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FMLN Takes Power in El Salvador

by Brad Sigal |
June 5, 2009
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Cuzcatlan Stadium filled to capacity on June 1
San Salvador's Cuzcatlan Stadium was filled to capacity on June 1 with as many as 70,000 people celebrating the FMLN's electoral victory. Fight Back! News/Brad Sigal
El Salvador's new Vice President, former guerrilla commander Salvador Sanchez Ce
Salvador Sanchez Ceren with Cherrene Horazuk and Brad Sigal
El Salvador's new Vice President, former guerrilla commander Salvador Sanchez Ceren, speaks to reception of international solidarity visitors on May 31. Fight Back! News/Brad Sigal
El Salvador's new Vice President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, with former CISPES Executive Director Cherrene Horazuk and solidarity activist and Fight Back! reporter, Brad Sigal Fight Back! News/Staff

San Salvador, El Salvador - In an historic day here, June 1, Mauricio Funes and Salvador Sanchez Ceren were sworn in as the new president and vice-president of El Salvador. Funes and Sanchez Ceren are members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a leftist political party which was formerly a guerrilla movement that fought against the U.S.-backed right wing dictatorship in El Salvador in the 1980s. Funes and Sanchez Ceren won election on March 15, marking the first time there will be a leftist government in El Salvador’s history.

Long ruled by brutal U.S.-backed right-wing military dictatorships and ultra-right-wing political parties, Salvadorans overcame a blistering fear campaign by the right and voted in record numbers for the FMLN. The FMLN’s election removes the ARENA party from power, which had been the Bush administration’s strongest ally in the region.

President Funes was a long-time television journalist in El Salvador. He was one of the few Salvadoran TV reporters who challenged right-wing government officials, which made him very popular and respected. Sanchez Ceren was one of the FMLN’s top political and military commanders during the civil war period.

In his inauguration speech, Funes quoted from assassinated progressive Archbishop Monsignor Arnulfo Romero, saying that the FMLN would govern with a “preferential option for the poor.” One of his first policy announcements was that El Salvador’s new government will open relations with socialist Cuba. Other programs were announced to immediately begin to address the effects of the worldwide capitalist economic crisis on El Salvador’s workers and peasants and to attack the corruption that characterized the right-wing ARENA government.

In addition to the official inauguration ceremony on June 1, the FMLN also organized a massive rally in the country’s largest stadium, Estadio Cuzcatlan. As many as 70,000 people began filling the stadium early Monday morning, coming in from around the country to be part of this historic moment. Almost everyone in the stadium was wearing red (the FMLN’s color) and waving red flags. There were musical performances from longtime pro-revolutionary groups such as Los Guaraguao, Cutumay Camones, Lloviznando Cantos and Los Torogozes de Morazan. Speakers at the rally included the new president Mauricio Funes, FMLN coordinator Medardo Gonzales (Milton), as well as other progressive figures from Latin America such as a representative of Hugo Chavez from the Venezuelan government, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador and others.

The weight of history was heavy in the air at the stadium, as those in attendance remembered the tens of thousands of people who gave their lives fighting for change in El Salvador.