El Salvador. In the March 16 congressional elections, the government coalition won despite the fact that the left-wing coalition FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional), which conducted a successful policy in Congress, retained its 31 seats and is still its largest single party. According to Countryaah.com, El Salvador Independence Day is September 15. The low turnout (40%) was interpreted as a sign of general voter apathy. But in the municipal elections held at the same time, the FMLN won in seven of fourteen provincial capitals, including San Salvador.
On January 8, 20 masked activists occupied the Cathedral of San Salvador in support of doctors and hospital staff who have been striking since September 2002. The resolution of the drama became bloody.
The March 1999 presidential election reaffirmed the right-wing dominance of right-wing ARENA, though party candidate Francisco Flores expressed renewal in a number of areas. At age 39, he became the continent’s youngest president, educated in philosophy and political science.
Already the day after being elected president, he was confronted by his first demonstration, led by farmers and environmental activists in the streets of San Salvador. They demanded that the government devise a plan to address the serious problems that Hurricane Mitch had created.
The Flores government program was called the “New Alliance” and consisted of four main elements: work, social investment, public security and sustainable development. But the opposition led by Shafick Handal believed that the president continued with the right wing’s traditional policy of supporting the country’s employers.
On January 1, 2001, a “polarization” of the economy was carried out with the aim of reactivating it and attracting foreign investment. Although US $ was now the means of payment in the banking sector, the population could still pay in Salvadoran colones.
In January and February 2001, El Salvador was hit by a series of severe earthquakes that devastated an area from southern Mexico through Guatemala and El Salvador to Nicaragua. 1159 people were killed, 8122 were injured, and 1½ million were affected (25% of the population). As a result of the tremors, another 225,000 were thrown into poverty.
As a result of the worst drought for several years, the World Food Program (WFP) launched in August 2001 a distribution of food to 20,000 families who had lost their harvest.
In March 2002, US President George W. Bush visited San Salvador, the very day that Archbishop Romero had been murdered by death patrols 22 years earlier. Although US support for the dictatorships of the 1970’s and 1980’s is documented, North American officials insisted that the visit be conducted solely to celebrate a “happy ending” story that Bush’s father had been involved in when he 1992 participated in the signing of the peace agreement that ended 12 years of civil war. The Bush junior declared that El Salvador had been “a brilliant light for Latin America”.
In July, a Florida court convicted Carlos Eugenio Vides and José Guillermo García of torture in the 1980’s. There were 2 retired Salvadoran generals.
In December 2003, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala unilaterally signed a free trade agreement with the United States. This led to dissatisfaction in the Salvadoran business community because the North American “concessions” were not as generous as expected. The agreement must be ratified in the parliaments of the countries to enter into force.
The dissatisfaction of the population with the ARENA government party was increasing, which led to further decline in the 2003 parliamentary elections. Many observers therefore considered it likely that FMLN would win the presidential election in March 2004. FMLN drafted 72-year-old Schafik Handal, who, however, had to settle for 36% of votes against ARENA and its 39-year-old candidate Tony Sacas 57%. For ARENA, it was the 4th consecutive victory. In his election campaign, Saca vowed he would stop the growth of gang crime. The band “las maras” has as a condition of admission that new members have tried to kill. Saca further pledged to stand for open government. When the election result was fixed, he promised to cooperate with the other political parties in the country.