El Salvador

Another Revolution

Eight years after El Salvador’s leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) signed a peace agreement that ended its 12-year armed struggle, the FMLN has conquered the Salvadoran legislature at the ballot box. San Salvador’s conservative La Prensa Gráfica (March 17) views the FMLN’s achievement of a narrow plurality in March national elections, along with mayoral victories in the capital and 77 other municipalities nationwide, as testimony to the failure of the ruling rightist ARENA party’s “old campaign plan based on the struggle against communism, which no longer convinces anyone but the few who haven’t heard that the Cold War is over.”

In La Prensa Gráfica (March 13), David Escobar Galindo argues that El Salvador “is approaching the second great moment of the transition” as Salvadoran democracy enters “a period of trial unlike any since the achievement of peace....If Salvadorans succeed in passing through the next few years…in a constructive and harmonious manner, we will place ourselves in the vanguard of the region. If not, we will run the risk of falling back into the old patterns of intolerance and rejection.”

San Salvador’s conservative El Diario de Hoy expresses alarm at the FMLN’s economic and political agenda for reform, notably, proposals for a more cautious approach to future privatizations, tighter controls on foreign investment, and increased taxation and regulation of the private sector. “It remains to be seen whether this is mere campaign rhetoric or rather a concrete plan,” says the paper (March 17).

Still, observers generally emphasize the positive implications of the election for El Salvador’s emerging democracy. “The electoral triumph of the FMLN, which transformed it into the leading political force in El Salvador, contains a very clear lesson for those who, like the guerrilla movements that continue sowing violence in Colombia, persist in taking the road of arms to gain power,” says Bogotá’s centrist El Tiempo. “The victory of the FMLN… demonstrates that, with the tools of democracy, it is possible to achieve what cannot be gained with arms: genuine popular support obtained through open debate of ideas…and political work oriented to the true needs of the population.”