El Salvador. Visit Countryaah official website to get information about the capital city of El Salvador. The ruling party of ARENA (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista) candidate Francisco Flores won the presidential election March 7, in the first round, 52% against the former guerrilla movement FMLN’s (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional) Facundo Guardado (29%). The turnout was very low, 40–55%. Flores, a 39-year-old academic, became El Salvador’s youngest president ever. According to the economic plan presented on June 25, he intends to continue the previous government’s business-friendly policy and primarily favor the manufacturing sector before the service sector. His main priority, however, will be the fight against crime, which in recent years has reached a terrible scale. On average, 17 murders per day are committed, and El Salvador is considered one of the world’s most violent countries. To some extent, violence has its roots in the civil war. Many of the crimes are committed by youth gangs whose members were expelled from the United States, where they grew up in ghettos and where their parents were refugees during the civil war in their home country. As a first step in reducing crime, a coupon system has been introduced where weapons can be exchanged for food, clothing and so on.
Economic downturn and political cycle
Towards the end of the 1990s, economic growth stagnated. Neither Calderón’s neoliberal reforms nor Flores’ spectacular currency reform in 2001, which made the US dollar the country’s currency, managed to keep up growth. Beyond the 2000s, it was lying between two and three percent and thus below zero measured per head, due to population growth. Thus, the extensive migration that the war initiated began to resume, also as a result of a series of natural disasters: hurricane Mitch in 1998, drought and earthquake in 2001, hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Stan in 2005, and a volcanic eruption that same year.
With a stagnant economy, the country has also not been able to prevent criminal gangs from tightening their grip on the many urban poor. The gangs, the so-called maras, which were formed to some extent by returning refugees from gang communities in the big cities of the United States, remain perhaps the country’s greatest challenge. This has resulted in the highest death rates in the world, with 160 killed per 100,000 population in 2017, which is on par with Colombia during the 1990s drug war, which in itself is a factor that drives people to flight.
During the parliamentary and local elections in 2000, ARENA was bypassed by the FMLN for the first time, and with 31 out of 84 representatives, the party became the largest in the national assembly. However, thanks to support from PCN, President Flores retained the majority. The parliamentary equilibrium between FMLN and ARENA has remained in all elections since, so the presidents have had to constantly find alliance partners among the small parties. With regard to the number of mayors, the FMLN has increased steadily until 2018. During most of the election periods, the party has sat with the mayor in the capital with candidates from the reform-minded sections of the FMLN.
The 2004 presidential race was strongly marked by the extensive gang crime. ARENA candidate Elías Antonio (“Tony”) Saca promised mano dura, “the politics of the hard hand”. The Orthodox, who are still in complete control of the FMLN centrally, appointed the old leader of the FPL and the Communist Party Schafik Handal. Thus ARENA again won a comfortable victory with 57 against 36 percent. However, after a low target of 38 percent in 2000, turnout reached 70 percent.
On foreign policy, ARENA presidents have put El Salvador close to US politics. Military cooperation in the drug war has taken place and between 2003 and 2009 El Salvador participated in the invasion of Iraq with the United States. In 2006, the country entered into the regional trade agreement CAFTA-DR together with Central America and the Dominican Republic. Parts of this policy have met strong opposition from the FMLN and thus maintained the political polarization in the country.
FMLN in power
At the 2009 presidential election, the FMLN triumphed with a candidate from the reform-oriented or social-liberal wing. Mauricio Funes had a background as an independent and respected television journalist, including as CNN correspondent in the country. At the same time, ARENA was weakened by internal demolitions as President Antonio “Tony” Saca retained the post of party leader after the 2004 election victory, across the party’s laws. He was excluded by ARENA in 2009 and started a new party, GANA, which would later become one of the small parties that supported the FMLN.
Mauricio Funes took several important initiatives during his presidency. In 2012, he gave his blessing to a peace agreement between the two largest gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18, under the auspices of the Catholic Church. The death tolls dropped, but the agreement between violent “mafia bosses” who themselves lived in luxury was disputed, and after one year it smoked. Since then, Funes and his successor from the FMLN have largely followed the hard line and given the army an active role with the police.
Foreign policy established Fune’s diplomatic relations with Cuba, which had been broken since 1962. His government recognized Palestine, but did not enter the new regional alliance of Latin American states, ALBA, which was led by Venezuela.
Finally settling on the past
However, the most epoch-making initiatives have been domestic politics and have been about his apologies to the post-Civil War victims; first in 2010, in connection with the 18th anniversary of the peace agreement and the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero, and in 2012, 30 years after the massacre in El Mozote. Former ARENA President Alfredo Cristiani has endorsed this, while Calderón Sol criticized the decision. In turn, these governmental excuses have opened up for the Supreme Court in 2016 to know the amnesty from 1992 invalid, and thus the reason is prepared for the court settlement envisaged in the peace agreement.