Leftist Mauricio Funes, President-Elect of El Salvador
By Dialogo March 16, 2009SAN 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.