This is an in depth analysis of what the recent elections in El Salvador mean to the United States. I have broken down this piece in segments so it is easier to digest. While the United States is embroiled in made up controversies with the AIG bonuses, and while Barack Obama spends trillions of dollars in vain attempts to try and reignite this economy, there is something nefarious going on in Central America and throughout Latin America. In the late 70s and 80s, Nicaragua and El Salvador were frequently in the headlines because they represented the frontline of the cold war in Latin America. These countries were the bastions of Marxist-Leninist thought. Unlike Nicaragua, the 12 year civil war in El Salvador which began in 1979 and killed 75,000 people did not topple the government. However the 1992 ceasefire did begin a two decade long political battle for the soul of El Salvador that finally ended in victory for the ultra-leftist socialist party. Americans do not think what happens in these countries will ever affect America, but they are mistaken, and we better start paying attention.
Although the focus of this piece will be on El Salvador, the recent events in Nicaragua will help to understand what is going on in El Salvador and what it means to the United States. Both El Salvador and Nicaragua are following parallel paths.
Sunday, March 15, 2009 elections were held in war-torn El Salvador between the leftist candidate Mauricio Funes , the candidate for The Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberación Nacional, (FMLN) and Rodriguo Ávila of the conservative party La Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, (ARENA). Funes was swept into power with 51.27% of the vote. So why is this so important? And why should this be an important event to Americans? This is what I will attempt to discuss.
The Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberación Nacional, (FMLN) was created in 1980, through the fusion of five revolutionary Marxist-Leninist guerrilla groups. The FMLN was named after Agustín Farabundo Martí (1894 – 1932) who was an avid supporter of Leon Trotsky and who helped found the Central American Socialist Party in 1925. Martí joined and later broke with Sandino (the patron saint of the Sandinistas of which Daniel Ortega is the head) in his struggle against the U.S. in Nicaragua. Martí was the symbol of the revolution in El Salvador.
The FMLN in El Salvador preached Marxism-Leninism as did the FSLN in Nicaragua. Since the peasant population of El Salvador and Nicaragua remain predominately Catholic, poor and illiterate, the FMLN needed a method to disseminate its propaganda. Exit stage left - the Catholic Church. The FMLN used the Catholic Church by mixing Marxism-Leninism using progressive priests to reach the poor and impecunious peasants to spread its message. The tool they used was "liberation theology" The message was that Christ came for the poor, and it was the duty of the poor to overcome his oppressor – the rich "The class struggle is a fact; neutrality on this point is simply impossible "one liberation theologian wrote. It worked. Peasants began joining the ranks of the FMLN especially after the infamous death squads and corruption of the right wing.
As the internal ideology of the organization began to take shape, the FMLN formulated its position in Estrella Rojo:
The fundamental revolutionary objectives of the working class are 1) the liberation of the country with respect to imperialism, 2) the liquidation of the political and economic power of the landholding oligarchic bourgeoisie and of the bourgeoisie in general, and 3) the liquidation of the regime and the establishment of popular power (FPL, 1973).
Like the FSLN, The FMLN aligned itself with both Cuba and the Soviet Union.
For two decades, the FMLN has been gaining power in El Salvador, but this is the first time, the FMLN has won the presidency. 49 year old Mauricio Funes will be the first civilian president to have run for president from the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party since its 12 year war 1980-1992. Since the ceasefire in 1992, the FMLN has thrown off its revolutionary past and now describes itself as a social-democratic party, but this change has only been to gain political favor.
Rep. Diana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said
The fact is that what happens in this election will have impact on our relations, and it is not just something that the people can elect an anti-American government and expect everything to stay the same.
www.hertiage.org stated the following:
Several members of the U.S. Congress expressed deep concerns about the FMLN's violent, revolutionary past and its relations with terrorist organizations such as Colombia's FARC guerrillas and to Venezuela's populist, anti-American president Hugo Chávez. Members of Congress warned that if the FMLN aligned itself with designated sponsors of international terror like the FARC, such actions would have an adverse impact on remittance flows and the renewal of Temporary Protected Status in 2010.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization, (PLO), Hamas, and the Frente Sandinista Liberación Nacional, (FSLN),
have all tried to gain legitimacy through the ballot box after dubious pasts. The Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberación Nacional, (FMLN) is attempting to do the same. In all cases, the anti-American American activities continued under the radar.
The relationship between the FSLN (Nicaragua) and the FMLN (El Salvador)
November 5th, 2006, Daniel Ortega becomes president of Nicaragua once again in a quasi-legitimate election. He was determined not to lose the election like he had the previous three elections, so he devised a scheme with the opposition, the liberal party. Arnoldo Alemán, the ex-president of Nicaragua was currently under house arrest. In backroom deals commonplace in third world countries, Ortega made a deal to free Alemán and split the Liberal Party. By splitting the liberal party, Ortega could win the presidency with a lower percentage of the vote. He won by 38% of the vote.
When Nicaragua elected its Marxist-Leninist president, Daniel Ortega, head of the Frente Sandinista Liberación Nacional., (FSLN) I wrote a piece entitled Deconstructing Obama. In it I wrote the following:
Nicaragua represented one of the last remnants of the cold war. The 1972 earthquake that leveled the capital of Nicaragua, Managua marked the beginning of the end for the Somoza regime in the country. A growing discontent among the Nicaraguan people prompted the then fragmented anti-Somoza factions to coalesce helping the Frente Sandinista , (FSLN) led by Daniel Ortega to gain strength and the populace to begin an active rebellion against the Somoza regime. The Sandinistas gained power as a direct result of the Carter administration's funding of the Sandinistas. In July 1979, the Sandinistas entered Managua, and Somoza fled the country. Nicaragua, a former ally of the United States, quickly aligned itself with Castro's Cuba and Communist Russia. A former friend of the United States was now a bitter enemy. The Sandinista regime destroyed any remnants of Nicaragua's economy. Part of Ortega's success and rise to power came from promoting and advocating a philosophy of Marxism-Leninism mixed in with a perverted form of Catholicism called "Liberation Theology."
Ortega has replaced the Soviet Union with Iran as I discuss below, and his anti-American activities have continued. Some would like to portray him as a moderate. Ortega began to mollify his radical rhetoric in favor of a more moderate form of socialism but his Marxist-Leninist ideology remains intact as does his quest for power as evidenced by his the stratagems he used to win the presidential and municipal elections. Since Ortega's election, the Marxist-Leninist leader has been anything but moderate.
Ortega needed to retain control of Managua and the Sandinista candidate and former boxer Alexis Arguello was losing to the opposition party's candidate Eduardo Montealegre so Ortega sent out his thugs. Ortega's supporters and cadre of friends were spotted throughout Nicaragua. There were reports of violence, harassment of poll watchers, mobilization of mobs to intimidate voters, stuffing of poll boxes. He effectively eliminated two opposition parties before the Municipal elections, and he did not allow outside observers to monitor the elections. Ortega effectively stole the election.
Nicaragua and Iran
What is disturbing is the relationship between Iran and Nicaragua. On the Atlantic side of Nicaragua live the Mozquito Indians . Only 10% of Nicaraguans live there. The Mozquitos speak their own language and even have their own elected chief. The Mosquito Coast is isolated from the main population of Nicaragua. It is a sparsely-populated region of jungles and swamps and provides easy cover for nefarious activities. Monkey Point is located here and is the site of activity from the Iranian military.
As the San Antonio News reported:
As part of a new partnership with Nicaragua's Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, Iran and its Venezuelan allies plan to help finance a $350 million deep-water port at Monkey Point on the wild Caribbean shore, and then plow a connecting "dry canal" corridor of pipelines, rails and highways across the country to the populous Pacific Ocean. Iran recently established an embassy in Nicaragua's capital.
Ahmadinejad was present at the inauguration of Daniel Ortega and their relationship remains very close. When Ortega came to power the first time in 1979, he allied himself with Cuba and the Soviet Union. These two countries supplied him with copious amounts of money which he used to strengthen his military and build up an arsenal of weapons. Ortega remains an avowed enemy of the United States, and is now using Iran as its ally in its war against the United States.
Ortega believes in radical revolutionary change with Marxism-Leninism as its core. He therefore is enamored with Obama. Before the election, Ortega said the following:
"It's not to say that there is already a revolution under way in the U.S. ... but yes, they are laying the foundations for a revolutionary change."
Ortega's favorable opinion of Obama will not stop the Iranians in Nicaragua. It was Jimmy Carter who helped Ortega gain power in the 70s, and that didn't stop Ortega from pursuing his anti-American policies. Ortega believes in power, and like Hugo Chavez sees the United States as the imperialist that needs to be brought down.
Todd Bensman of Pajama Media travelled to Nicaragua to report on the Iran and Nicaraguan connection:
I found that no Iranian money or concrete planning had materialized for a promised new $350 million port on the eastern seaboard bay known as Monkey Point. The Iranians had only made at least a couple of easy day trips there and elsewhere around the country aboard helicopters. Neither had anything developed from Iranian promises to redevelop the dilapidated western port of Corinto, which supposedly would be linked to this Monkey Point port by a dry land canal. To date, no progress on either project has been reported. But the Iranian diplomatic mission that American national security experts most feared was sure up and humming with activity. It has steadily expanded its "staff," according to some scattered local Nicaragua news reports.
I also discovered that suspected Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives had been moving in and out of the country in unusual ways that assured secrecy. For instance, I was given ministry of migration documents that show a senior Nicaraguan minister had allowed 21 Iranian men to enter without passport processing. This was exactly the kind of activity that preceded the Argentina bombings in 1992 and 1994. It's the same kind of secretive movement going on in and out of Venezuela that gives current and former American counterterrorism officials — and Jewish communities in the region — the cold sweats.
In other words, Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in Nicaragua, and we should be concerned.
In Argentina, Iran used Hezbollah to blow up the Israeli embassy and a Jewish center killing 85 people and wounding many more. Argentina Still has outstanding arrest warrants for top Iranian officials and Revolutionary guards. .
Iran has also been in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela, but now the presence of the Iranians are much closer to our border. Given the chance, the Iranians will also set up shop in El Salvador.
Funes graduated from the "Colegio Centroamericano" where he studied philosophy and economics. His work after graduation was primarily in Journalism where he hosted local news shows critical of previous governments. During the Salvadoran Civil War, he interviewed many of the leftist rebels. It was from his association with these rebels that formed his left-wing ideology.
Funes campaigned as a moderate interested in social-democratic policies in the mold of Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The Salvadoran people liked his campaign rhetoric of "change." The opposition ran a relentless media blitz trying to instill fear in the people by showing them how Funes would turn El Salvador into a communist state, and that he would sell its very soul to Hugo Chávez. Arena portrayed Hugo Chávez as the future owner of El Salvador.
"Everything has changed. The FMLN has changed. People's perceptions have changed. Conditions have changed," said Funes
Funes' strategy was to direct his attention towards the north, "I want Central American integration and relations with the United States" he said. In his campaign, he attempted to distance himself from Hugo Chavez. In the end however, distancing himself from Hugo Chavez will be difficult indeed. FMLN mayors own a company called Alba Petróleos. Venezuela sells the company gasoline and diesel and a discounted price. The FMLN has been awash in cash as a result, some have said to the tune of 60 million dollars. This has gained them a clear political advantage in the elections.
Moreover, even if Funes describes himself as a moderate, his vice president Salvador Sanchez Céren is a hard-liner. Salvador Sanchez Céren has the blood of many on his hand and his responsible for ordering the assassination of 1,200 to 1,500 people including torture as a method of interrogation. The Washington Times reports:
One of the favorite interrogation techniques was to bludgeon presumed enemy spies with wooden clubs. They first assaulted their arms and legs, brutally breaking them in futile attempts to get them to talk – futile because they had nothing to confess. Eventually, they realized there was nothing forthcoming and they turned their clubs on the victims' skulls, beating them until they succumbed.
These were not ordinary murders; they were committed by guerrillas against other guerrillas on the orders of the commanding general in the San Vicente region, known in the FMLN as El Frente Para Central (The Auxiliary Central Front)
Funes has promised to raise taxes on the rich for better social programs, including rural health care and crime prevention. El Salvador experiences the highest murder rate in the world. Approximately 30% of El Salvador live below the poverty line, so this kind of populist rhetoric is appealing.
Funes' first order of business was to reestablish relations with communist Cuba and its dictator Raúl Castro after five decades of no relations. El Salvador cancelled diplomatic relations with the government of Cuba in 1959 when Fidel Castro took power.
Funes told Megavision television
Nothing traumatizing is going to happen here. We will not reverse any privatizations. We will not jeopardize private property. There is no reason at this moment for fear."
Of course one has to wonder what he means by "at this moment." Presently, Mauricio Funes is an unknown on to how he will govern. What is more of a concern is not how he will govern El Salvador, but what his relationship will be with the United States. He has already said that he wants to have an amicable relationship with the United States, and he wants to be trading partners. What will his relationship be with Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Amadinejad? Chavez has already infused the tiny country of El Salvador with copious amounts of cash. He will expect payback. And, what about Iran? Will Iran spread their influence to El Salvador like it is doing with Nicaragua? Will we even care?
The victory of Funes represents one more victory in a string of leftist victories taking place in Latin America by former guerrillas. The FMLN wants to portray itself as a moderate party; left of center, but its leadership is comprised of unrepentant ultra-left Marxist-Leninist rebels. The Vice-President Salvador Sanchez Cerén is no moderate and also a former guerrilla. Funes has begun relations with Cuba and it is only a matter of time before Iran tries to spread its influence into the country. Funes stated he would not be beholden to Hugo Chavez but this may have been campaign rhetoric. Chavez holds the purse strings, and to think Chavez will not want payback seems rather foolhardy. Chavez's influence in Central America is growing. Nicaragua is receiving 60%-70% of its annual crude oil from Chavez, and the program allows Ortega to pay only half the bill. Chávez's influence in El Salvador and Nicaragua is undeniable. Hugo Chavez's goal is hegemony over both Central and South America.
Barack Obama's understanding of the terrorist threat seems dubious at best. He won't use the name "enemy combatants" to describe former terrorists who were caught in battle. He sends videos to Iran in vain attempts to communicate to the Iranian leaders while the country continues to advocate the destruction of Israel and deny the holocaust. He gives legitimacy to the terrorist organization Hamas by trying to include them in Palestinian peace talks. This is no different than what Bill Clinton did with Arafat and the PLO. So, if we have terrorists roaming around El Salvador or Nicaragua why would we believe Barack Obama would do anything?
When we do have friends in Latin America, we snub them as Nancy Pelosi did with Colombia. Nancy Pelosi has continuously tried to stop free trade with Colombia. The Washington Post in their report, Drop Dead Colombia states:
THE YEAR 2008 may enter history as the time when the Democratic Party lost its way on trade. Already, the party's presidential candidates have engaged in an unseemly contest to adopt the most protectionist posture, suggesting that, if elected, they might pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared her intention to change the procedural rules governing the proposed trade promotion agreement with Colombia. President Bush submitted the pact to Congress on Tuesday for a vote within the next 90 legislative days, as required by the "fast-track" authority under which the U.S. negotiated the deal with Colombia. Ms. Pelosi says she'll ask the House to undo that rule.
When we do this, countries like Venezuela move in for the kill. Will the Democratic Party ever wake up?
The MS-13 gang, considered to be the most dangerous gang in Central America, whose base spreads from El Salvador to Honduras, has received hefty sums to smuggle foreign born terrorists to the United States. What will Funes do about the MS-13 gang?
Barack Obama does have an opportunity . Obama should take Funes up on his willingness to trade with the United States, but in doing so, he should monitor El Salvador for activity by Venezuela, Iran, Cuba or other enemies of the United States. Mexico's president Felipe Calderón won by a scant one percent of the vote. It is very possible that Mexico can turn to a leftist president in its next elections especially since the drug cartels are expanding their reach. The left turn of Central and South America is a new reality we need to face. Latin America has become the new breeding ground for terrorist activities. We need to expand our influence throughout Latin America, and at the same time we should monitor the activities of foreign governments in these countries.
We know terrorists are entering the United States via Mexico. The 9/11 commission report warned that terrorists would find different ways to attack the United States. President George W Bush and now President Barack Obama refuse to send troops to the border even though it represents an unprecedented security threat. Will we wake up to the new reality that Central America and South America can become the new launching pad for countries like Iran in their pursuit to destroy the West?