Call your Congressman to get support for free and fair elections in El Salvador!

A “Dear Colleague” letter is circulating in Congress requesting that President Barack Obama and the US government not intervene in the elections as well as respect the election results. Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) are co-authors of the letter, which Members of Congress have until March 3rd to sign

In the 2004 Presidential elections, statements made by the Undersecretary of State and a Colorado Congressman had significant effects on the outcomes. Undersecretary of State Roger Noriega endorsed ARENA and publicly satiated that US relations would deteriorate under an FMLN government. Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) threatened a week before the elections that remittances to El Salvador would be stopped if the FMLN won.

Threats from and fear induced by US officials can have decisive consequences in El Salvador. Similar attempts to sway the results are happening during this election cycle. ARENA campaign ads have altered statements of US officials to convey a message to their advantage and are reusing old threats to intimidate voters to support their party. To call your congressman to ask him/her to sign the Dear Colleague letter, follow the instructions here.

Posted by Leslie O’Bray, SHARE Grassroot Education and Advocacy Intern

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Wall Street Journalist accuses FMLN of following in Chavez’s footsteps; Funes says Venezuela will “not meddle” in El Salvador

Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about the supposed threat of an FMLN-win in El Salvador to another “Chávez satellite” in Latin America. There is a claim that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez sent Salvadoran President Antonio Saca a message after Guatemala inaugurated leftist President Alvaro Colom. The message allegedly said, “Now I’ve got you surrounded.”

O’Grady says that ARENA presidential candidate Rodrigo Ávila, though behind in the polls, has a good chance of winning since many Salvadorans fear an “importation of the chavista agenda.” She further highlights the “difficulties” Ávila is facing because of the previous president’s record. President Saca has caused trouble for the country in numerous ways, particularly through economic underperformance, which has adverse affects on Ávila’s chances for winning. She says that despite Funes’ moderate stance, he could be overpowered by the more traditional leftist beliefs of the FMLN party.

Responding to claims of a leftist government  and of Venezuela interference in El Salvador, Funes said before the Council of Professional Associations in El Salvador, “In the same way that I will not meddle in Venezuelan politics, the Venezuelan government will not meddle in our internal affairs.

Posted by Leslie O’Bray, SHARE Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

NPR article on Salvadoran elections

NPR had a story on All Things Considered about the upcoming presidential election in El Salvador. The article gives a brief overview of the FMLN and presidential candidate Mauricio Funes, whom supporters call “El Salvador’s Barack Obama.”

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Corruption has been rampant in El Salvador, and Funes promises to “go after the corrupt government and send them to jail.” Even some ARENA officials are now denouncing the corruption in the government.

Despite Funes’s appeal as a moderate, ARENA is trying to mask Funes’ ideas under the classical image of a leftist FMLN. ARENA is asserting that Funes’ campaign is financed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and that an FMLN victory would bring the government to the far left.

To read the full article, click here

Posted by Leslie O’Bray, SHARE Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

Organization of American States offers suggestions for the presidential elections

Organization of American States

The electoral observation mission from the Organization of American States (OAS), which observed the Municipal and Legislative elections in El Salvador on January 18, issued recommendations for the upcoming presidential election on March 15 to the Council of the OAS, Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), and Salvadoran society. While the official report on their observations will be released after the presidential election, the OAS has offered several suggestions immediately implementable for the presidential election that will allow for a smoother and more democratic election.

Among the recommendations to the TSE, the government body that oversees elections and institutes election reform, are:

• The better functioning of electoral organizations like the Vote Receiving Board (JRV),

• Assuring ballot secrecy,

• Preventing parties from illegally campaigning in the voting centers, • Opening the polls on time at 7 a.m,

• Releasing polling results in a timely manner.

The electoral observation mission called for the TSE to prevent overcrowding at the polling places, which will allow immediate improvements in the categories stated above. Overcrowding diminishes ballot secrecy, is conducive for intimidation by bosses, and vote buying.

Posted by Leslie O’Bray, SHARE Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

Campaign ad manipulates US official’s message

One of the tactics the ruling party has used and is currently using in its political campaign is the manipulation of messages from US officials to make a leftist win appear to be a potential threat to US-El Salvador relations. In this recent incidence, comments by Dan Restrepo, an adviser to Barack Obama on Latin America, are rearranged to make President Barack Obama appear worried by Venezuelan policies and troubled at the supposed friendship between the leftist party in El Salvador and Hugo Chavez.

However, when placed in context, Restrepo’s remarks instead emphasize the US’s need to respect the “sovereignty of all other countries, and…not get involved in the internal politics.” Restrepo used Venezuela to complement his denouncement of intervening in other countries’ politics. He says that President Obama does not like the anti-American rhetoric Chavez uses, but highlights that the United States is glad to work with any willing country, even if the they have showed open disdain for the United States.

The parsed comments of Dan Restrepo used in the ad:

“The anti-American agenda worries Senator Barack Obama a lot, and the failed polices of Hugo Chavez; be those in Venezuela, or his wish to intervene in countries of the region – be it El Salvador or other places.

It is necessary to look inside what is happening in Venezuela today, the advance of crime in Caracas, food problems.

Barack Obama is worried; obviously he does not like anti-American rhetoric and anti-American policies that Hugo Chavez brings.”

To watch the ad, click here.

His full statement:

“The anti-American agenda worries Senator Barack Obama a lot, and the failed polices of Hugo Chavez; whether they be in Venezuela, or his wish to intervene in countries of the region, be it El Salvador or other places. It is extremely important that the United States and all the other countries in the region respect the sovereignty of all other countries, and do not try to get involved in the internal politics of the countries.

Barack Obama is worried, obviously, he doesn’t like the anti American rhetoric and anti American policies that Hugo Chavez promotes. The problem of the Americas is not the Untied States, the problem is an agenda…it is necessary to look inside what is happening in Venezuela today, the advance of crime in Caracas, food problems. It is not a successful system and the people of the region have to understand this as well.”

To watch the full news video, click here.

Posted by Leslie O’Bray, SHARE Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern