Saca as populist

Proceso, the publication of the University of Central America, has made its assessment of president Tony Saca's first year in office as one marked by a populist image enhanced by his media skills:
About the style of the Saca administration it is necessary to say that his first year at the head of the Executive power has been widely covered by the media. The President has been a marketing product in this sense: his constant presence in the news media, many interviews, many pictures, a lot of smiling. Practically everything was arranged for Saca to look his best before the cameras. The most important news media -some more than others- were part of this game of images and advertising. The President, of course, was into character, doing what he knows best: to strike a pose before the cameras, to display a friendly smile, and to say what everyone likes to hear. Certainly, to judge by the sympathy that he awakens inside a considerable portion of the population, it could be said that his performance as a media personality has been more than successful.

However, not everything has been about smiling and about being kind during this first year. His populist side has come along with an authoritarian face that sometimes has even reminded us about the worst moments of the Flores administration. The Saca style has created a dangerous combination of populism and authoritarianism that, if this remains the same for the next four years, it will become one more obstacle for the development of democracy in El Salvador.

In Proceso's assessment, the Saca administration has primarily favored business interests, and has made little progess to date in improving the economy or advancing its much-trumpeted social programs.


Tim said…
The examples given by the Proceso article were sending troops to Iraq and the promotion of Flores as candidate to head the OEA. I might have added the way CAFTA was passed in a wee hours of the morning session of the National Assembly.

But I would generally not agree with the "authoritarian" label other than in connection with the completely failed anti-gang policy. And even with that policy, Saca does his best not to appear authoritarian by constantly stressing his willingness to meet around the table with any of his opponents. The willingness to meet is mostly for the cameras, since I don't see any shift from the usual ARENA policies.
Boli-Nica said…
Geez, things have changed. If the worse an ARENA president can be accused of is passing CAFTA in a sneaky way, it sure beats running death squads.

Maybe Huntington was right about strong, and well-organized parties being important for long term stability and development. I don't know if its sad, encouraging or just twisted that the FMLN and ARENA end up being the ones proving this.