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El Salvador 2009 Presidential Elections 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lorena Martinez, president, CRIPDES, diputado suplente for FMLN

[I have an audio recording of the talk at]

Exciting moment because elections are providing an opportunity we have never seen before. Transcendental moment because of hope for change after Sunday. After Arena has been in power for 20 years they have not resolved the problems we have solved. In contrast, we have a candidate that is very well liked and has been able to articulate the problems we face. The right has used tricks and dirty campaigns to try to divide people. Constant daily labor to visit all municipalities in country. Right's attempt to hurt us by dividing the election. First time local races have been held before presidential elections; before, everything was held at the same time. The intention was to measure the electoral strengths of the parties. Right expected to win, but they lost. The January election was a Central American election in which Nicaraguans and Hondurans voted. Bus loads of people with different stories about why they were here. An example of attempts to intervene in electoral process, including through TSE to make credentials for people. Arena put efforts into winning capital of San Salvador through fraud. It hurts us to have lost the capital, but on a national level we have won more municipalities, including new ones we haven't won before. But problems continue in TSE, with dead people and those not in municipalities voting to maintain Arena in power. Large demonstration with >300K on Saturday on Juan Pablo II in support of FMLN. If there aren't obstacles, Funes will win. Subjective conditions for victory. But many things could happen, such as power outages, that could disrupt process. Training people to be prepared for such problems. And you will also be part of that process, to watch & observe situation as it happens. We need to make sure that you can defend the vote. Much enthusiasm. Campaigns officially closing today. But Arena plays dirty, and will have people advance their campaign. We can play a role in analyzing what we see happening, that campaign continues to happen. Equipo Maiz says campaign needs to continue. Bread factory is refusing to let voters go vote, and in sweatshops women told that they need to take a picture to show that they voted for Arena or they will be fired. Showing videos of Venezuela and Cuba to say that this is how El Salvador will be if the FMLN wins. But FMLN has toured sweatshops, and women are asking for things they can wear on election day to show their allegiance. Arena has money to pay people to spread propaganda, and we're just working with volunteers. But we are calm, because this is the opportunity we have been long waiting for. The right is worried about losing their privileges, so using tactics of intimidation and violence and fear. That is the difference between us. They are afraid, and we are enthusiastic. Invite us to accompany them on this opportunity for a better option. 26 yrs of CRIPDES, and hope that this is a year of change because it will be a tremendous celebration, an anniversary give for us.

Arena convinces other right parties to withdraw their candidates, but some of these conservatives have come out in support of Funes.
Arena hasn't accused FMLN of fraud. But more of a campaign against other leftist leaders than against Funes. If a peson of color can win in the US, then the same thing can happen here. Opens possibilities for change. Has a t-shirt that says that ‘hope defeated fear' w/ Obama's picture on front, and Funes on back.
Our work has forced Avila to also campaign in sweatshops. Women's organizations have also organized in sweatshops. Good results for us.
Conflict between social movement and electoral politics? Work on 2 levels, building popular power in communities, and then official power by winning legislative seats. A lot of leadership potential, and others will step in to build popular power. Possibilities for change on Sunday will mean that social organizing will be even more important because we need to defend conquests and to implement plans. Years in opposition, and we'll need to show that we can govern in interests of people. Just another step in consolidating power through social organizing.
Funes platform: land, employment, human rights, against privatization, access to health care, education, women's rights.
May 1: deputies and mayors take power, president on June 1.
Fear of Arena not accepting loss. That's where accompaniment work comes into play. Call for peace and transformation. Wanting peace, equality, transformation, better life. That's what we want. We've always accepted loss, and now Arena has to do that.
Why is it taking so long for people who won January election to take power? Structures remain the same. How do we adopt rapidly to changing situation?
Why so sure of victory? Because has been in contact w/ bases. We have never seen such an expression of hope from people. Much positive energy. People from other parties supporting us. If the process is clean, we will win. If there is fraud, people will take to the streets. Not preparing to lose, but to win and to defend win. We've already hatched and counted our chickens.
Threats from the US. Change in US govt means that people believe more in themselves as people & less in lies that ruined Shavik's chances 5 yrs ago. Interprets Obama as from left, Funes was never guerrilla. Can claim not to be corrupt. Arena propaganda hurts them because it is not believable. We have to force govt to do what we want them to be; won't do it w/o pressure. Social organizations need to fulfill this role. People aren't paying attention to what Republicans are doing, they are gone like Arena. Psychological change. Out of power, out of mind.
Funes conservative? Not concerned, cuz he is going forward with our programs. He is embracing our same plans. 30 work tables to incorporate their concerns. We've been represented in that platform.
School is for all of us. As Paolo Frere says, about learning & doing, learning from people, and studying more. Something we are building together. Many expectations forced me to take on new roles and keep working.

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