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Power at last for ex-Salvadoran rebels

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Power at last for ex-Salvadoran rebels


The FMLN, or Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, went from rebel group to political party in 1992. This is when the country’s 12-year civil war against US-backed government forces ended with a peace accord signed in Mexico City. The fighting left 75,000 people dead and 8,000 missing.

Funes’ victory has long been a dream of the former Marxist rebels; they campaigned hard to win power at the ballot box, but lost all three presidential polls that took place after the signing of that peace agreement. The rebels took up arms in the 1970s but formed the FMLN in 1980 when right-wing death squads murdered left-wing activists and clerics who favoured reform, including the Archbishop of San Salvador. The massacre of 40 people at his funeral was one of the events that led to a full-scale war. Funes is a former journalist, and observers say he developed left-wing sympathies while covering the war. One of his brothers, a leftist activist, also died in the conflict. However, nowadays, Funes describes himself as a centre-leftist, much closer to Brazil’s moderate leader than the more radical President of Venezuela. On the campaign trail he vowed to make El Salvador more self-reliant. He says if the economy has been able to grow it is thanked to families overseas who send back money. “This boosts the internal market,” says Funes, “but it’s a flow of dollars we don’t generate on our own. It comes from the US, based on the dynamics of the US economy and poverty has not been reduced.” Two and a half million Salvadorans – about a quarter of the population – work in the US, and they send back the equivalent of 2.7 billion euros to their families. That is about 17 percent of GDP. Funes says while he wants to continue to have close relations with Washington, he will focus on investing in local jobs and farming to reduce a dependence on imported food. His opponents, however, fear that he could simply become a puppet of more radical veterans of the FMLN.

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