FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes has made repeated denouncements against signs that the ruling ARENA party plans to commit fraud in the March 2009 elections. He accused ARENA of painting a picture of a close race, mainly by pressuring media outlets to produce false polling figures. The recent poll published and executed by La Prensa Grafica only put 2.8% between Funes and the ARENA candidate Rodrigo Ávila. This comes on the heels of two formal surveys by UTEC and IUDOP, executed by local universities, which put Funes ahead by 15%. Opponents say the accusations are no evidence of fraud and that the FMLN is merely nervous about Ávila’s gains in the polls. One of the two FMLN magistrates on the electoral court (the other three are ARENA) expressed concern over the ‘close race’ scenario, which could lead to the court’s intervention in the March elections. Legal reforms last November allowed for a simple majority in the Electoral court, making way for an ARENA victory if such a scenario were to occur. Combined with an exaggerated mudslinging campaign against Funes that is financed by right wing Venezuelans; many Salvadorans are increasingly worried about what lengths El Salvador’s ruling elite are preparing to take to avoid a transfer of power.
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Last week El Salvador hosted the Ibero-American Conference to address Latin America, Portugal and Spain’s policies toward youth and development. The financial crisis soon took priority, and the majority of state leaders appealed for demonstrative change and expressed harsh criticism of failing neo-liberal policies. Evo Morales called for a move toward socialism, exhorting fellow leaders against desperate attempts to save crumbling financial institutions. Presidents Saca (ES), Calderon (MX), and Uribe (CO) defended their countries aggressive neo-liberal policies, isolating themselves in an otherwise progressive dialog. Amusingly enough, in the opening address El Salvador’s president Tony Saca quoted Che Guevara’s ‘seamos realistas, pidamos lo imposible’ (be realistic, ask the impossible) in addressing the theme of poverty among youth. As mentioned in the post below, various agreements were signed in respect of the theme, yet the voices of Salvadoran youth were not represented. Parallel conferences and concentrations of youth from around Latin America took place to express their dissent.