[Translation of an editorial from the Salvadoran website Raices.com for May 3.]
The principal feature of the May Day celebrations on the streets of San Salvador was that the people, especially those in the governing party, the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), were asking President Mauricio Funes for changes. To the degree that they reminded him that it was they who had put him in office and they could remove him.
The burning of an effigy with the president’s face and Uncle Sam’s hat was perhaps the demonstrators’ most stunning blow, although to listen to the leaders, among them José Luis Merino and Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, things were more cordial than that, in that more confidence was shown than dissatisfaction. They even said change requires the participation of the people.
During the previous week, President Funes managed to dodge the blows of his allies on the left. He declared that people have the right to make demands and they should get used to demanding change, although for him the basis for change has already been laid down in his government. As usual, he cited several examples, among them school supplies and shoes for school kids.
Neverthelsss, Funes can’t rid himself of the stigma of having opposed the elimination of telephone fees and of his discomfort over the FMLN’s insistence on their right to offer a slate of candidates for leadership of the Registro Nacional de las Personas Naturales [National Registry of Persons], formerly held by the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA — Republican Nationalist Alliance). The give and take with the Frente goes on.
As we have indicated in other commentaries, the country’s first leftist government has an uncertain future because of extremely serious problems which, although inherited, it cannot gloss over. Increased violence, linked with narcotrafficking and organized crime; the economic crisis that keeps Salvadoran families in anxiety.
On the question of violence alone, it is alarming that massacres of inhabitants by groups of armed men, some dressed in black like the police and carrying high caliber weapons, are becoming a commonplace. In less than a week there have been two cases resulting in the deaths of at least ten people. So far, the authorities have clarified nothing.
We have also to mention the way the government conducts its foreign policy, very attentive to US interests in the region, to the distress of the left, to the degree that El Salvador is the main proponent of having the government of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo of Honduras join the international community, a regime that came about following the June 28 coup.
When the first year of the “government of change” ends next June, there will be an opportunity to evaluate what it is and what it may possibly become in the four years left to it. For the time being, it’s worth noting that, for the reasons stated above, it won’t have it very easy and the May Day demonstrations have become a partial examination.