El Salvador’s Presidential elections, set to be held on Sunday, February 3, 2019, will be the eighth of their kind since the 1983 enactment of the Constitution of the Republic, and the sixth since the signing of the 1992 Peace Accords. This year’s process will see the election of the President and Vice President for the period June 2019 through May 30, 2024.
The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) hopes to win the Presidency again with Hugo Martínez Bonilla, who previously held the post of Foreign Minister and Chancellor of the Republic.
Meanwhile, Carlos Calleja is the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) candidate, a far-right party that governed the country for four consecutive terms. ARENA is responsible for the torture, death, and disappearance of thousands of Salvadorans.
Nayib Bukele is the Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA) candidate. He began his political career with the FMLN, from which he was expelled in 2017. He then created his own group, New Ideas (Nuevas Ideas), and in 2018, attempted to form a coalition with the center-left party Democratic Change, until joining the right-wing GANA, founded in 2010 as the result of a split in ARENA.
Meanwhile, the newly formed VAMOS party is backing its General Secretary, Josué Alvarado, as its first ever Presidential candidate.
The latest Cid Gallup poll on voting intention in the upcoming Presidential elections revealed GANA candidate Nayib Bukele as the favorite to win with 57% support, far ahead of the next candidate, Carlos Calleja, of ARENA, set to obtain 31% of the vote. In third place was the FMLN’s Hugo Martínez, with 11% voting intention.
However, in the final stretch of the campaign, pollster Marketing & Tendencias gives Carlos Calleja 27% of voter preferences, followed by Nayib Bukele with 21%, Hugo Martínez with 10% and Josué Alvarado with 3%, while 22% of voters remain openly undecided and 13% are set to abstain.
According to this same pollster, ARENA candidate Juan Carlos Calleja increased his advantage, from 25% in November 2018, to 27% in January 2019. Hugo Martínez of the FMLN also garnered support, with an increase of 2%. Meanwhile, GANA candidate Nayib Bukele saw his support fall by 3%, from 24% to 21%; and Josué Alvarado of VAMOS dropped one percentage point, from 4% to 3%.
FAKE NEWS INVADES SOCIAL NETWORKS
El Salvador has the third highest internet penetration rate in Central America. More than 59% of its population has internet access through different devices and platforms. Figures from Internet World Stats (IWS) confirm that there are 3.7 million internet users in the country.
El Salvador has an area of 21,040 km2, placing it among the smallest countries, with a population of 6,357,853, and a high population density of 303 inhabitants per km2.
As has happened in other electoral processes in Latin America, social media has been used to disseminate thousands of false messages about the current situation in El Salvador and, above all, about the government of current President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, former guerrilla commander and historic FMLN leader.
Thousands of trolls, at the service of the Salvadoran right, are spreading fake news about their opponents, emphasizing a climate of insecurity, with examples of gang violence, and alleged acts of corruption committed by officials of the current government. The messages resemble those used in Brazil during Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign for the Presidency.
The fake news invading social networks seems to be taking its toll on the electoral campaign, increasing mistrust and uncertainty. The messages are being directed toward youth, especially those aged under 24, to demobilize them. According to several experts, this sector shows certain levels of “apathy” regarding political debate and the elections, which could lead to a significant abstention rate.
The GANA government program, widely disseminated on social media, includes extremely radical proposals in favor of the death penalty, the criminalization of abortion, and the use of paramilitaries to combat gangs. Another element used by this party is the appropriation of symbols and slogans of the left, such as “The People United Shall Never Be Defeated.”
The power of gangs and their collaborators, spanning more than 400,000 people, in a country that has just over six million inhabitants, is indeed a serious problem.
Last month a caravan of more than a thousand Central American migrants, among them Salvadorans, fleeing gang violence and poverty, among other reasons, attempted to cross Mexico and reach the United States.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, announced at the beginning of the year the end of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 195,000 Salvadorans, who were given between 12 and 18 months to return to their country. The program, which dates back to 1990, granted permits to live and work in the United States to citizens of countries affected by wars or natural disasters. The return of these people to El Salvador represents a great challenge for the government, a situation that has been exploited by the GANA candidate as part of his electoral campaign.
THE FMLN AND THE GOVERNMENT OF SALVADOR SÁNCHEZ CERÉN
The Salvador Sánchez Cerén government has promoted important programs for the benefit of the most vulnerable, including the supply of school uniforms, materials, footwear, and food for children in the country’s public schools.
It also implemented strategic programs that have laid the foundations for a modern and inclusive education system, through social support programs for students, school infrastructure, educational quality and improved conditions for teachers. The “A boy, a girl, a computer” program has supplied 5,000 Lempitas computers. In addition, the Online University was launched, offering eight degree courses.
Also significant is the construction of the La Unión National Hospital, and the Ophthalmological Center of the Santa Gertrudis Hospital, in San Vicente. Under the previous (ARENA) government, the infant mortality rate was 23 per 1,000 live births, while the current administration has reduced this to 10. Maternal mortality fell from 50 to 32.
The FMLN is not like other parties in El Salvador. It was not the result of politicking, but emerged from the people and a movement that fought for years to end the dictatorship; a struggle that culminated in a Peace Agreement that gave way to the conversion of the guerrilla organization into a political party. The FMLM is a legitimate popular project.
The organized Salvadoran people are in no doubt that, should the oligarchy return to power, it will enact the Water Privatization Law (potable water supply is one of the most serious problems faced in the country), among other announced neoliberal measures. Sought is a return to the days of Roberto d’Aubuisson, behind the assassination of Óscar Arnulfo Romero, death squads and the disappeared. The Salvadoran people will make a choice February 3.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE SÁNCHEZ CERÉN GOVERNMENT
- Government health plans have eliminated diseases such as malaria, measles, and mumps, reduced the infant mortality from 23 to 10 per 1,000 live births, and maternal mortality from 50 to 32.
- With the creation of the Development Bank and the Women’s Bank, technical and economic assistance has been provided to more than 5,000 women.
- Illiteracy was reduced from 17.97% to 11.3%, which represents 327,000 newly literate people.
- 1,500 schools were reformed under the Open Schools for Peaceful Coexistence program, which focuses on prevention and citizen security.
- Around 450,000 people were lifted from extreme poverty.
- Nearly 300,000 people were provided with a potable water service in their homes, and around 200,000 now have electricity.
- In 2019, El Salvador has the largest education budget in its entire history: close to one billion dollars.
- The 2019 school year began with the supply of 23,013 Lempitas computers to 1,161 public schools. These computers will be used by 95,333 students and 4,198 teachers.
- Through the National Teacher Training Plan, training has been provided to more than 30,000 teachers in the public sector.
SOURCE: Official site of the Salvadoran Presidency