Joaquin Villalobos interview in Miami Herald

Today the Miami Herald published an interview with Joaquin Villalobos, a former guerilla commander of the People's Revolutionary Army ("ERP") segment of the FMLN during El Salvador's civil war who now lives in Oxford, England:
Q. Is the situation in El Salvador cause for concern?

A. It is. Some called me a traitor and others called me a fool when I warned about the dangers of polarization. The right and this government have made many mistakes. I said to myself: The Frente will come to power and it will last five years. I supported the idea that ARENA should be punished. But because of my work, I am asked to comment on what is happening in Venezuela, in Ecuador, in Nicaragua. And I made an association with what was happening in my country and these other countries. And then I worried: This is going to be much longer than five years, when you look at it in context. It is not just a situation that can alter the political balance in El Salvador, but it can become the situation that sends the country to Never Never Land.

Q. But I see prosperity in El Salvador. There is development, less poverty.

A. When I was young and in school and someone asked you: What does El Salvador produce? You had an automatic response: El Salvador produces coffee, sugar, cotton, shrimp. Now, even though I boast of knowing my country well, I don't know what it produces. The only fact that jumps up at me is that El Salvador exports people. And here comes the vicious cycle that is apparently positive but really fatal. The export of people has drained this country of its labor force. And all of the signs of progress you see are the result of that. We abandoned the land, we export people, we get another income -- the remittances -- and those remittances have depleted our labor capabilities and the imagination of our business class. And there is a social consequence of this apparent progress. We signed the peace, exported people and have become a violent society because of the disintegration of community and family. And this cycle is still open. The gangs are a part of this phenomenon. What you saw is the 10 square kilometers of peace. The route from the airport to the city. The most vital challenge of this country, and that is why it is a problem if the Frente wins, is to reinvent the economy.

Q. Why is it a problem?

A. Because we are not going to have a constructive government if the Frente wins. We are going to have a demanding government. This country needs someone that can put it back on track, and what we are going to get if they win is not those who can put it on track but those who will make the demands. Because what you have to do is a complete redesign in terms of technology, politics, social issues, operational processes, and the Frente is not capable. It is a demanding force that will be casting about for a guilty party, which is the cycle that has opened in Venezuela, in Ecuador, in Bolivia. And conceivably the Frente could manage, like others have, to build an electoral majority and win several elections by incorporating disenfranchised groups. And if this lasts 10 years, I don't know what could happen to us. We will not be viable as a country. We will not come to a war, but we will have a much bigger polarization.

Q. What about the right?

A. The Frente is not responsible for our current predicament. The right is responsible, and the situation is serious. It was a very stupid thing to play the polarization game. They thought nothing was going to happen. They used the Communists and its leader, Shafik Handal, to scare people. They played with something that was going to disappear. So Handal dies, Hugo Chávez comes to power and starts to throw dollars around. ARENA gets old. It is tired. A global economic crisis comes. The scary leader is dead and there is a new candidate, Mauricio Funes. It was the perfect star alignment. And now there is no option.
As the 2009 presidential election approaches, Villalobos has been speaking out from England warning against the risks if his former comrades in the FMLN take power. For example, he penned a recent piece in El Diario de Hoy, titled Who Would Govern, Funes or the FMLN?. In that editorial he argues that the FMLN is under the control of the Communist Party and that Mauricio Funes will be incapable of governing independently of the communist leadership of the party. The communists will direct the country because of the number of legislators and other FMLN members who will be in government and will take their orders from the leadership and not Funes.

The western press likes to quote Villalobos, this former revolutionary turned English academic and consultant on peace processes. As Salvadoran blogger Hunnapuh recounts in a post called Joaquin Villalobos - a damned history(in Spanish), the brilliant guerrilla tactician is also infamous for having ordered the execution in 1975 of El Salvador's revolutionary poet, Roque Dalton. Villalobos, a leader of the ERP, ordered the execution of Dalton on trumped-up charges of being an agent of both the CIA and Cuba on May 10, 1975. In reality, Dalton was Villalobos' chief political rival. The killing led to bitter internal fights and schisms in the movement. There has never been a legal proceeding to judge those responsible for Dalton's killing, despite a long running campaign by his son Juan Jose Dalton calling for justice.

There is a Youtube video here of Villalobos describing the FMLN's aims during the civil war.

The viewpoints Villalobos is espousing now are the same ones he was espousing in the last presidential election. An article in Proceso, five years ago describes Villalobos current role in El Salvador's electoral politics:
Villalobos knows well how to take advantage of his image as a convinced military and Social-Democratic strategist. Although inside the country just a few take it seriously; abroad, he has been able to put himself over his actual capacities and talent. In El Salvador things have not gone so well for him, mainly because of his intentions to support to the right wing and ARENA in their strategy to discredit to the FMLN. Whenever he has been able to, the ex- commander "Atilio" has pointed his darts against his old comrades. The most recent of these attacks is titled “The ayatola Handal and the hysteric materialism".

Once again Schafik Handal has become his target. Peculiarly, this text by Villalobos reveals more things about himself than about Handal. At least, it reveals part of his capacity to change history in accordance with his own convenience. In his last diatribe against Handal, it turns out that Villalobos was, during the seventies and the eighties, a true revolutionary man, neither fearful nor collaborative with the reactionary governments of the time. In this writing, far from abjuring from his past in the guerrilla, he vindicates it and he feels honored because of the fact that once he took the arms and subscribed the motto of the ERP, "The peace of the rich ones is over, the war of the people has begun", which became public when two national guards that were at the Benjamin Bloom Hospital were assassinated (in March of 1972). Villalobos does not say it, but that was the same ERP that kidnapped and assassinated Roberto Poma in 1977, and the one that two years before had judged and assassinated Roque Dalton. That is the ERP that Villalobos seems to feel proud of : a dogmatic, radical organization, an enemy of bourgeoisie and imperialism, that is, nothing to do with a Social-Democratic movement, and not willing to negotiate or to agree with the enemy at some point. Then, what is it? Had not Villalobos been the eternal faithful lover of democracy? Was not he a Social Democrat since his humble beginnings as a left-wing militant? Villalobos -and those who emulated him- should stop playing the role of the repented revolutionary and dedicate himself to the actually useful social duties, instead of following the anti-Communist game of the right-wing with fallacious arguments and a meaningless rhetoric.
As I've noted before, there are many open questions about the 2009 elections in El Salvador including:
  • Is the FMLN changing?
  • Can Mauricio Funes act independently of the party leadership which selected him as his candidate?
  • Does El Salvador have democratic institutions and societal forces which would prevent it from experiencing some of the flaws of a Hugo Chavez or a Daniel Ortega while still charting a course towards the left?

But I'm not sure that Villalobos contributes much towards understanding the answer to those questions.


Unknown said…
Tim is right on thinking of villalobos as a brilliant strategist. I am not a fan of the fmln but we must agree that being a commander of it during the war required genius. Why? because they were not only running an army while running awar from the full power of the State, but also they were running away from their own allies and friends (cases in point Roque Dalton and Marcial with his 82 stab wounds to his common law commander wife).

So they were genius in military guerrilla terms.

And villalobos has commited great errors (the San Andres pact) and Dalton's untimely death, yes, but they really do not detract much from his analysis. His last two articles have been a little exagerated in parts I think, but there is a lot of truth there.

I dont believe he is stuck in his rethoric of five years ago necessarily. He has updated his comments, they are not the same as with handal's era. The problem is that the people running the fmln ARE THE SAME as during handals days. They are after all his disciples, not much can change in that aspect. Remember that handal died coming from Evo Morales' investment of power ceremony. And the FMLN keeps on running all its ideological and client-like relationships with Venezuela, just like Evo. Not much change there.

Regarding Tim's questions:

Is the FMLN changing?

We cannot really tell from campaign promises now, can we? We must wait and see. But I dont think that the Comision Politica is changing its ideals. Look at who is running for VP. A guy who gave his ok to the execution of at least hundreds, if not thousands, of guerrilla combatants at the hands of Mayo Sibrian. Not much change there....

Can Mauricio Funes act independently of the party leadership which selected him as his candidate?

No. He cannot. The whole of the Diputados will not be to his command but at that of the Comision Politica and, worse of all, the darth vader of the FMLN, RAMIRO.

There are two posibilities, one in the real and one in the utopic.

There will be internal strife between the fmln's alcaldes and diputados with an independent executive run by Funes, or two, they are already in agreement and have not been lying to us...jajajaajajaj.

Does El Salvador have democratic institutions and societal forces which would prevent it from experiencing some of the flaws of a Hugo Chavez or a Daniel Ortega while still charting a course towards the left?

No it does not. At least not legal and operating ones. These opposition foreces would have to be formed instantly by the reaction to failed economic policies. And these forces would not be as passive and would not withstand all patiently, like the opossition in Venezuela has for more than a decade.

Why? because of the dire conditions in which a world under economic crisis would throw an El Salvadro that is being run like Venezuela or Bolivia are being run currently.

Be prepared for the second wave.......get yourself a nice board to cling to.
Brian said…
nice analysis chishi....
one thing I am always curious about is: with all the break away fmln politicians, why have these figures yet to form another more centrist party? Are centrist politicians within the fmln non existent?
dave said…
The one question you do not pose Tim is; Does the FMLN need to change?
The party has consistently criticised the “Washington Consensus” economic model which has brought such dire consequences to so many of Latin Americas people and is a supporter of alternative regional integration based on a more humane development model. Unlike Chishi’s “brilliant strategist” who strategised jumping onto the neoliberal bandwagon with the likes of Calderon Sol and Colombias narcopresident Alvaro Uribe and in doing disappearing down the historical plughole where such opportunists belong.

The enormous amount of money the UN invested in Villalobs’ expensive Oxford University education (under the peace treaty’s reintegration program for FMLN leaders) was a tragic waste, witnessed by his pathetic and lightweight analyses of current political situations based on a vindictive and revengeful bitterness for his former comrades. Other “brilliant strartegist” from the ERP, like Ana Guadelupe Martinez, have tried to cushion their demise within the welcoming arms of the PDC, the party whose Mayors the ERP targeted and murdered during the Civil War (and that the PDC used as a reason for not cooperating with the FMLN in the early post war years).

And Chishi’s “flaws of a Hugo Chavez” appear to be more based on the flaws of his own ideologically and mainstream media generated delusions than they are to having any relation to reality. The sad fact, for Chishi, that Chávez has been consistently elected by large majorities of the Venezuelan populace in free and fair elections (I have myself been an international election observer in Venezuela) does not seem to disturb his perverse ideologically warped world vision.
Well “God forbedring” as they say in my country (get well soon).

Dave Watson
Unknown said…
Dear Dave:

So much sound and fury in your exposition that you omitted reading Tim's posting and assume a lot, and very quickly and with lots of oversight, from my answers.

It was Tim who called Villalobos a Brilliant Guerrilla Strategist, not me. I do agree with him, though. And perhaps you did too, when Villalobos was still in the mountain, perhaps you even went out of your way to go see him speak at some university in europe or some carecen facility in the states.

It was also Tim who posed the question about El Salvador being run with the "Flaws of a Hugo Chavez" not me. I merely pasted and copied the question and answered it. And yes, I do agree with Tim on Chavez' flaws.

Oh and Dave, your observing one elction in Venezuela is the same case of the mexican joke about a gringo who went to mexico for a three day holiday and went and wrote a book on Mexico.

I, on the other hand, did spend 5 years in Venezuela, living and observing the politics, since one year before chavez, up to the coup d'etat, passing through 5 elections and an oil strike and lots, lots of unrest. Witnessing the continuous degradation of that country, its institutions and its economy.

And all that, without a US embargo being enforced.

Chavez has no grater enemy than himself.

And it pains him so.......

And it seems that it also pains you too......

the mother of all pains, for the mother of all blogs....jajajajajaj
dave said…
Well Brian, while you are fawning over Chishi’s “nice analysis”?!! I will temper a little of your curiosity over defectors from the FMLN not yet forming “centrist” parties. You obviously don’t follow events in El Salvador, because they have actually formed quite a lot of “centrist” parties. To name but a few: Partido Democrata; Movimiento Renovador; Expresión de Renovación Popular; Partido Social Demócrata; Cambio Democrático; Frente Democratico Revolucionario. And they have all basically gone down the same historical plughole as “the great strategist” Villalobos.

Basically, these Social Democratic parties (read Washington Consensus Light) have had nothing more than the egos of their leaders to offer the long suffering Salvadoran people.

What is this obsession with centrism? The current economic crisis shows how rotten to the core the prevalent socio-economic system is, and requires nothing less than a radical, dare one say, revolutionary alternative. (Or do you believe that over three quarters of the worlds population living in dire poverty whilst a tiny majority engages in sprees of immoral overindulgence to be a healthy and functioning socio-economic system?)

Whether the FMLN can deliver is another matter, but these wishy, washy social democrats have not a hope in hell. They are, as most centrist political organisations, the preferable alternative of the neoliberal right to act as caretakers when capital is in crisis, they are allowed to govern, on the neoliberal right’s premises, until they are composed enough to return to their rightful place as the true administrators of the capitalist economy.

Hence radical politicians and political parties like Brazil’s Lula or the Chilean socialist were held out of power, by either dictators or electoral fraud, until they were sanitized/centreized enough to be allowed to caretaker the capitalist economies of their respective countries.

The likes of Chávez, Morales and Correa have broken that mould, hence the rabid reaction and attacks by the historically privileged classes, the US imperialists and their lackey capitalist media. With economic, political and military destabilization employed at will (coup against Chávez in 2002, support to right wing secessionists in Bolivia and use of proxy Colombian military on Ecuador’s borders).

Although I do not agree fully with the Zapatistas in Chiapas I will echo their battle cry:

Dave Watson
dave said…
1) No, I never was an adherent of Villalobos, and during the 1980s our support went to the FPL. The ERP actually did a lot of damage to the FMLN’s relations in Europe, especially in the latter part of the war.
2) I have been working with solidarity organisations in Latin America for 29 years. I also experienced the aftermath of the Caracazo in Venezuela in 1989. I have been an international observer in three elections in El Salvador and also in Mexico and worked on development projects in several countries of that continent
3) And just because you second Tim’s opinions on Villalobos and Chávez, it does not release you from the responsibility of your own opinions.
4) And lastly, yes, there is a lot of fury in my tone. And why should there not be? Your form of reasoning is so little constructive and immensely damaging to the efforts being made for real change in Latin America. Basically because you pose as a representative for a progressive, left of centre alternative, whilst echoing and reinforcing the rights rabid attack on anything that will threaten their comfortable status quo. It is a much more effective weapon for demoralising those who could instead be working for change than any coup d’etat.

I don’t know about the Mother of all pains, but one of the most painful experiences I’ve had was watching Pedro Carmona reading the decree which closed down all the democratic institutions in Venezuela (whilst being cheered and applauded by a motley collection of centrists). Luckily the paradise that you long for didn’t last more than 48 hours before the peoples will once again was exercised, and the Mother of all wankers went running with his tail between his legs to Colombia!

Dave Watson
Anonymous said…
What matters in ES is where the FMLN takes the country. Let’s measure potential FMLN success not in terms of philosophical bones of contention. Rather, in terms of poverty reduction programs; implementation of a dynamic and stable economy with the gradual increase of low wages; affordable and effective healthcare for all; and crime elimination, to name the most pertinent issues. Whether or not you and I, or Villalobos, want the FMLN to win is at this point irrelevant. The FMLN is destined to win simply because of what Joaquin knows very well: a Funes win will validate the long struggle of the left in ES. Just as the Obama victory validated America by demonstrating to the world that what matters in the United States is the content of the individual, not race. Surely, Obama and the Democrats will not fix everything. No ruler can! With the FMLN, their system of government will run into problems, as all political systems do. However, the FMLN is the only party in ES with the base-support and momentum necessary to initiate social programs crucial in combating the aforementioned problems. The FMLN is filled with hardliners, but such force is necessary if the ARENA legacy and the colossal wave of exploitative Salvadoran history is to be dealt with. The FMLN leadership possesses the wisdom necessary to carry out a progressive agenda. Polarization is the legacy of the Cold War and ARENA’s refusal to incorporate the FMLN into the political system when it was legitimized. Since 1992, the FMLN has had to fend for it self to stay alive in the face of local (ARENA) and international skeptics (USA). The Salvadoran and international political systems shaped the FMLN into what it is today. –And to my surprise the Frente has modified (they no longer push to bring back the Colon as Handal use yell!). Joaquin: give your former allies the benefit of the doubt. Not allowing the FMLN to hold power will only prolong the polarization that you so speak against. Further, if indeed Es is working towards democratizing the free-flow of ideas MUST be allowed or else we erase history and move back some 60 years to the time of ideological dictatorships and puppet governments. –Walter Pineda, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Carlos X. said…
Both Chishi and Dave write very colorfully, and with biting prose that is refreshing to read, so I thank them for the lively exchange, and urge both of them to abide by the respect they both deserve (which they have). I agree with Chishi.
Anonymous said…
thing about villalobos is he was a great military tactician, obviously, he's very smart, analytical and his rhetoric is determined and assertive...yet, it's hard to take him seriously now...i mean, it's so baseless and hypocritical on his part to condemn the fmln when he was a focal factor of its formation, its raw bloddy beginnings. no one can question the fmln has come a long way to this point since its violent formation...the fmln as much as the salvadoran state are criminals of war, villalobos himself is a war criminal who logic says should have been prosecuted as well as the other commanders of the fmln and also the army's staff and govt. officials involved. so why does he come now condemning something he helped create and that has evolved to the point that it is no longer the bloody, terrorizing force representing communist expansion, but rather something of a left or even center-left, with serious democratic convictions? we can all ague both ways on this one, but the bottom line is, we should totally disregard villalobos on the grounds that does not stand for any concrete values and convictions...i would just love to hear from him something like " the war was an utter mistake on our (fmln) part, including myself and i am willing to give account on my wrong doings, killings and guiding the country into its 12 years of bloody murders and terror, i am one of the responsible ones for bringing about this destruction on to the people i claimed to have fought for...therefore do unto me as i have done unto you" but of course he won't, so that means, with all his street cred gone, the best thing he can do for all salvadorans and for the good of the nation as a whole is to shut the F*CK up.
dave said…
Iner-self wrote: "the war was an utter mistake on our (fmln) part,"

You seem to forget, Iner-self, that the FMLN was a response to, not an instigator of the oppression and genocide of a 50 year military dictatorship that closed off every possibility of a democratic opening.
dave said…
No one deserves to be respected Polycarpio. Respect has to be earned, and that can only be achieved by ones actions. Whether chishi or I have earned that is a relative question.
Maybe you should be a little more precise about what you agree with chishi on if you want to commit yourself to a constructive debate.
Carlos X. said…
Respect can be lost, but it does not have to be earned. All things being equal, everyone deserves it. You're not suggesting Chishi has done anything to warrant withholding respect?
Carlos X. said…
Dave, ignore my comment. I'm not trying to start an argument. I default back to my first post which was to say I enjoyed the previous exchange. It was well posed.
El-Visitador said…
«You seem to forget, Iner-self, that the FMLN was a response to, not an instigator of the oppression and genocide of a 50 year military dictatorship»

What a canard.

Right, that's why the first "response" was to kidnap, horribly torture, and murder a young civilian father of two back in February 11th, 1972.

Yeah. That's how you "respond" to the military.

The "response" argument is just a straw man to disguise the fact that these were a bloody bunch of Stalinist thugs.
dave said…
I see now El-Visitador. The whole diabolical carnage and genocide of over 1% of the Salvadoran population began with “the kidnap and horrible torture of a young civilian father of two back in 1972”.

What a fool I’ve been all these years, thinking that it was the oppression of the peasantry by the economic elite and their military cronies and the closing off of political space to legitimate, democratic practices.

My, my, the reactionaries are really coming out of the woodwork now! What have I instigated with this ever so humble exchange.

The trouble with your’ reckoning Mr. Visitador, is that the United Nations truth report, the Catholic church and all the serious human rights organisations seem to place the responsibility elsewhere. A little matter of cause and effect. For every simple atrocity by the guerrillas there appears to be hundreds committed by the other side, and torture was a finely honed speciality which has become an indelible hallmark of the Salvadoran military and their associated death squads.
Carlos X. said…
There was a characterization of the center by Dave which was fair in one respect, yet not fair in another respect. Dave dismisses centrist parties as "the preferable alternative of the neoliberal right to act as caretakers when capital is in crisis." I take no issue with Dave's specific point insofar as it makes a specific observation about a particular history, not having sufficient expertise in the machinations of Salvadoran politics over the last few election cycles. However, I hope we do not draw an inference that a viable third party alternative is somehow not a salutary and altogether desirable prospect that everyone should welcome, were it to materialize. The left and the right are always eager to lampoon the center as a function of the boogeyman they portray the other side to be. Framed thus, it is the classic straw man argument. The left will argue that the center is just a stooge for the right (as Dave does here, hopefully, limiting himself to the recent historical context, and not as a generalized truth of universal application), and the right will argue that centrists are really leftists in disguise, as Maj. D'Aubuisson famously did with his ominous watermelon/hatchet demonstration (PDC green on the outside, but red on the inside). Yet that critique will only hold if the prevalent culture of polarization snuffs out sensible voices that would otherwise coalesce naturally in the center. The polarization is maintained by accusing anyone who moves to the center of being a stooge for the other side. Then, the critique becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy and loses its power as critical analysis, because we know that the two dominant forces in Salvadoran politics present two rather narrow views, which are naturally expressed in those colors almost nowhere else in the planet, which leads the rational person to suspect that other views are possible, indeed are natural, and that their expression would constitute a healthy function of a free and open society, if El Salvador is one. The main critique I hear above stated is that centrists are "wishy, washy social democrats" who muddy up the pristine "us versus them" weltenschauung we've all aligned ourselves under. And we know they sure are wishy-washy, and worse, they have betrayed the voters' trust and have been rightfully condemned to the wilderness for a term. But one has to wonder whether the ship of state would benefit from more people sitting in the middle instead of having this tug of war between port and starboard factions.
Anonymous said…
I think that I have to disagree with most of the posts that I've read so far. What most everyone here seems to be saying is that you can't change your opinion and metamorphose as your life exposes you to new experiences and you learn from those experiences. Maybe I'm naive but Villalobos sounds like a revolutionary that has finally grown up. A friend of mine used to say that a young person that is not a revolutionary has no heart, and a grown up who is not a capitalist is a fool.

It is just a shame that Ceren and his cronies have never grown up. I have a number of aquaintances that fought with the left during the war and realized that marxism doesn't work and have become avowed capitalists but want to move away from radicalism but still want to be part of the FMLN. It is also a shame that left wing liberal churchy liberation theologists can't figure it out either. It sounds like a lot of them would like to come to ES and pick up an AK and help the cause.

I can't see that Villalobos is any worse of an assasin than Ceren, Cristiani or D'Aubbison. It seems that a lot of the population of ES over thirty have blood on their hands directly or indirectly.

I also agree w/ villalobos and don't see the FMLN being a group that can or will govern properly. They will bollix it up worse than ARENA. I think the country will drift to the left and this will precipitate many problems, one of which may be that militay will have to step in. The police won't be able to keep order when the economy tanks, as it has done in every socialist government in Latin America except Chile. In order to defend the constitution the military leadership may have to step up to the plate. The FMLN may deny the existence of armed groups, the right may trumpet the existence of these groups to promote fear of another civil war but you can bet there is some truth to the reports like any good rumor.

I don't think Villalobos is pro-Arena just anti frente and as convert to capitalism sees no other option at the moment.

I also think it would be good for the liberation theologists to back off and go back and read the Bible and back off from supporting radicalism, violence and communism. They need to support dialogue and the formation of a centrist progressive party and not the picking up of the AK's. I have to totally disagree with Tim's rant against repentence; If repentence goes out the door so do the underpinnings of a Christian society and if Villalobos can't repent then what hope do we have for our own faults at the judgment day?
Tim said…
Did I rant about repentence? I think that was the quote from the UCA's Proceso.

Here are some thoughts of my own (which may add fuel to the fire, but that's not my goal).

1. I have had the chance to read several of Villalobos editorial pieces in recent years. The Miami Herald piece was one of the tamer pieces -- there is an underlying current of a personal grudge against his former companeros which you have to take into consideration as you evaluate what he is saying.

2. Where Villalobos' critique of the prospects of an FMLN victory falls down the most, is the fact that El Salvador does not really fit the model of other countries which have shifted to the left. It does not have Venezuela's oil wealth, it does not have a leftist indigenous candidate similar to Bolivia, it does not have a 50 year old revolutionary overthrow of a land-owning agricultural elite like Cuba, etc. I don't believe there are good models in Latin America which will tell you what will happen if a popular, leftist journalist president is elected, supported by a traditonally hard-left party like the FMLN.

Only time will tell.
Anonymous said…

Give it a rest. Not only as a european are you a descendant of those who colonized and exploited the world.

But now, you have the nerve to come and try to teach us what is best for us, because you spent a few days cajoling with the left in those happy clappy sort of political exchange programmes, that your government probably funds for you over there in viking land.

You are the worst of it all.....repentant about your european past and condescending still to us who have enough gall to fight our own fights, and have done it since quite a while.

I suggest you get yourself a pet.

Or a woman....jajjjajajajaj
El-Visitador said…
«The trouble with your’ reckoning Mr. Visitador, is that the United Nations truth report, the Catholic church and all the serious human rights organisations seem to place the responsibility elsewhere»

He he.

Nice bit of misdirection there, mister. You do prestidigitation much?

You entirely avoid the matter that the "response" to lack of democratic rights in El Salvador was launched by a bunch of Communist thugs who in cold blood kicked of the war in 1971 by kidnapping, torturing, and murdering a civilian father of two young children, in exchange for ransom money.

The matter of where the most casualties ended at the end of the war is irrelevant to who the instigator was. Your strawman argument is equivalent to saying that because the USA only lost 418,000 people vs. Germany that lost 7,230,000 people in WW II, somehow the US were at fault. Which of course is entirely absurd, just like your comment.
Anonymous said…
This Dave guy is one of those who preaches the sanctity of our dead, but is happy when he sees the dead of those from the other side. But he forgets that those dead are also ours. And he overlooks the fact that none of the dead from either side, will ever be his. As he is not one of us. As much as he tries.

I have seen them many times, those like this Dave guy. Sitting in the cafes by the UCR in Costa Rica, hangin in La Luna in Sivar, ferrying their sad foreigner self with dreams of being part of an original movement by the shores of Atitlan.

Then they go back home where they have Universal health coverage, and white christmases.

And there they tell tall tales of their days with the muchachos.

And all they did during the conflic was get laid with some of the girls at camp base, because after all, they lacked the will and the skill to do much else, but were brave enough to be somewhere close to being far away from the real stuff.

But he still gets a kick out of seing his first army dead, and he was happy then, amid our dead.

Our dead, and never his, both soldiers and guerrillas.

Ours, never yours Dave. You just are not one of us.

Thank god.

Sad, sad man, this Dave.
Carlos X. said…
You know, the personal vindictive does not help. Of course, Dave is "one of us." The "us versus them" is not going to get us anywhere. Not anywhere I want to go, anyhow.
Anonymous said…
what a sorry bunch of losers...dave, wether his salvadoran or not, can say whatever he wants in salvadoran arguments, because the root of salvadoran woes and issues are human issues that should worry humanity as a whole. even tim, who's a foreigner to us, sympathizes with our national struggle and we like him for taking his stand on the matter. however, the point we're discussing here is villalobo's comments and his persona on the national scene of things. if we put aside the political parties and judge him on his actions and words, we see that he cannot be taken seriously, he has no credibility left in him. he would be like a che guevara practicing medicine as a private doctor in the united states...perhaps we all have the right to repent, and change as life itself naturally does...but with that change also come new phases. wouldn't it be absurd if a butterfly ridiculed catterpillars and call them disgusting for dragging themselves in the dirt once they grow beautiful wings and soar accross the sky? it's about accountability people, something that in a dark, polarized and corrupt society like el salvador's, seems like impossible. the question i'm throwing is, when will we start holding people accountable for their actions, including even ourselves to our conscience?
dave said…
Isn’t it just typical of the right. When their thin, faulty, reactionary arguments come tumbling down and are exposed to reality, they build a fictitious image of their opponent and proceed to knock it down, so easy, so simple (or should one say pathetic). And their open racism exposes to all their reactionary and unsavoury world vision. It is sad that such people so often come to power by firing up the populations nationalist sentiments.

Let’s put a few things straight so you can try and knock down a real person instead of your own fictitious invention. First, yes I am privileged to come from a wealthy developed country. My profession is a carpenter joiner, not a pampered development aid worker travelling the world on governmental aid missions or financed by multinational NGOs. I work hard to finance my solidarity work and at the same time bring up my family together with my partner (a psychiatric nurse who also uses her free time to work on solidarity projects in the middle east , neither of us “sleep around in base camp”, as we love each other and we also respect the people we work together with).

As I am not an academic or intellectual, I work mainly physically (school building projects etc.) though I do use my advantage coming from a rich country to funnel money to grass roots projects in the countries I am involved with (none of which is used for my own maintenance). Though this is a little more than a meagre compensation for the enormous wealth that the west extracts form these countries.
I am no saint; I do get an enormous amount of satisfaction out of my solidarity work, being together with people struggling against injustice and for change is an inestimable reward. And yes, I will always be an outsider, a Gringo or a Chele, to a lot of people, but a genuine friend to many also.

You, El Visitador and Anonymous, ought to take in over yourselves the fact that Salvadorans are not a homogenous people, and that you are not the spokespeople for an entire population. Express your own opinions please, but don’t delude yourselves that they are shared by decent, thinking people, of whom there are many in your country!
So you can take your racist, reactionary views and shove them where it hurts! In the meantime I’d like to take up a discussion with one of the intelligent contributors to this debate, Polycarpio, on the original bone of contention “Centrists”):

Polycarpio, you write: “I hope we do not draw an inference that a viable third party alternative is somehow not a salutary and altogether desirable prospect” insinuating that centrist political parties are a realistic alternative to the polarization of the left and the right. D’abuissons water melon trick illustrates how the right is contemptuous of any attempt to restrict it’s privileges, but the lefts’ criticism of centrist political parties is rather more well founded.

Third ways may be viable in the short term, but when we take the starting point, as the left do, that the current economic/political system is class based and that we have parties that wish to maintain that class exploitation (the right) and those that wish to change to a system not based on exploitation, but rather on peoples needs being fulfilled and equal distribution of resources (the left) then the role of the centrists can only contribute to maintaining that system (the status quo).

The centrists are happy to work within that exploitative system and think that they can lessen the degree of exploitation to a tolerable level, this is the point of our contention, I and most people on the left understand that this is an impossible dream (just look at the world today after half a century of centrist and social democratic governments). Centrist governments in the developed countries have managed to redistribute resources to a palatable level, but as more people in the west benefit in the shares of that exploitative system the people of the third world have to be even more savagely exploited to avoid the traditional ruling class losing its privileges. (not to mention the irreparable damage that overexploitation does to the environment).

Yes, I know the reactionaries will crawl out of the woodwork again and cry out that equality and sharing are against human nature and utopic. But being human is intrinsically unnatural, it is something that must be learned and is part of the process of human development.

But then the right swallow all the utopic, Fukuyamist, neoliberal crap about the “end of history”, invisible hands, dribble down theories and individual human greed leading to the benefit of all, and look where that has brought us!

Oh, and by the way Sideliner, if Liberation theologists, or anybody else for that matter, REALLY did read the bible, then they would stop being Christians!

Unknown said…
I guess there are two things to consider from the participation of our friend dave here.

One, he seems to be more radical than many salvadorans who partake of this blog. Mas papista que el papa as we say in spanish.

Two, he seems to have very little causes to support in his native land, as he well puts it he is from a wealthy place. And apparently he is from somewhere in scandinavia, where social condicions are, apparently, optimal.

So he inherited wealth and safety and security (from the state). Probably did not live the years of nazi occupation or anything as tragic as that.

So as he lacks any significant one cause to fight for in his own land he makes an incursion with causes in less happy places.

Like El Salvador.

So I see a double standard here in what regards to the inclusion of foreign money, people, support, logistics into our affairs. And it is a double standar that goes beyond Dave here, who is but one individual and not the essence of anything really.

The double standard is that his participation is construed by him and others in his same political and radical wavelength as being "Solidarity". But if a Venezuelan from the opposition comes and offers its "Solidarity" they would deem it as an uncalled for intervention. Political hypocrisy, me thinks.

Which brings me to a final comment that in El Salvador we really do not need either of them, neither the inheritor of wealth who has no causes and is more radical than ourselves, nor the resentful nuveau poor to whom the revolution expelled from being the economic elite in venezuela.

And why we dont need them? For one, because they represent the worse cases of the political poles, if not extremes, whose presence only contributes to the polarization of our country. We have plenty of people in those two extremes to give away in El Salvador.

They both, a venezuelan from the opposition and our friend dave here, are only part of larger machineries in their sides of the fence, which paradoxically, both say they are struggling against on the other side of their fences.

And in El Salvador, to move forward, we have to come to understand that it is all about us, about the blue and white of the flag, about the country as a whole, and that our struggle should be for our convenience, and not for that of a political party, however historically romantic that may be.

This is what the people in places like that country where dave comes from have understood, since quite a while ago.

And that makes him redundant in his country, and it is why he is looking for struggles elsewhere.

I really wish we had a lot of daves in el salvador, a place so well set up, that our wanna be revolutionaries were giving their solidarity elsewhere.

And seein them being quixotic, by force of need, in another land.
dave said…
Here we og again, now it is Chishi putting up another straw man to knock down again!

No Chishi I am not a bored westerner looking for exotic places to play out my fantasies. I participate fully in the political activities and trade union movement in both my adopted country, Norway, and my native country England.

The “white and Blue” eh!?, or the Red, White and Blue or the Star spangled banner!
Nationalism, what a disease!

If you hadn’t noticed it Chishi we all live in one world. A globalized world as the neoliberalists never fail to remind us, where are our lives are integrated in one struggle. My frontiers are class not national territories, as are yours and all the other inhabitants of this planet, like it or not. That you are obfuscated and befuddled by nationalisms, religions or what have you is your problem, the world goes on its way despite your delusions.

And just to put you right on “foreign money, people, support, logistics into our affairs” our small contribution to the popular movements in the 1980s, was a small counterbalance to the over 6 billion dollars of aid the butchering Salvadoran military got from Uncle Sam (now that’s what I call interference!)
Unknown said…
"in both my adopted country, Norway, and my native country England"...."My frontiers are class not national territories, as are yours and all the other inhabitants of this planet, like it or not".

Well there is either a contradiction in theuse of "my adopted country" and "my native country" and the way you despise nationalism.....

Or, there is a big dissatisfaction that your orwellian one world, one man, one big brother dream has not come true.

But that is irrelevant, really. What is relevant to me is that you despise the identity of salvadorans. You have overlooked that at the end of the day, even MAREROS tattoo the national coat of arms in their chest. That Dalton's Poema de Amor talks about those who wept on hearing OUR national anthem in the snows of the north.

You overlook the simplicity that our struggle, in both sides, was not for Marx or for Reagan, it was really, for the foot soldier, a struggle for OUR blue and white flag.

Not for the Star Spangled Banner.

But for the same coat of arms that the Mareros tattoo in their chest.

But I guess there is enough reason for such feelings to go amiss if one equates wearing a coat of arms with hooliganism, or if one despises the generation of brittons who fought WWII, a war against true evil, perhaps the only one like that, just because one was fed a lot of pink floyd and grey discontent in grey industrial coastal cities.

Luckyly, we are not nationalists in El Salvador, like Herr Hitler, but we love our country. Wether we are from the right or the left. And putting us, salvadorans, under an umbrella of struggling in a world wide class war, is just being condescending towards us.

But your messages are filled with the superiority of a Victorian era colonialist, and without the illumination of a war poet.

So keep on trucking, that we will always see you go by from behind our third world love our country fence. Whether we are from the right or the left.

Cheers....and godspeed...
dave said…
Chishi, in the one context I describe my geographical location (as you implied in your last posting that I only engage myself in other peoples countries and struggles). In the other I describe the way nationalism is used to manipulate people and rally them around a false common identification.

If you can’t understand that then there really doesn’t seem much point in having an exchange with you, you seem more interested in scoring points and slinging out accusations at your never ending file of pop-up straw men, than discussing ideas.
Have you never thought Chishi, that the poor, despondent and exploited Salvadoran peasant has more in common with the poor Honduran peasant (or the Pakistani textile worker with his Indian counterpart, the German and Britsh steelworker etc. etc.) than with the wealthy Salvadoran landowner who exploits him. And yet when those wealthy landowners commit their countries to meaningless wars in the name of nationalism, race, religion etc., it is the sons of the poor peasants that they send off to kill each other!
If you had lived through the disgusting eruption of jingoistic nationalism evoked by Margaret Thatcher’s pathetic little war in the Malvinas/Falklands, where hundreds of Argentinean and British youth died in the cold waters of the South Atlantic to bolster the egos of a real and a quasi-dictator, you’d know what I mean.
And somebody on this blogsite called me a sad, sad man!!
Carlos X. said…
Dave said:

> Third ways may be viable in the short term, but when we take the starting point, as the left do, that the current economic/political system is class based and that we have parties that wish to maintain that class exploitation ...

I agree with you that IF you take your starting point, then the self-fulfilling cycle of the circular argument of the prevailing parties works like gangbusters, but at some point people are going to want something other than doctrinal ideologies as their politics.
dave said…
No my friend. If you do not take that starting point then you are living a fiction. And foundations built on fiction have a nasty habit of leading to structural collapse.

Now I’m not saying that there is an inevitable trajectory, where human development leads to a better and more just society. That depends entirely on the balance of forces, education, consciousness raising and a plethora of variable conditions. But if you don’t have a proper analysis of the class structures, which are the driving force of social conflict, to base your actions upon, then you are, alas, just aiding and abetting the postponement of these goals, maybe indefinitely.

If you base your analysis on the warped, xenophobic nationalism of some of the contributors to this debate, then you are ensuring that human development is not merely postponed but goes into reverse, as it did in the 1930’s.
At some point, hopefully, people are going to realize that they have had the wool pulled over their eyes, and that’s when things start to happen.
Anonymous said…
paraphrasing roger waters:

Dave, DAve, what have you England?????]

dave said…
Paraphrasing Kevin Coyne: “The world is full of fools……. but it doesn’t make them all bad people”. Just the intentionally foolish!
hlberkman said…
I think it's important to recognize that the FMLN isn't going to win a 43 seat majority in congress (and I hope they don't, though I suppose it will make things more interesting). So, any super leftist initiatives they'd like to pass, they can't, unless they get the support of the PCN or the CD, who won't go along with it. I also find it hard to see a historically conservative/moderate country supporting a major policy shift and 21st Century Bolivarianism a la Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, or Nica. (Tim makes some good, brief points on this in his comment above). Ecu and Bolivia have major underlying indigenous movements and anti-neoliberal movements that continue to support Morales and Correa. Chavez overthrew a system that was already corrupt to the core and has sustained himself via petrodollars. Ortega barely sneaked through his electoral win and amid dismal public support ratings and a congress that continues to oppose him, is going to suffer greatly this year once Chavez limits the amount of money he can send.

While I agree that elements within the FMLN share many of the ideological standpoints of these leaders, I also still believe Funes isn't going to be governed by the FMLN, and the underlying structural factors will not sustain a leftist government. There's nothing to nationalize or expropriate, the economic conditions are going to demand pragmatism, and there isn't a large indigenous/poor population that has collectively organized in support of Funes.

I do agree in part with what Villalobos says about the changing ministries, which will be an area of real vulnerability in a difficult transition period. But that happens with every major political transition. The FMLN will want to shake things up and will definitely stumble about a bit in doing so.

Frankly, Funes is going to win, and most everyone knows it, and the type of rhetoric propagaed by the right is only going to continue as long as Arena keeps going down in flames. I guess we'll see who is right in a few months...
El-Visitador said…
«I also still believe Funes isn't going to be governed by the FMLN»

That, you see, is religion: the power of Faith.

Anyone who thinks a one man, and an outsider at that, is going to control a party which to this day is controlled very closely by its politburo (Comité Político) and which is made up of one dead and seventeen live hard-core marxists, is simply Choosing to Believe.

Incidentally, the little bit about "oh, there is nothing to worry about, the Assembly will still be made of non-Communists" is very shrewd propaganda. Sort of like a lullaby.

First, the Assembly is packed with strict merchants of politics such as PCN: these guys, as the most corrupt party in ES, will positively sell their mothers in exchange for government goodies.

Second, much if not most of ARENA is simply PCN wannabees who are also open for special-interest business.

The facts are that there are precious few interested in liberty and small government in the Assembly. Once the winds change and government becomes a free for all for Socialist interests, the scales of political clientdom are likely to tilt lefty for a very, very long time until the feeding through becomes exhausted by economic mismanagement, waste and corruption.
Anonymous said…
Wow, this Dave character is so absolutist about his beliefs, and so conceited on being totally right about everything, that we should either elect him president of the World, so that he may fix everything, or at least, he should be included in the Comision Politica of the FMLN, because that is the only other place where everyone is ABSOLUTELY right.

Ah, then there is also the COENA, but maybe dave would not feel comfortable there.

So much contempt to the development of history and the compromise of salvadorans to his country is coming from dave, that whoever called him a sad man, in reality should have called him a sad example of the ugly american, no matter where he is from.
dave said…
Dear Mr. Anonymous,
Is not the whole point of a debate to exchange ideas? If you don’t like my ideas then feel free to engage in a debate and try and convince me of where you see fault in these ideas (not beliefs, I do not believe in anything, I investigate and draw conclusions which I am willing to change if convinced of their fallibility).

But you don’t say anything!!! Weird!! Not a F**ing thing, just insults, insinuations, and putting up of imaginary straw men to knock down and who have nothing whatsoever to do with the real person you engage with, when this is exposed you start sulking!

Of course I think I’m right, don’t you also? Or perhaps you are so unsure of yourself that you dare not communicate your ideas with others, or your identity for that matter!

You’ve got a brain man! Use it!!
Anonymous said…
Dave says in his flawless and yet very rude English:

"But you don’t say anything!!! Weird!! Not a F**ing thing, just insults, insinuations, and putting up of imaginary straw men"

But before claiming his right to not be insulted he has said a collections of acusations and name callings, the likes of a Cultural Revolution, Maoist people's popular summary trial and execution, lets see some examples:

"Chishi's “flaws of a Hugo Chavez” appear to be more based on the flaws of his own ideologically and mainstream media generated delusions than they are to having any relation to reality".

So chishi, I, am a lunatic. But that is no insult.

But then, Dave goes on to expand his continuous totalitarian expositions as follows, indiscriminately against ALL who do not think like him but he does admit that he is furious:

"And lastly, yes, there is a lot of fury in my tone. And why should there not be? Your form of reasoning is so little constructive and immensely damaging to the efforts being made for real change in Latin America".

And, clearly, those who are furious cannot waste their respect on others, for after all we are ALL born without respect in Dave's world:

"No one deserves to be respected Polycarpio. Respect has to be earned"

But respect after all is so relative to Dave, and he really enjoys to as he says "exchange ideas", like so:

"Express your own opinions but don’t delude yourselves that they are shared by decent, thinking people, of whom there are many in your country! So you can take your racist, reactionary views and shove them where it hurts!"

Yes a little bit of idea insertion never hurt anyone, even if the insertion is where it hurts.

But Dave's deep analysis really makes a home run in his views of how liberation theologists were basically individuals who rose out of the ranks of the illiterate atheist hordes, like so:

"Oh, and by the way Sideliner, if Liberation theologists, or anybody else for that matter, REALLY did read the bible, then they would stop being Christians!"

Yup, Liberation theology rose out of not reading the bible......


dave said…
Well I don’t suppose you’d be surprised to hear that I stand by all I have written. Fragments of what I have written taken out of their context do not legitimize your arguments. And most of the sharp tone is in response to the racist and derogatory implications of my counterparts in the debate. Why don’t you read through their (and your own) comments and pluck out the really unsavoury stuff?

I regard the Liberation Theologists as the progressive wing of the Catholic church, and do recognise their positive contribution to the peoples struggle. That does not mean that I have to have respect for the institution that they are a part of, the Catholic church, steeped in its inhumane and sexist medieval ideology. Or for that matter Christianity.

Religion is the worst thought system we humans have, it in no way represents knowledge. Atheism and religion are not two equal but different philosophies of life meriting equal respect. The former stands for the removal of superstition allowing one to remain with a foundation of valid knowledge to build ones understanding on, the latter stands for obfuscation and the nurturing of ignorance.

So I suggest that you yourself dust off your bible and REALLY read it. And when you’ve finished clawing your way through that oral history, written several thousand years ago to convince a wandering Bronze Age tribe in North Africa and Asia Minor that they were the top dogs/chosen people, come back and let me know where you stand.
Anonymous said…
Dave, buddy, you really have serious issues with the concept of respect:

"Atheism and religion are not two equal but different philosophies of life meriting equal respect...the latter stands for obfuscation and the nurturing of ignorance".

THAT is HOW YOU respect the billions of people who hold religious beliefs in the planet?

By calling them ignorant in their cherished beliefs?

Dave, you really are condescending throughout, so its not just with third worlders, you just are superior to all of us politikal Untermensch.

Nichts fur Uns, Alles fur Dave

Sig Heil...Heil, Dave.......
dave said…
Mr. Anonymous, all people have their own meanings based on life experience, learned or borrowed knowledge or, alas, in the most cases, subtle forms of indoctrination. Christianity is one form (though not very subtle) of indoctrination.

For centuries they have been burning, torturing and putting to the sword all those who don’t praise the one true God and his spokespersons on earth. The creationists denying all forms of scientific advance until the evidence becomes so overwhelming that they have to adjust their medieval world views, the sun going around the earth, the flat earthers etc. etc.

If you believe that the several thousand year old religion of a wandering Bronze Age tribe (with the really arrogant and fascist message to the rest of developing humanity that they were the one and only chosen race) A religion that explained natural phenomena as godly intervention to an ignorant people who did not have the scientific knowledge to understand meteorological and geophysical occurrences, and was therefore wielded as a powerful tool of political power. Well if you really believe that that is not obfuscation and the nurturing of ignorance, and that it merits respect for continuing to impose itself on the human race in the 21 century, then man, have you got a problem!

(PS: that goes for Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Maya and what ever other obfuscation people try to impose upon others)

So cut out the sarcasm and as I said before; you've got a brain, USE IT!!
Anonymous said…
Heil Dave.....
dave said…
Well, with over 40 comments, this exchange is becoming ungainly and out of all proportion to the original debates’ content.
But in signing off I would like to recap a little in (a probably futile) attempt to educate Mr. Anonymous.

I entered this debate by simply questioning Tim’s suppositions on the FMLNs need for change. I posed a fourth question to his three, asking if it was at all necessary for the FMLN to change, and gave my explanations for why I didn’t think this was the case.

As the starting point was Tim’s references to Joaquin Villalobos, who has been promoting third way centrist alternatives for years, I continued in a latter posting to give my reasons for why I did not think a centrist alternative was viable.

I also disagreed with the contention that Villalobos being a brilliant guerrilla strategist (ruthless would probably be a better adjective) in any way validates his political analyses of current events.

All well to this point. But then the debate took a qualitative nosedive as several comments began to question my integrity, and even right, to hold my opinions. I was described as a naïve privileged westerner living out my exotic fantasies by interfering in the affairs of other peoples in the third world. Remember Mr. Anonymous? Sleeping around with guerrilla Muchachas in base camp, drinking café latte in exclusive Central American bars and hotels and having paid vacations courtesy of misused development aid funds!

When the validity of these claims was resolutely refuted, the tone of the debate took a further nosedive to the level of xenophobic and racist ranting trying to de-legitimise anyone that didn’t tattoo a blue and white flag to one or other part of their anatomy (where is yours’ Mr. Anonymous?).

And then your final contributions, nose-diving to the level of ridicule by describing my views on religion as arrogant, meglomanic, fascistic attempts at taking over the world and turning myself into an infallible Übermensh.

Well Mr. Anonymous I would like to correct you on that one. I am not infallible. I have constantly changed and developed my thinking as time has passed and experience has shown me otherwise.

Even in this short exchange I have come to realise that I have been mistaken. Yes I will willingly admit it!
In the last two exchanges I have ended with the blunt statement “You’ve got a brain, use it!”
But on re-reading your entries, and seeing how absolutely bereft of content they are, I am seriously beginning to doubt the validity of this statement.

Oh yes, and let me save you the effort of replying. Your’ last comment dipped to two single syllable words: Heil Dave…..
Lets dip even further:

Anonymous said...
Heil …..
3:35 PM
Anonymous said…
Hi Dave,

Just read this whole "debate" and was curious as to which country's political ideals you most admire and why. Please don't tell me Cuba or communist Russia because then I don't think I'll be able to take you seriously.

I ask you this because I just checked out you blog and my idea of you right now is of an angry man who pretty much disagrees with everything and is currently in a "him against the world" mode.

I hope I'm wrong.

Anyway, I wont lie to you, I'm right winged and disagree with most things you wrote, but I also consider myself rather open minded and would like to try and understand you.

So... until then...

Greg said…
The ERP was decimated by the close of the war and JVL now hides in England and pontificates over a cup of tea.

What a blowhard.

I wonder what Roque Dalton would say today if JVL hadn't killed him so he could be "el jefe de jefes"?