government will be subjected to enough pressure from the Left
to open up some space for working people.
To take one prominent example, state healthcare workers
have been on strike against privatization plans for the past six months, with
polls indicating that 80% of the population opposes privatization. The ARENA
government has stonewalled, firing the strikers, but there is now a possibility
that the legislature can force it to compromise.
These elections are the product of a compromise forced upon
the FMLN ten years ago, after over a decade of civil war. During the war, the
Reagan and first Bush administrations gave the ARENA-controlled government
lavish funding and military support, as it used death squads, disappearances,
and torture to crush the FMLN, a multi-layered revolutionary movement that had
deep roots among the country's working people. ARENA's U.S.-backed repression
resulted in over 70,000 deaths among a population of under six million. To this
day, no U.S. or Salvadoran official has been prosecuted for these murders.
Since the compromise of 1991, the FMLN has been relegated to a secondary role in the nation's politics. The 2003 elections seem to signal a change in the balance of forces, opening up the possibility of an FMLN victory in the 2004 presidential elections. But both local ruling classes and the U.S. are sure to resist such a possibility.
Published by News and Letters Committees