TV Journalist Leads Historic Power Shift in El Salvador

20 Mar 2009

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Mauricio Funes, a well respected television journalist became the president-elect of El Salvador on Sunday, 15 March 2009. He will become the country's first left wing leader since it won its independence from Spain in 1821, ending 150 years of oligarchy and military dictatorship.

Funes is the leader of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a social democratic political party that was formerly a Guerilla organisation fighting against a military dictatorship for El Salvador's liberation.

The election of Funes signifies the first time that power will change hands in the country by way of a peace-time election.

The FMLN will take over the reigns from the conservative ARENA party, which was founded by army major and death squad leader Roberto D' Aubuisson. ARENA, which has been in power for 20 years, closely followed US policy prescriptions, including the introduction of the US dollar as El Salvador's currency. El Salvador was also the only Latin American country to send troops to Iraq.

Approximately a third of all El Salvadorians live in America and the remittances they send home accounts for a fifth of the tiny country's GDP. The majority of those living abroad, left the country in the last 20 years due to the faltering economy.

Roughly half of El Salvadorians are unemployed or work in the informal economy and 81% do not earn what the United Nations refers to as a decent wage.

President-elect Funes said his actions will be guided by "Looking to always side with the poor and excluded."

For El Salvadorians, Funes represents the hope of a better future and equitable sustainable development for all.

Ordinary El Salvadorians want the new administration to deal with tax evasion by the rich. They hope that funds gained through this effort can be used for social spending, especially for health and education.

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