ARENA campaigns with Saca and fear

Similar to the strategy that worked in the 2004 balloting which elected Tony Saca, ARENA's current campaign is marked by use of explicit fear tactics and the smiling face of the popular Tony Saca. Campaigning across the country for mayors and legislators, Saca explicitly plays to the fears of Salvadorans.

One of the themes of the 2004 election was the warning that if the FMLN won the presidency, Salvadorans living in the US would be deported. That theme is being used again. This weekend, La Prensa reported that Saca played on the current uncertainty over the status of the TPS program which protects more than 200,000 Salvadorans from deportation. As he heads to Washington this week to meet with George Bush, Saca asserted that he will achieve stability in migration matters, but warned his listeners that "If they vote for the FMLN, it is sure that their family members will be deported."

On the campaign trail, Saca has been quick to assert that street protests in the country are orchestrated by the FMLN. Proceso quotes Saca telling the press:
The only guilty party for everything that happened today is the FMLN. Now I understand what "the struggle continues" means: the struggle continues blocking streets, the struggle continues disturbing productive labor, the struggle continues associating themselves with gangs, the struggle continues associating themselves with riots and disorder. It seems to me that the FMLN is taking these desperate actions for the inner struggle among their leaders after Mr. Handal's death. It is a pity that all we Salvadorans pay the price for these problems".

Also over this weekend, gangs torched two buses for the failure of the bus companies to pay the "tax" demanded by the gangs. Without proof or a completed investigation, Saca has already linked the gang actions to the FMLN. El Diario quotes Saca saying today:
"These gangs that burned those micro-buses are related to a political party," and "You know the clear nexus of the FMLN with the gangs... The pre-election violence, the burning of buses or micro-buses or the disorders that close the streets for supposed protests for water ... basically come from people related to the FMLN"

Another type of fear tactic comes from Saca's participation today in ceremonies commemorating the 14th anniversary of the death of Roberto D'Aubuisson, founder of ARENA. For many elements of Salvadoran society, the message of honoring the man who ordered the assassination of Oscar Romero and orchestrated death squad activities in the country, could not be more clear. Campaigning over the weekend, Saca told a rally that "We leave from here to March 12 [elections] to work for the principles that our founder, Roberto D'Aubuisson left us: peace, progress and liberty."

At the same time, the ARENA campaign is trying to convince voters that electing ARENA candidates is necessary to help the popular president govern the country. Under the slogan "Hagamos equipo" -- "We make a team" -- Saca seeks to improve ARENA's representation among mayors and deputies in the National Assembly.

For example, in a rally in La Libertad, as reported in El Diario Saca told the crowd:
"A vote for Chamba [the ARENA candidate for mayor] is a vote for me. All the promises that he has told you we are going to accomplish, that is my commitment."

All polls surrounding the election suggest that the results will be close. Saca and ARENA are reverting to the tactics of fear and a smiling face which have swayed the results in the past.


Anonymous said…
I came upon my first up close FMLN blocked street situation on a street in Merliot, near the Antiguo Cuscatlan Municipal Market. THAT'S not designed to instill fear?
Tim said…
I don't necessarily think that blocking traffic is an effective political tactic, but what about it generates fear rather than annoyance? And what led you to conclude that it was an FMLN orchestrated event?

I acknowledge that there have been street protests where elements have gotten violent and destroyed property, thrown rocks, and even caused injury. In my view the FMLN should forcefully denounce violence in those situations while at the same time upholding the right of the population to demonstrate to show grievances with the government.
Anonymous said…
Fear? It's an unfamiliar side street. A barricade is going up, rope across the street, guys with large chunks of concrete and paving stones. Everyone decked out in red Che Guevara and "Shafik Vive" T-shirts. I got my family in the car. I felt extremely relieved that it was early in the event and we could make a quick right (pardon the expression) and get the heck out of there. I need a few more election campaigns under my belt before such a thing becomes an just an annoyance. By the way, I have seen numerous ARENA groups in action. None ever blocked my path or acted in an aggressive or threatening manner. For the record, I read your blog every morning. James
Tim said…
I appreciate your comments. There's no doubt that elections stir a lot of passion in El Salvador. Living in the US, I wish that elections here would stir a little more passion.

Thanhs for being a regular reader.
Anonymous said…
Antonio Saca as president of El Salvador is Army Commander-in-Chief.
And the Constitution law says that a member of the army cannot make policy.
He is violating the constitution
Anonymous said…
So another victory in the name of corruption... Hoorah for ARENA. I'm so sick and tired of Tony Saca trying to make a link between gangs and FMLN. Why not blame the civil war, why not blame the lack of jobs, why not blame the raggidy society that ARENA has lead for fifteen years? If that ridiculous radiohost we have as president dare say that FMLN has links with gangs, then anyone else could take the liberty and say that ARENA and the elite are the ring-leaders of the money laundering, drug trafficking of the country, as also function as the suppliers to the maras to keep the "merchandize" on circulation. Ack, I'm tired of how gullible the people from El Salvador are. I was talking to some workers that were laboring near my vecinity, and the talk of the "elections" surfaced. Generally, everyone talking mustered discontent with ARENA and the "elite", but no one showed signs of voting for FMLN (the only real alternative, seeing how the major elections seem to polarize), why? Because people are afraid that if FMLN wins, US will deport Salvadorans, remitances will stop flowing... This fear, this act of social terror, was instilled by ARENA and some of it's US "henchmen" (i.e. Otto Reich, Dan Burton), and that seems to be enough to sway the common laborers who don't know better.

Also, I find it abominal that Duabisson is still remembered... "peace, progress, liberty" for whom? Obviously not for the majority of the labor force, obviously not for those of El Mozote... So for whom? For the landlords, again?

In my opinion, USA should stop meddling in such way with international politics, it is things like this that really breed the anti-"American" sentiment on this day and age. I as an Latin American, am tired of being USA's "back yard", part of the Banana Republics, and have Pinochets and Noriegas rise to power.

By the way, if I'm not mistaken, US aid to El Salvador was cut by $15 million, there have been talks of changing some "policy" that basically gave protection to Salvadorean migrants in El Salvador from being immediately deported (due to the civil war), there have been talks of TPS not being renewed... but wait, how can this be happening if ARENA is the one in power? Seems like ARENA's scare tactis are in a way begining to backfire, showing that their seat on the "throne" isn't a guarantee of anything. USA will change it's immigration policy as they see "fit", and this will come with deportations...
Anonymous said…
Now there's irony. You want the US to stop "meddling" but not to cut "aid." Also, if my Spanish doesn't fail me, the FMLN (or its political bedfellows) runs San Salvador and numerous other communities. If any place is raggety, don't they share the blame? For all the (political) hot air blowiing, I would just like to make a trip into the city without seeing mounds of litter, ruining my wheel rim on a crater-sized pothole, or experiencing the unmistakable bouquet of sewage in the gutter. Why hasn't the current alcalde, who, incidently, looks pretty slick himself on all the spiffy new billboards, tackled these obvious problems?
Salvadoearns are amazingly resilient and savvy people. I have a distinct feeling that they can perceive reality and political rhetoric. Meanwhile, this is the wildest electon capaign I've ever seen and I'm taking notes.
Best wishes, James
Anonymous said…
We´re tired of all that thing..

I need the elections right now!!! All about that is so stressful.
Anonymous said…
Let me tell you about an specific example of the subliminal messages of this current campaign. ARENA and Tony Saca is telling the people that a vote for the party is a vote for him. Under my interpretation, I can only smell a message that spells something like this: If FMLN achieves power, the goverment will collapse, meyham will come, so you better watch your backs, and vote for what is right. I thinks its bad to try and mess elections and goverment because of fear. but who is to blame?

I think that the FMLN itself. I am a true critic of the goverment, and I am a leftist, but I am as trong believer of a constructive critizism and oposition. FMLN seems to fail in this, and relay only in poor tactics that give no good results. There is yet a spot vaccant for an inteligent left party, that proposes and contrcutivly critizises insted of just making noise.
To James:

I think you are a professor in a local school by the way. Wouldnt that be a coincidence. Well, in a response to your message I have the following to add:

El Salvador is the biggest receptor of Spanish (As in Spain) aid, in the whole world. Spanish aid constitutes the second biggest in the country. have they menddeled in our affairs, in the past 30 years? I can assure you not. That is a clear example of free giving. Even though it is arguable to say that they are somehow paying their damage from colonial times. Anyhow, it would still show a level of responsible comittment. Their goverment is currently socialist, and eventhough they help us the same, as the previous goverment, which was right-winged.

Concerning the mayor of our city: Should I remaind you that 90% of the street care is delegated to the "MOP" who is in charge of the county´s road system itself. There is a conflict of responsabilities between the city´s goverment and the central goverment. The fact that Rivas looks like a "slick" doesn´t imply he is so.


*Mixture of Zapatista (EZLN) philosophy
Anonymous said…
There is no such thing as "foreign aid" without strings attached.
Does MOP have the responsibility for for picking up garbage?
Please accept my best wishes to the people of El Salvador as the election campaign enters its final days. James
Anonymous said…
To James:

I think you might be right about the strings atached to aid. But what is the nature of the commitment and responsabilities aquired by acepting such aid. I bet that the "American" aid is the worst to take, but yet the most generous. Ironic isn't it?

The MOP is not in charge of the trash, but isn't trash an issue in most developing countries? And San Salvador has a problem, the municipal workers happen to be under union rules, so they give trouble in that sens.

Anonymous said…
El Salvador is one of the few countries that has relations with Taiwan, and as such Taiwan is one of El Salvador's most generous "benefactors", but in no way do they meddle with El Salvador's "life" to the scale that US has (which in a way is "terrorific". As long as Taiwan can freely operate businesses in here, count with Central American votes in international assemblies they are content (considering that if FMLN rose to power, they could just as well say no to Taiwan and switch to PoC). On the other hand, US manipulates governments, "helps" on the use of fear tactics to manipulate elections, has placed puppet governments, etc, etc. in other words, it sort of outragers the whole concept of an "independant" country being a sovereign state.

So to correct you, in no place did I state that I "critizice US political meddling, but wish to retain USAID". No, because frankly I'd like for El Salvador to pay it's international debt, unite with other Central American nations, enter the threshold of DEVELOPED country state, and excersice it's national rule without international intervention (but this is far from happening). What I said on my previous post was commenting on things that WERE happening: TPS supposed to not be renewed (which didn't happen), a desire for a 20 year policy that protected from immediate deportation being revoked, aid to El Salvador being cut by millions. What I wanted to portray by saying this, is that imo, ARENA in power doesn't necessarily guarantee that all of US's foreign policies (or all those that are applicable to the country) wont have a negative impact on us. Clearly, though, it's to the best interest to Cold War-menatality filled US to keep ARENA as the political Head.

So, I'd say that Taiwanese aid with El Salvador is a relationship with "strings" attached, but I beg to differ when talking about US "relation" with Latin America, considering the more than bumpy road...
Anonymous said…
I am european and live her for quite some time.. waht a mess is this country! Right and left lack vision , are corrupt, institutions don´t work, police is corrupt. Education is of a very low standard. People lack curiosity, don´t read, don´t open the minds for nothing. Eat in the foodcourts!No dialogue, no interesses with the young people. What they do excellent is fucking around and leave. The evangelicals do their marketing well and steel money from the poor, while promising all kinds of bullshit and the catholic church is criminal for prohibiting anticonceptives. While they themselves are all abusers. It was here 20 years ago mucha and much better.
Like all latin american countries they need e dictator like Pinochet. Ever lived in that country?? it is the best of the whole region.Thanks to him.
Unknown said…
For the European guy, Chile is still a poor country. In spite of the great transnational companies that have settled in Santiago there is extreme poverty in Chile. And no, we do not need a dictatorship in El Salvador. Although, if Avila wins, we would have that threat of the 20th century where the military rule the government. I do not want a police to govern our country. He's been in a public position and did nothing successful for the country. I admire his guts to run for president though but he would never be the perfect candidate for our country that is in need and specially with this worldwide economic crisis.

Cheers. from Los Angeles