U.S.-Backed Right Wing Candidate Wins in El Salvador

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U.S.-backed candidate Tony Saca won this weekend’s national elections in El Salvador, beating former guerilla leader Schafik Handal. We go to San Salvador for a report. [includes transcript]

In El Salvador the U.S.-backed right-wing candidate Tony Saca easily won in national elections on Sunday beating former guerilla leader Schafik Handal. The Bush administration was accused by some as meddling in the election by publicly backing Saca.

A week ago, White House Special Assistant Otto Reich gave a phone press conference at the headquarters of the right-wing party. He told Salvadorean reporters he was worried what kind of impact a victory by the left could have on the country’s “economic, commercial, and migratory relations with the United States.”

Last month Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noreiga told voters to “consider what kind of a relationship they want a new administration to have with us.”

This prompted 28 members of Congress to send a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell warning that Noriega’s remarks were perceived as “interference in Salvadoran electoral affairs.”

One of the signees of the letter Dennis Kucinich said, “Unfortunately, what is going on in El Salvador is representative of a Latin American policy that is not about promoting healthy democracies, but instead focused on making Latin American nations bend to U.S. commercial interests.”

  • Norman Stockwell, of WORT-FM Community Radio Madison, WI speaking from San Salvador, El Salvador.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go to Norm Stockwell of community radio station WORT in Madison, Wisconsin. You covered this election. Your description of what took place.

NORM STOCKWELL: Yes, Amy. Thank you. It’s very good to be with you. Last night was a very disappointing defeat for the FMLN here in El Salvador. As you said, the party that came out of El Salvador’s peace accords of 1992, began campaigning for political office. This was the first chance for the FMLN to gain the presidency in this country. There were high hopes if they didn’t succeed in the first round, they would make it to the second round in May 2 when the top two candidates would contend for the election. It turned out that the Arana party got resounding victory, 57% of the vote went to Arana, and many people have said this was not a fair campaign, that it was a campaign of fear. In fact, Schafik Handal last night in his concession speech said that he is conceding defeat, but he will not congratulate his opponent because the campaign of fear is not a campaign of liberty.

AMY GOODMAN: Norm Stockwell, we just have 30 seconds, but I wanted to ask about white house special assistant, Otto Reich having a news conference at the headquarters of the right wing party, telling Salvadoran party that the impact of the victory would have on the country and Roger Noriega telling the voters consider what relationship they want the U.S. To have with us, meaning the U.S.

NORM STOCKWELL: Many officials were quoted in the media here in the last couple of months. Also, Jeb Bush from Florida was down here speaking in favor of CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement. He cautioned the voters not to vote for the FMLN. This is the kind of attempt that the United States was engaged in throughout the campaign, that the FMLN is now saying that was part of the campaign of fear and part of the corruption of the Salvadoran electoral process.

AMY GOODMAN: Norm Stockwell, I want to thank you very much for being with us of station WORT in Wisconsin speaking to us from San Salvador.

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