El Salvador goes to the polls on Sunday to elect a new President and for the first time in almost twenty years, the left has a real chance of victory.
It is due in a large part to candidate, Mauricio Funes, a former TV journalist. He has been leading opinion polls at the helm of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). He is a centre-leftist who says he will seek close ties with the United States. He has promised to spread wealth, crack down on tax evasion and invest in farming. But critics fear he will be a puppet of hard-line militants in the upper echelon of the party. His major rival and close behind in the opinion polls, the candidate for the long-term ruling party, ARENA, is Rodrigo Avila. He is a former national police chief, who owns private security companies. He says he is better placed to tackle the economic crisis. He promises to bring attract more foreign investment, create jobs and build homes for the poor. Memories of the civil war in the 1980s and early 90s, in which more than 70,000 people were killed, loom large in this election. Analysts say the vote will be a test of whether El Salvador has changed enough to overturn the single-party system that has governed it since the conflict. Or whether long-term rivalries will again reign and ensure the status quo.