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El Salvador’s ‘date with history’

Published Jul 2, 2009 6:48 PM

“And that wave of anger at its very limit, of yearning for justice, of trampled rights that begin to rise from the soil of Latin America, that wave could no longer be stopped. That wave of anger growing every day that passes because that wave shapes the majority in all aspects, those who with their work accumulate wealth, create values, make the wheels of history turn and who now are waking up from the long, brutalizing sleep to which they have been subject.”

Apparently the wave, which Commandante Ernesto Che Guevara spoke of at the General Assembly meeting at the United Nations in 1964, arrived at the borders of the Salvadoran Sea, when on June 1, Mauricio Funes took office as the head of the smallest country in the Americas.

El Salvador President Mauritius Funes

“Funes! Funes! Funes!” shouted the sea of red, which vibrated with the songs of the people–people who, under the trusteeship of the right-wing party, saw their currency replaced by the dollar and fled to the cities.

“Today is a day of hope and of joy,” commented one of the supporters armed with a handkerchief on her head, an FMLN flag [Spanish acronym for Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front], a Che shirt and vibrant with an energy that she had maintained throughout the day while waiting for the main event—“Chávez and Funes.”

The event began late, and when the masters of ceremony announced that it would be only a few more minutes until Funes arrived, there were people with sad faces leaving the celebration because they had been there for more than eight hours awaiting the arrival of the new president, the first in El Salvador from the left.

After revolutionary singers from Cuba and Mexico, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua began his speech. Praising ALBA, PetroCaribe and the Central American Union CA-4, he presented regrets from his counterpart Hugo Chavez, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Chavez could not attend the event for “security reasons of which we will not enter into detail,” said Ortega. “The FMLN and FSLN [Sandinista Front] are brothers, not only because our countries are brothers, but because we shared the same struggles for more than 40 years.”

Cuban vice-Ambassador Esteban Lazo Hernandez declared: “Salvadoran sisters and brothers, I am happy to express my gratitude and my congratulations from our President Raul Castro, former-President Fidel Castro and all the Cuban people.” He opened his speech expressing support to Funes and emphasizing his happiness because finally, after 50 years, Cuba and El Salvador were to resume political and commercial relations.

After a short but strong speech praising the FMLN and the struggle in Central America for a Latin American union, Nicolas Maduro, representing Venezuela, gave way to the main focus of the evening, President of El Salvador Mauritius Funes.

“I could not govern this country, knowing that we did not have relations with a country so filled with solidarity and as strong as is Cuba. I would be ashamed to be president of a separatist country,” commented Funes, who was about to resume relations with Cuba the same day that he took office.

From the beginning, Funes signaled that he was exhausted from his long day and apologized for the delay in his arrival. He began his speech: “Thanks to all who are here, to all the countries that have come to this celebration, to this date with history.”

As Funes took the microphone and began to talk, the crowd, already diminished by fatigue and a short rain typical of the Salvadoran winter, watched him. “To fight against corruption, to fight against organized crime, a government that always supports the poor and the needy before it takes care of its family and/or the privileged groups”—these were the three outstanding points of Funes’ speech that showed his political tendency or indicated what might be the methodology of his government.

The new government must develop a new plan to confront the worldwide economic crisis already reaching El Salvador—such as a new plan to arouse activists to retake the reins of the destiny of the country. After more than 12 years of war and 20 years of rightist regimes, the people of El Salvador are waking from a long and brutal sleep.

The writer is an activist and member of FIST–Fight Imperialism, Stand Together–in Raleigh, N.C. This article was translated from Spanish.