BARACK O’FUNES: Will the FMLN’s candidate be a Salvadoran Obama?

Political analysis by: Carlos X. Colorado

The rise (or fall) of Barack Obama’s presidential ambitions may have unexpected consequences in the other American hemisphere country fighting in the Iraq war. The selection of journalist Mauricio Funes to be the FMLN candidate in El Salvador raises interesting parallels between the two would-be presidents. Messrs. Obama and Funes are both in their 40s and their key appeal to voters is as intergenerational and bipartisan outsiders promising to reform their respective political systems. The question arises of whether, if Mr. Obama gets to Washington, Señor Funes can ride his coattails in San Salvador. An Obama presidency would eviscerate the principal argument being readied against Mr. Funes – that the 48 year-old is too inexperienced to be the Salvadoran president. That argument would seem almost laughable if Obama, who is two years younger than Funes, was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States (the Salvadoran election will take place two months after presidential inauguration in the U.S.). In fact, Obama’s election could bolster Mr. Funes, by extension of the argument advanced by the current President, Tony Saca, who made his status as a kindred spirit of George Bush a central element of his appeal to the Salvadoran electorate. (Funes could argue that Pres. Obama needs him as much as Pres. Bush has needed Mr. Saca.)

The similarities between the two presidential aspirants are striking. Both men first registered in the political radar of their respective countries within about half a year of each other. Mr. Obama dazzled a national audience with his soaring rhetoric at the Democratic Convention in July 2004. The then-43 year-old Illinois state legislator demonstrated his oratorical prowess when he railed against the idea of a USA made up of “red states” and “blue states.” In February 2005, the then-45 year-old Mr. Funes became a cause célèbre in El Salvador when his politically charged style led to his dismissal from his job as a commentator in a San Salvador television station. In both instances, the attention garnered by these events propelled the subjects to a level of political currency that made both irresistible presidential tender for the next election. In September 2007, the FMLN announced that Funes would be its presidential contender for the 2009 election. After four consecutive defeats in as many presidential elections and long maligned as a rigid ideological machine, the FMLN offered Funes as a sign that it was ready to be pragmatic and appeal to voters beyond the its own bases. In January 2008, Barack Obama won the Iowa Caucus. Also reaching out beyond his party’s faithful, Obama told supporters that, “You came together as Democrats, Republicans and independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, we are one people and our time for change has come.” Both men have set themselves up as the natural alternatives to young conservative presidents whose orthodox politics have made them rather polarizing figures.

Of course, what happens next in these two stories has not yet been written. But, what is undisputed is that Barack Obama has a reasonable chance of being the Democratic Party’s nominee for President and, in that eventuality, the American voters would get their say on the prospect of an Obama presidency in November of this year. What transpires in the interim could be entirely different from what is postulated here. In fact, two months from now, we might be better served by thinking about similarities between Hillary Clinton and Ana Vilma de Escobar (but we will defer that discussion). The point is that Obama is on the scopes, and the prospect bears implications. If the FMLN is smart, they will capitalize on that potential to gain political credibility for Funes by inviting Obama compares (after all, Salvadorans may be attracted to the Democrats in the U.S. – and this may be an effective way to ward off the Hugo Chávez comparisons ARENA would probably rather invoke). And if ARENA is smart, they will avoid painting themselves into a corner by building their case against Funes around his youth and inexperience, only to set up that argument for a potential catastrophic failure in the event that the U.S. makes Mr. Funes’ younger counterpart its commander-in-chief.


Anonymous said…
How about Hilary Vilma de Clinton Escobar?

Maybe Pastor Toby Miguel de Huckabee. Get those two pastors together and you'd have a real olde time Bible thumping, soul saving, revival meeting.

PTL Brothers and Sisters
Anonymous said…
Christ, why is a right wing propagandist even trying to compare the two.
Keep U.S. and Salvadoran politics seperate. Although the left has become more centrist in El Salvador, and maybe the right a little also. They are still pretty much opposites. Meanwhile, in the STATES, There is as much difference between democrats and republicans as there are between coke and pepsi.
Anonymous said…
"Keep U.S. and Salvadoran politics seperate."

Why? Critical thinking demands independent analysis. Such a rigid rule would stifle it.

"Although the left has become more centrist in El Salvador, and maybe the right a little also. They are still pretty much opposites."

Maybe so. But, this has nothing to do with the subject of my piece, which was about the campaign style and thematic "visions" of the candidates. This is an example of a subject Tim has covered in his blog, which is the polarization of Salvadoran politics. This goes beyond the mere juxtaposition of distinct ideologies that the reader supposes. It has reached a point where ideology precedes and supercedes free thinking: anyone espousing a suspect thought is labeled "a right wing propagandist." It is corrosive, and it will keep many good people out of politics and only lead to a gloomy panorama, where ordinary Salvadorans feel shut out.
Anonymous said…
I dont like the comparison either, because Bush is not representing the left at all, and Saca I m not sure that he knows any history
Anonymous said…
All I know is that I´m tired of this ARENARCONAZIS governments and I´m going to vote for Mauricio wich is the best candidate ever...

You all salvadorean people should do the same.

In the coming elections let´s give a chance to the hope, vote for Mauricio Funes.
Anonymous said…
I think your comparison is Great. A few years ago no one could ever image what this journalist, fired from being political inconvenient, was capable of, after being ask by the president to stop broadcasting. He has the courage to stand up for the ideals, for the very principles of liberty, and because he stand up, then a few other stand up, and because a few others were standing up then a few thousand stand up and then a few millions are standing up! Not just across the country, but from California, to San Salvador, from Sydney to Washington, from Barcelona to Paris all across the globe people are feeling the change that’s coming to El Salvador.
After a multimillion military aid (a million dollars a day) that Reagan deploy in El Salvador soil in the 80’s and the murder of the country highest clerical figure, what’s happening in the States cannot be divorce to what’s happening in El Salvador and vice versa even if you like it or not.

Anonymous said…
I still see no similarities between Obama and Funes. Funes started to ride the wave of free journalism expression after the war, If he would've had entrevista del dia in 1983, he would've been dezcuartizado.Mid 90s he rubbed truth in everyones faces, when it was allowed. "Thematic visions"-No comparison either.
By stating the thematic visions are similar is the same stating that what the Salvadorans and N. Americans have been living through since post 911 have been the same.
Re: My comment of being a RW Propagandist was facetious statement and was angled more at the fact that the right that read your post will only strengthen their already made decision that Barack is a socialist.