Leftist ex-rebel wins El Salvador presidency

April 8, 2014
1 Comments

SAN SALVADOR — Former leftist rebel commander Salvador Sánchez Cerén has won last Sunday’s presidential election in El Salvador by a razor-thin margin, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal said.

He inherits leadership of a country beset with widespread poverty and violence from powerful street gangs.

He beat rightist Norman Quijano by less than half a percentage point, said the tribunal, which now must give the latter three days to appeal the tally.

Sánchez Cerén of the ruling Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front won 50.11 percent of the votes, compared to 49.98 percent for Quijano of the right-wing ARENA party, the tribunal said as it reported the final count from the runoff election. The first round was Feb. 2.

“The people, united, will never be defeated,” FMLN supporters chanted at the hotel where the tally was held as they awaited the final result.

The tight margin of the final result is a big surprise as the leftist had been favored to win by as many as 10 percentage points.

A victory rally has been called for Saturday night in the capital San Salvador.

Sanchez Cerén, 69, is vice president in the current government of President Mauricio Funes. In power since 2009, it is the country’s first leftist government and ended two decades of right-wing rule.

But this marks the first time Salvadorans have voted an actual former rebel commander from their 1979-1992 civil war to be president.

Sanchez Cerén is a former teacher and ex-education minister, who was one of five top guerrilla commanders during the civil war.

The current FMLN is the political party that emerged from the guerrilly army of the same name in the war, in which the government was backed by the United States.

The FMLN and ARENA were the main protagonists of that conflict.

The final tally was identical to the preliminary result first announced Sunday.

Quijano has asked the elections be nullified on grounds of fraud. The tribunal still has to rule on this.

Quijano, 67, the mayor of the capital city San Salvador, was a law-and-order candidate and staunch anti-communist who campaigned against the country’s high crime rate and the notorious “mara” street gangs behind much of El Salvador’s drug dealing and extortion.

Quijano, however, suffered from his links to ex-President Francisco Flores, a former campaign adviser, under scrutiny over $10 million donated by Taiwan that went missing during his 1999-2004 government.

After the civil war, El Salvador found itself facing violence from the street gangs, which control whole neighborhoods and run drug distribution and extortion rackets.

Forty percent of El Salvador’s six million people live in poverty, and the country relies heavily on remittances sent by Salvadorans living abroad — around $4 billion a year, or 16 percent of the country’s GDP.

You may be interested

Adaptive surfing, part II: The story of Dean Bushby
sports
147 views
sports
147 views

Adaptive surfing, part II: The story of Dean Bushby

Ellen Zoe Golden - May 22, 2018

A three-part look at adaptive surfing in Costa Rica. Read Part I here to learn how a Central Pacific coach is…

Costa Rica launches Pride Connection network
Human rights
178 views
Human rights
178 views

Costa Rica launches Pride Connection network

Elizabeth Lang - May 22, 2018

As Costa Rica continues to grapple with the disagreements about marriage equality and gender identity that dominated the second round…

Costa Rica at a glance: top news from the past week
The Alvarado Administration
206 views
The Alvarado Administration
206 views

Costa Rica at a glance: top news from the past week

The Tico Times - May 21, 2018

Newly inaugurated Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado is closing in on two weeks on the job. Here are some of…