Left turns: El Salvador and Costa Rica
Both countries held elections on Sunday, both go into runoffs in March, both favoring leftists:
In El Salvador, former FMlN leader and current vice-president Salvador Sánchez Cerén is ahead:
El Salvador: former leftwing guerrilla takes lead in presidential election
Salvador Sanchez Ceren was rebel leader in bloody civil war but with nearly half votes counted he is favourite to win March run off. Otto Reich sees a grim future if Sánchez Cerén wins (emphasis added):
Sánchez Cerén is no ordinary contender. For example, he has admitted to participating in the brutal execution of members of his own guerrilla force, the Popular Liberation Forces, or FPL, who did not comply with his orders and rules.
Witnesses and survivors accuse him of ordering the torture and subsequent murder of hundreds of alleged “traitors” and of guerrilla soldiers accused of desertion. Anywhere else in the world, Sánchez Cerén would be condemned for his record on human rights. In El Salvador, he is at the top of some polls.
Like [current president Mauricio] Funes, Sánchez Cerén paints a rosy picture of reformist, democratic rule. But Sánchez Cerén is being backed by the Venezuelan government through a multimillion-dollar enterprise called ALBA Petroleos. That enterprise was set up with Venezuelan money to provide FMLN mayors and officials exclusively with valuable products such as gasoline and toilet paper, which are scarce in Venezuela, in order to generate political goodwill for the FMLN party. ALBA Petroleos is managed by José Luis Merino, another former FMLN fighter, top official in the Salvadoran Communist party, and one of Sánchez Cerén’s closest advisers.
According to U.S. and Colombian intelligence and counter-narcotics agencies and international press reports, Merino has ties to the Marxist Colombian FARC army, to multinational drug cartels, and even to the Italian Mafia. It is persons like Merino who would staff a Sánchez Cerén government, or else stay outside and continue to manipulate resources that should go to the poor but instead are used to illicitly enrich FMLN party and government officials.
Likewise, in Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solís is ahead: Leftist Costa Rica outsider leads election, run-off expected
Luis Guillermo Solis, an academic who has never been elected to office, had a slim lead over ruling party candidate Johnny Araya despite trailing in pre-election polls and early vote returns.
Araya was seen as the front-runner ahead of the vote, but his campaign was hurt by corruption scandals that plagued President Laura Chinchilla’s administration.
Solis, who ran on an anti-corruption ticket, won 30.9 percent support on Sunday compared to 29.6 percent for Araya with returns in from around 82 percent of polling centers.
Left-wing lawmaker Jose Maria Villalta was in third place with 17.2 percent. His supporters could help carry Solis to victory in the run-off against Araya, although votes from a host of smaller parties who commanded around a quarter of the tally on Sunday will also be fought over.
A Solis victory in the run-off would mark another triumph for center-left parties which have gained ground in much of Latin America in recent years.
Federico Delgado wrote about how Costa Rica Flirts with Chavismo with Frente Amplio candidate Jose Maria Villalta; so far Villalta came in third in Sunday’s results.