Leftist Mauricio Funes, President-Elect of El Salvador

By Dialogo
March 16, 2009

SAN SALVADOR, March 16, 2009 (AFP) - Mauricio Funes, the candidate of the leftist ‎former guerrilla organization Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), was ‎elected Sunday by a narrow margin as President of El Salvador, ending 20 years of ‎hegemony of the right, which recognized its defeat.‎ ‎"I am the President-Elect of the Salvadorans," he exulted in a hotel in the Capital, ‎accompanied by his wife Wanda Pignato, who is of Brazilian origin and the ‎representative of the Brazilian Workers’ Party to Central America.‎ ‎"This day has been a triumph for the public, who believe in hope and have defeated fear. ‎This is a victory for the all Salvadoran people," Funes added.‎ With 92.02% of the ballots counted, Funes got 51.2% of the votes, while the candidate of ‎the ruling right, Rodrigo Avila, won 48.7%, a difference of just over 62,000 votes, ‎according to data from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) before suspending the ‎recount Sunday night.‎ An hour before midnight, Avila, of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA, right), ‎recognized the victory of his rival in the "toughest" election that his party, which has ‎ruled El Salvador since 1989, has faced.‎ ‎"I want to recognize Mauricio Funes of the FMLN, who in this struggle closed the gap, ‎which gave him the advantage, and I pray to God to, as he gave the Salvadoran people ‎wisdom, to give wisdom to his party," said Avila, flanked at the podium by the outgoing ‎President, Antonio Saca, and their predecessors, Alfredo Cristiani (1989-1994), Armando ‎Calderón (1994-1999) and Francisco Flores (1999-2004), where long faces abounded.‎ Faced with the first partial results, Walter Araujo, the President of TSE, failed to ‎recognize the victory of one of the most incisive journalists of the Salvadoran landscape, ‎who has broken the left’s remaining stigma in this conservative Central American ‎country.‎ ‎ "The Salvadoran people, each of whom has drawn conclusions based on this preliminary ‎poll, have spoken," he said.‎ The final results are expected in 48 hours.‎ In a message addressed undoubtedly to those who, in this campaign, used fear to try to ‎prevent his victory, Funes pledged to work "tirelessly" for a system of liberties, including ‎private property and legal security, that he said "will have my greatest respect and ‎attention."‎ ‎"Our intent," he said, "is to turn El Salvador into the most dynamic economy in Central ‎America."‎ On the streets, a red tide of militants gathered on the Alberto Masferrer plaza, where they ‎had a meeting with Funes and his companion, the intended Vice President, former ‎FMLN commander Salvador Sánchez Ceren, to celebrate this historic victory.‎ ‎"Yes, we can!" shouted the thousands of excited fans who took to the streets shortly after ‎the close of the polls when the first results began to come in, while setting off fireworks ‎to celebrate the victory of the FMLN in its fourth attempt to seize power since 1992.‎ The organization was formed into a political party after 12 years of civil war.‎ Both the President of the TSE and the missions of international observers emphasized the ‎normality of this election day, whose figures are still unofficial, in which 60% of the 4.3 ‎million voters assembled at the polls, dotted with a few isolated incidents, all involving ‎citizens who came to vote presenting false documents.‎ The first foreign leader to congratulate Funes was Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, ‎from whom the now President-Elect had sought to distance himself during the election ‎campaign, along with Sandinista Daniel Ortega and Honduras populist Manuel Zelaya, ‎major supporters of leftist Central American governments.‎