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Funes Wins Salvadoran Presidential Election

In El Salvador, former television journalist Mauricio Funes promised to unite his country, following his victory in El Salvador's presidential election that ended two decades of conservative rule in the crime-plagued Central American country.

Mr. Funes ran as a member of the former rebel group Farabundi Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN. He claimed victory late Sunday over Rodrigo Avila, who represented the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA party. Incumbent President Elias Antonio Saca was barred from seeking another five-year term.

With the FMLN's victory, El Salvador joined a growing number of Latin American countries that have turned left in recent years. Some, such as Venezuela, have tense relations with the United States, but President-elect Funes has been quoted as saying he wants strong relations with the U.S.

State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood Monday said the U.S. congratulates El Salvador's people for a "very free, fair and democratic election."

Wood also said the U.S. looks forward to working with the new Salvadoran government on their mutual bilateral agenda and that the U.S. wants to "specifically congratulate" Mr. Funes and his opponent for participating in the election and respecting the results.

Four million Salvadorans were eligible to vote. The country is wracked by poverty, and many people depend heavily on remittances from family members working in the United States.

El Salvador has been under conservative rule since the end of the 12-year civil war in 1992. Some 75,000 people died in the conflict between leftist guerillas and the government, before it ended with the signing of peace accords.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.