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El Salvador 2009 Presidential Elections 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pedro Juan Hernandez, MPR-12

[Audio available at]

Living in our country in a very unique and historic moment in our country. Possibility that FMLN will come into power. First chance to have a leftist government based on popular sectors. Always have had governments that represent dominant sectors. Very specific int'l context, with countries electing governments on the left (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua). But also change in the US in recent elections—historic event to have first Afro-American president. Congratulate us on the victory. Context of international changes, not only in South but also in US. Compare historic moment to collapse of Soviet Union and emergence of US has hegemonic power with the possibilities to push forward strategies that leads to their domination. Characteristics of military domination, pushing forward free trade strategies, neoliberal models that become Washington Consensus. Basic point is free market with the elimination of government participation in economy.

3 things:
1. liberalization of prices, no state control on prices. Leads to abuses in prices that lead to collapse in financial system in US.
2. modernization of state that means privatization of public businesses.
3. external aperture, removal of barriers to moving goods and services.

In the neoliberal model, there should be free entry and exit of materials through the elimination of tariffs. Who benefits from the neoliberal model? Used with different names in our country: structural adjustment, etc. At its base it is made up to function with MNC to benefit of US.

Explain neoliberalism as fish hatchery in which big fish eat small fish. MNCs are really sharks. Strongest people benefit from this model, and weakest lose. Biggest business set prices to liability of poor. More earnings for largest businesses, and costs are passed on to poor. Concentration of wealth, increased number of people living in poverty. People realize they've been lied to, and are waking up.

Wall Street bankers have buried Washington Consensus with financial crisis. Global crisis, much broader than 1930s. Neoliberalism is dead, and will be replaced with one with more state intervention. US will need to lead this, probably with nationalization of banking system. Privatize gains, but socialize losses. If divided up bail out package among everyone in world would be substantive sum for each, but it is all going to one small economic interest.

This is what the last 4 Arena governments have done, benefiting just a few people. No longer just 14 families, but 6-7 now after neoliberalism who are much more powerful. Privatize education, health care, water. No longer human right, but converted into commodity that is only available to those who have money. Anti-terrorist law on books similar to USA Patriot Act. Rights viewed as terrorist act.

Things are so bad that they look exaggerated. 60% of Salvadoran population live on less than $2/day, and 20% on $1/day. What can you buy w/ $1? Don't have ability to buy elements that they need. 1/5 of people hungry. No tortillas in morning, or beans for lunch, or eggs for dinner, but Tony Saca on TV morning noon & nite telling us everything is fine. 1/2 have formal employment, 7% unemployment, 43% underemployed. This country doesn't generate possibilities for people. Need to leave to look for better opportunities in other countries, esp. US. 1/3 part of ES in US, more than any other country. Plus high crime rates, 12 people killed/day. This is why we want change. Not supporting socialism or communism, but supporting simple things like a dignified life, food. We have to do things differently, to change life.

Funes says that he is not going to raise taxes or overturn free trade agreements, etc. He's not talking about socialism. He is going to focus on social aspects: education, health, housing, poverty, employment, micro business. Address problems we are facing as country. Not much room for maneuvering. Problems are not going to be solved overnite—not easy. Lots of difficulties. But best scenario that we can have as Salvadorans. What if there is no change? Because god has forgotten us. Without changes problems would just get worse.

Negative effects of FTAs. Funes won't solve all problems, but he is the best we have. We can't support a government that hasn't solved our problems for 20 yrs. Have to support party that is best positioned to solve our problems.

Why do people vote against their class interests? Situate historically. 17 yrs ago moved out of armed conflict—different then other southern countries. But also have most imbedded right-wing sectors in Latin America. Sectors w/ limited education, illiteracy, influenced by press, strong religious influences which lead them more to the right. Leave conflict with people tired of war, but also fertile ground for pushing forward neoliberal economic policies. Dispersion of social movement, levels of social movement organizing is not as high as in 1980s. But this is normal in post-war period. Also influence of out migration and remittances which has created a sense of comfort in population. Whole group of factors that influence political consciousness.

Will Funes be able to bring in his own officials, or will he have to fight w/ Arena officials already in positions of power? Has said that he will respect public employees in their positions, not fire them. Has used a lot of fear of reducing remittances, stop TPC. Making people afraid that if they do not vote for Arena they will lose their jobs, a type of repression. Fear of fraud, which could maintain them in power. Lack of transparency, control over electoral mechanisms, purchase of votes. No doubt that there is going to be fraud on Sunday. Question is on what scale, and whether we are able to overcome it. And yes we can overcome that fraud. 300K in closure of FMLN campaign never seen before.

Expect 52-58% for Funes, and 42-48% for Arena. In worse scenario, 52-48, only 4%. but we can always be wrong, and we won't be able to overcome fraud.

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