Throughout El Salvador, voters are going to the polls to elect a new President.
Tens of thousands of residents who emigrated to the US have flown home to take part in the election. For the first time since civil war ended almost 20 years ago, the Left has a real chance of victory. Recent opinion polls put its candidate Mauricio Funes in the lead. A former TV presenter, his politics are more to the centre than many of his party colleagues. He says he will stay friends with big business and Washington and still help the poor. His opponent, former police chief Rodrigo Avila, stands on his party’s record. ARENA has been in power since the end of war in the early 1990s. “Poverty has decreased, the middle class has grown, we have the best roads, airport and ports in central America and we have a stable economy,” he said. Analysts say whoever wins has a difficult task ahead. The country is in economic freefall. With the US its major market, demand for its manufactured goods is down. So is the money its emigrant sons and daughters send back home. Crime is rampant. Funding in education and healthcare has been too low for too long. To make matters worse, neither candidate will be able to win a majority in parliament and so will need to ally with smaller parties to carry out decisions.