The peaceful transfer of power
Video of the swearing in ceremony for Mauricio Funes as president of El Salvador.
Today should be a day of great celebration for all friends of El Salvador. The inauguration of Mauricio Funes as president of El Salvador marks the first true peaceful transition of power in the country. The country has a left wing president, and his victory came through the ballot box in peaceful and fair elections.
Raúl Gutiérrez at IPS described the inauguration:
At his inaugural ceremony Monday, the first-ever leftwing president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, said his main goal was to ”beat poverty, political backwardness, the marginalisation of broad sections of society, desperation, and the lack of future prospects for our young people.”
The insurgency-turned-political party Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) will invest 474 million dollars in the next 18 months to generate 100,000 direct jobs, the new president announced.
Funes received a two-minute standing ovation when he arrived at the convention centre where his swearing-in ceremony was held, attended by 72 foreign delegations and 4,000 special guests, including Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The veteran TV broadcaster who took 52 percent of the vote in the March elections said the rightwing ARENA, which ruled El Salvador since 1989, ”governed for the few” and had been ”complacent towards corruption, due to fear of, and complicity with, organised crime.
”I guarantee that the new government will not be about family privileges, cronyism, or shady patronage,” said the new president, who had 82 percent support in the latest survey carried out by the University Institute of Public Opinion (IUDOP), at the Central American University, in late May.
”We need to reinvent the country. We need to carry out a peaceful, democratic and ethical revolution; the change is starting today,” said Funes, considered a moderate leftist, flanked by 12 Latin American heads of state and other international leaders and personalities.
He also pledged to improve infrastructure and basic services, and build and repair 25,000 low-income housing units in urban areas, while implementing a plan to fight malnutrition, targeting 85,000 children under the age of three....
In his 50-minute inaugural address, Funes reiterated his preference for a government along the lines of the administration of Brazilian President Lula, who he said was his ”reference point” in terms of social programmes for the poor.
”Lula has shown that it is possible to have a democratic government of the people along with fair distribution of wealth,” said the new president, looking over at the Brazilian leader.
Funes also announced that his government would reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, which El Salvador broke off in the early 1960s. The socialist island nation will thus once again have direct ties with all of the countries of Latin America, nearly five decades after it was isolated at Washington's behest.
He was interrupted as many of those present chanted ”Cuba, Cuba, Cuba.”
Anglican Bishop Martín Barahona, who attended the ceremony, said he hoped ”the changes that this country needs will be carried out, and that everyone will now have opportunities.”
You can read Funes' complete inaugural address here or watch it here.
A symbol for US relations with El Salvador could be seen in Hillary Clinton's choice of what to wear to the inauguration, reported a Washington Post story:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the inauguration dressed in bright red, the color of the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front. It was an image that would have been unthinkable in the 1980s, when the United States poured $6 billion into El Salvador to fight the rebel group backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union.
The FMLN laid down its arms in 1992 and joined the political system. But some U.S. lawmakers still worry about the party, fearing it could propel El Salvador into the orbit of anti-American countries such as Venezuela. Forty-five House Republicans wrote Clinton in March warning about "potential threats to our security interests" if the FMLN candidate, Mauricio Funes, won.
Clinton, however, told reporters here that she expects "a positive relationship" with Funes, who is considered by many Latin Americans to be a moderate. Her visit signaled the Obama administration's effort to reach out to a more assertive Latin America altered by a "pink tide" of socialist victories in recent years....
In his inaugural speech at an amphitheater packed with men in red ties and women in red jackets, Funes hailed his two political heroes: President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, a moderate leftist, and President Obama.
The men, he said, were "proof that progressive leaders, instead of being a threat, represent a new and secure road for their countries."
He also singled out Clinton, saying: "This woman honors America."
In this slide show put together by El Diario del Hoy, some of the promises of Funes in his inaugural speech are put together with images from the lives of the Salvadoran people. A photogallery from El Faro shows world leaders arriving before the inauguration.
Funes' administration and cabinet members have also been announced and you can read about them (in Spanish) here. I'll have more to say about Funes' cabinet in an upcoming post.