How far left is El Salvador’s left?

As new president elect Mauricio Funes celebrates his victory in El Salvador, the world will be watching for answers to the inevitable question: has another Latin America country just turned to the Left? The immediate answer is: yes. The victorious FMLN party claims deep Marxist roots — having emerged out of an alliance of rebel ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
587751_090316_el_salvador2.jpg
587751_090316_el_salvador2.jpg
Supporters of the presidential candidate of the leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN), Mauricio Funes, celebrate on March 15, 2009 in San Salvador. Leftists took an early 51.38 percent lead in El Salvador's presidential balloting, against 33.26 for the ruling ARENA party, election officials said late Sunday. AFP PHOTO/YURI CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

As new president elect Mauricio Funes celebrates his victory in El Salvador, the world will be watching for answers to the inevitable question: has another Latin America country just turned to the Left?

The immediate answer is: yes. The victorious FMLN party claims deep Marxist roots -- having emerged out of an alliance of rebel groups from El Salvador's bloody civil war in 1992. FMLN appealed to voters who are fed up with poverty, crime, and the inertia of a decades-in-power ruling ARENA party. The party fell hard for Obamamania to get its point of "change" across.

As new president elect Mauricio Funes celebrates his victory in El Salvador, the world will be watching for answers to the inevitable question: has another Latin America country just turned to the Left?

The immediate answer is: yes. The victorious FMLN party claims deep Marxist roots — having emerged out of an alliance of rebel groups from El Salvador’s bloody civil war in 1992. FMLN appealed to voters who are fed up with poverty, crime, and the inertia of a decades-in-power ruling ARENA party. The party fell hard for Obamamania to get its point of “change” across.

But just how radical is the FMLN? That’s a much more interesting thing to ponder. Funes himself is a moderate, but others in the party are less so. During the campaign, the now president elect stressed his business friendliness, and intention to keep up a strong U.S. relationship. But CATO analyst Carlos Hidalgo is still concerned. In a podcast last week, he said that high-ranking FMLN party members (including the Vice President) were intent on dismantling market reforms, dropping out of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and emulating Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution. That could undo gains including the near-halfing of poverty since the end of the war, Hidalgo worries.

Watch and wait, it seems. For now, as Bart Beeson writes for FP, the victory is exactly that for a country long troubled by civil conflict. Everyone seems to agree no matter how far left the FMLN may be, it’s better that they’ve taken their revolution out of the jungle and into voting booths. 

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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