Central America’s two newest presidents – El Salvador’s Mauricio Funes and Panama’s Ricardo Martinelli – took office in 2009 and have already started to shakeup the region’s political scene, each for different reasons.
Funes, a former CNN journalist elected on the left-wing ticket of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), has already shown his ability to govern as a pragmatic and unifying leader who is seeking a left-wing reformist agenda independent of the ALBA bloc head by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
With a more than 80 percent approval rating, Funes is the most popular president in Central America and could emerge next year as a new leader in the region.
Martinelli – Central America’s only identified right-wing president – is also mixing things up with a pro-business agenda and a blatant disinterest in Central American integration efforts.
Ironically, in January Martinelli will take over the rotating presidency of the Central American Integration System (SICA), but he’s already announced that Panama will be withdrawing from the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) next year.