Since the September shutdown of the transit system in El Salvador, rumors have circulated that the threats allegedly made by gang members were in reality an attempt by right-wing extremists to destabilize the government and even overthrow the Funes Administration. These rumors came a little over a year after a coup in Honduras ousted a democratically elected President, and as the Ortega Administration in Nicaragua seeks to consolidate its power. Following the September 30th attempted coup in Ecuador in which a small group of police and soldiers tried to overthrow the leftist government of President Rafael Correa, OAS President José Miguel Insulza said “we ought to remain on alert [of coups], not just in Ecuador, but throughout the Western Hemisphere.”
In the past week, President Funes and the FMLN party he represents have addressed the possibility of a coup in El Salvador – in one breath dismissing it altogether, and in another taking it head on. In a speech Friday night celebrating internationals that fought alongside the FMLN during the 1980s, Medardo González (General Coordinator of the FMLN) addressed OAS President Insulza’s concerns by stating forcefully, “Here in El Salvador, we are on alert and will not permit any coup against the State.”
Diario CoLatino reported yesterday that President Funes is downplaying the threat of a coup in El Salvador. They quote Funes, “I do not have any information that makes me think [a coup] is possible, especially against a government like mine. In 16 months we have carried out our public duty, abided by the constitution, and been a government that has increased national unity.” The article also emphasizes that the President has the full support of the armed forces, and the international community, including the President of the United States.
President Funes also addressed the coup issue during a speech to the Permanent Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Political Parties. He called for the Organization of American States to create an early response system to prevent future coups in Latin America and establish criminal sanctions for those who break democratic order. He calls for OAS intervention not only before or during a military coup, but in “any other situation that could translate into ungovernability and destabilization.”
These carefully worded statements accomplish a few things. At the same time, the President and FMLN are assuring the Salvadoran people that the government is stable and that a coup is unlikely, while putting everyone on notice that they would confront a coup attempt head on and defeat it. President Funes is also using the recent instability in Ecuador and last year’s coup in Honduras to call on the international community to create better mechanisms to prevent future coups – mechanisms that would surely benefit his administration if extremists even tried to destabilize his government.