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El Salvador Holds National Elections Amidst Renewed GOP Threats Against Electing FMLN

StoryMarch 13, 2009
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Greg Grandin

professor of Latin American history at NYU and author of Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. His forthcoming book is Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City.

Two Republican lawmakers have issued threats over the outcome of Sunday’s national elections in El Salvador. On Thursday, Republican Congress members Trent Franks of Arizona and Dan Burton of Indiana said Salvadorans living in the US could lose their immigration status and the right to send remittances home if the leftist FMLN party wins the vote. Polls indicate the FMLN will beat the right-wing ARENA party, which has long had close ties to Washington. [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin, on a different note, Salvador elections on Sunday?

GREG GRANDIN: Well, the polls show that the election is close. The FMLN candidate, which would have — which, if he does win, it will end nearly twenty years of ARENA right-wing rule, the ARENA party being linked to the death squad in the civil war of El Salvador in the 1980s. Mauricio Funes was well ahead in the polls, but there’s been a major scare campaign.

JUAN GONZALEZ: That’s the candidate of the FMLN.

GREG GRANDIN: That’s the candidate of the FMLN. There’s been a major scare campaign over the last two or three months, along the lines of what happened in Mexico, bringing it back to Mexico, with Manuel Lopez Obrador in 2006, which linked him to Chavez. And Lopez Obrador was well ahead in the polls, scheduled to win, and at the last minute it came in very close. Peru, we saw the same thing. So there’s been an orchestrated attempt to link Funes with Chavez and also with the FARC in Colombia and scare Salvadoran voters into voting once again for ARENA. We saw the same thing in 2004.

Key to this, as you mentioned in the opening, is a threatening the Temporary Protection Status. There’s about 2.5 million Salvadorans in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of them are here under what’s known as a TPS, Temporary Protection Status, that was implemented in, I think, 1989, 1990, and it was a recognition of the migration, out-migration, exile, resulting from the violence of the civil war in the 1990s. And it’s almost been a ritual of US politics every time there’s a presidential election in El Salvador to threaten to revoke that TPS status. What you saw in El Salvador was headlines blared along all the right-wing newspapers, which is completely controlled by ARENA or affiliated with ARENA, announcing that Congress threatens to cut off TPS and remittances will fall and all of this, and all of this alarmism.

The Obama administration, the State Department, issued a neutrality statement yesterday. It was about a paragraph long, but it’s not getting any attention within the Salvadoran press, and certainly not the headlines that the statements by Dan Burton and other Republican congressmen have received.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll certainly follow that story on Monday, what happens with the Salvador elections on Sunday. I want to thank you all for being with us. Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at NYU, his forthcoming book called Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City.

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