News / Americas

Ex-Marxist Rebel Eyes Centrists in El Salvador Presidential Run-off

Vice President Salvador Sanchez, presidential candidate for the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and his wife Margarita Villalta pose for photos after voting at a polling station in San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb. 2, 2014.
Vice President Salvador Sanchez, presidential candidate for the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and his wife Margarita Villalta pose for photos after voting at a polling station in San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb. 2, 2014.
Reuters
A former Marxist guerrilla leader who fell just shy of an outright victory in El Salvador's presidential election said on Monday he would court centrists ahead of a March run-off vote and ruled out a swing to the radical left.

Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a top leader of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebel army during El Salvador's civil war, won nearly 49 percent of votes in Sunday's first round, just short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off.

He will now face off on March 9 against Norman Quijano, the conservative former mayor of the capital, San Salvador, who took almost 39 percent of the vote and wants to deploy the army to fight powerful street gangs.

To ensure a victory in the run-off, Sanchez Ceren will need to lure some of the votes that went to Antonio Saca, a former president and right-wing candidate who came in a distant third on Sunday.
 
Sanchez Ceren on Monday pledged to negotiate with Saca, adding that he would reach out to smaller parties. Quijano, however, insisted the ex-rebel will swing El Salvador to the radical left and bow to Venezuela's influence.

The FMLN candidate said before the election that he would seek to join Venezuela's Petrocaribe oil bloc, which furnishes mainly leftist allies with cheap energy, but on Monday ruled out a swing to the South American oil giant's socialist model.

"That is an old wives tale," Sanchez Ceren, 69, said in a TV interview. "Our model is based on what the people of El Salvador want. We will not just copy others."

The FMLN turned into a political party at the end of El Salvador's 12-year civil war in 1992, and it first won power in 2009 after it toned down some of its more radical proposals.

Sanchez Ceren was vice president in the government and his campaign was helped by its popular welfare policies, including pensions and free school supplies. The regional influence of Venezuela's socialist government is set to be a major issue in the final race.

"The FMLN's proposal is based on handing over national sovereignty to Venezuela," Quijano told local television.

Ceren said he would negotiate with Saca, who drew about 11.4 percent of votes in Sunday's vote.

Saca broke away from Quijano's Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) party after he left office, and it is unclear whether he and his supporters will back Sanchez Ceren in the run-off.

The Universidad Centroamericana estimates that while about 60 percent of Saca's supporters would likely opt for Quijano in the run-off, around 25 percent would go with Sanchez Ceren. That would be enough to give the leftist a clear win.

Poverty, Violence

El Salvador remains deeply divided between left and right and the rise of violent street gangs has been spurred by persistent poverty and sluggish economic growth.

The country is the most dependent in Central America on money sent home by migrants working in the United States - those remittances account for nearly one-fifth of the economy.

Quijano's pledged to deploy the army against street gangs, which control poor slums across the country. But the campaign failed to draw in many independent voters, unlike in neighboring Honduras, where conservatives recently won with a similar plan.

"Going after the gangs would be like returning to the repression before 1992," said Denise Lopez, a 22-year-old student.

Sanchez Ceren opposes the idea and is instead promising to  forge a political pact to end the gridlock that has kept a divided Congress from carrying out reforms to tackle crime and weak economic growth.

A rural teacher before the civil war, Sanchez Ceren joined the FMLN and became one of its leading commanders as it fought a series of U.S.-backed conservative governments. About 75,000 people were killed in the 12-year conflict.

You May Like

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Cancer, Transplant Patients Rail at Drug Shortages in Venezuela

Currency controls, slumping production and smuggling have caused acute shortages of medical supplies in the socialist-led nation
More

Guatemalan Prosecutors Urge President to Resign Amid Scandal

Government comptrollers' office also issued a statement saying Perez Molina should resign 'to avoid greater social unrest that could have unpredictable consequences'
More

Bolt Sprints to Double Gold in Beijing

Jamaican's victories take place on track where in 2008 he first made headlines by winning Olympic gold medals in record fashion at Bird's Nest Stadium
More

Red Cross Makes Plea for Documentation on 'Disappeared'

1980s saw disappearance of thousands of people as consequence of political unrest; disappeared now include people who go missing in natural disasters and wars
More

WFP: Haiti Drought Cuts Harvests, Raises Prices, Food Crisis Looms

Drought has led to acute water shortages, shrivelled harvests and raised food prices, weakening fragile food supply and worsening hunger among poor
More

Colombia Rebel Pleads Guilty in US to Hostage-Taking

Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltran charged along with 18 other FARC members with crimes relating to 2003 kidnappings of Americans Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes, Keith Stansell
More