Comparing the candidates' websites
Rodrigo Ávila and Mauricio Funes are in the midst of the campaign for the presidency of El Salvador, although elections are not until March 2009. I decided to take a look at how the campaigns are using the internet.
The campaign website of Rodrigo Ávila, www.rodrigopresidente.com, has a clean, traditional design with lots of use of multimedia -- videos, audio clips and photo galleries. There is a candidate's blog (although the most recent entry is from February). It could be any political candidate's website in the US (and one blogger pointed out the similarity in typefaces, color scheme and general layout with the website of Barrack Obama).
As far as I can tell, Funes does not have a separate campaign website. The website of the FMLN, fmln.org.sv, however, somewhat plays that role. Right now the opening page tells you that a new website is under construction, and invites you to click on a link to proceed to the old website. Unlike the slick polish of Avila's website, this FMLN site is pretty barren. Most bizarre is probably the two pictures chosen to be in a Flickr photo gallery. One picture is a Satanic-looking FMLN official (the mayor of Ciudad Delgado?) and the other is a picture of Mauricio Funes' head in a cowboy hat.
But this is not really the old FMLN web site. For whatever reason, the FMLN has removed almost all of the historical content from its website. One can't help but wonder if the FMLN and its candidate decided to remove the historical pictures of FMLN leaders pledging their solidarity to the Bolivarian revolution of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez or standing arm-in-arm with Fidel Castro. If you want to explore some archives of the old FMLN website, you can still do so through the means of the Internet archive "Wayback Machine" at this link.
In contrast, the web site of ARENA seems to revel in its past and its founding by Roberto D'Aubuisson. Audio addresses by D'Aubuisson are available on the front page of the web site, and there are photo galleries with historical figures from the parties' past. Avila's web site contains photos of the party's latest presidential candidate standing in front of a giant photo of D'Aubuisson or near the statue of the party's founder in ARENA headquarters.
What Funes lacks in a formal website, is compensated for in a legion of supporters who are blogging for him, creating YouTube videos, posting in forums and more. (To get the flavor, just type "Mauricio Funes presidente 2009" in Google). A good example is the YouTube channel of Funes supporter Francisquito1989.
Does the Internet make a significant difference in political campaigns in El Salvador? Probably not. Easy access to the Internet is not widespread in the country (perhaps only 637,000 users or slightly more than 10% of the population in 2007) and not where most people are turning for their information. Still, it is clear that the parties and their supporters are devoting time and resources to this cyber-campaign.