San Salvador, El Salvador — In yet another sign of the revolutionary momentum sweeping the Americas, Salvador Sánchez Cerén was inaugurated president of El Salvador on June 1 amidst an emotional and victorious air of celebration here in the capital.
President Sánchez Cerén is the historic and beloved leader of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and a former commander in El Salvador’s guerrilla army.
The FMLN carried out a powerful people’s war from 1980 to 1992 against El Salvador’s brutal U.S.-orchestrated death squads and ruling elite. These reactionary forces killed thousands of people during that period.
President Sánchez Cerén’s inauguration took place at a formal session of the Legislative Assembly held at the International Convention Center. An impressive 6,000 Salvadorans and international guests were present.
International representatives included presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Cuban Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa and a representative of the Venezuelan government. All received thunderous applause and the best welcome of all the international guests. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro sent a warm message of congratulations to Sánchez Cerén.
The outgoing president, Mauricio Funes, an FMLN supporter, received a moving and very warm farewell from the audience in recognition of the many changes he carried out for El Salvador’s poor and working people under his administration, including the creation of a Women’s Hospital.
Funes’ government was the first to be progressive and pro-FMLN since the end of the bloody civil war.
There is no denying that the election of not just one but two former guerrilla fighters into the highest offices marks a turning point for the people of El Salvador, as the new vice president, Oscar Ortiz, was also an FMLN commander.
Carlos Canales, a co-coordinator of the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights and an organizer of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network from the New York area, told Workers World: “I never thought I would see the day when not just one, but two commanders would have such positions. This represents a new day for us. It represents hope for a better future. It pays tribute to all the martyrs and dead of El Salvador’s civil war. I am overcome with emotion.”
Indeed, the many references to El Salvador’s guerrilla leaders during the inauguration were surely taken note of by U.S. imperialism, despite the absence of any high-level U.S. representatives. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been present for the Funes inauguration in 2009.
Sigfrido Reyes, president of the Legislative Assembly, opened the inauguration with a somber and formal tone. But there was no denying the recognition of the important and revolutionary role the FMLN has played in the country.
When Reyes referred to the martyrs and leaders of the FMLN, the crowd burst into applause.
The masses took to their feet with especially thunderous applause when the Assembly leader mentioned FMLN guerrilla leader Schafik Hándal.
Hándal, of Palestinian origin, was a member of the Communist Party of El Salvador and one of the major leaders and fighters of the FMLN. He was one of the promoters, founders and participants in the armed struggle of that country. When he died of natural causes in 2006, a mass funeral procession of tens of thousands took place in the streets of San Salvador.
Schafik Hándal, along with newly inaugurated President Sánchez Cerén, supported and founded a major militant teachers’ union, ANDES 21 de Junio, which led many great struggles and strikes.
Sánchez Cerén was a signer on behalf of the FMLN of the Chapultepec Peace Accords in 1992 that ended the formal civil war. According to a statement from the U.S.-based Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), Sánchez Cerén “has remained a leading voice within the party for a revolutionary, democratic and socialist vision.”
CISPES, one of the longest-running solidarity organizations in the U.S., went on to say that Sánchez Cerén’s victory is “all the more significant as a departure from two decades of hard-right rule by the ARENA party and a further step to the left from the progressive Funes administration.”
ARENA, the Nationalist Republican Alliance, is historically a vicious right-wing formation that, along with the U.S. government, has the blood of hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans on its hands.
It was easy to observe that someone very unpopular had entered the huge venue when the applause and chants were replaced by boos. The son of 1980s ARENA leader Roberto d’Aubuisson and other pro-ARENA officials were loudly booed and jeered as they entered the convention center, after having reportedly shunned President Funes. D’Aubuisson was the mastermind of many massacres of Salvadoran peasants, women, faith leaders and workers.
The first act announced by the Assembly president after President Sánchez Cerén’s inauguration speech was a prompt investigation of corruption and slander by d’Aubuisson elements. Students, campesinos, unionists and activists in the audience greeted this announcement with thunderous applause.
During the event, chants of “FMLN, FMLN, FMLN” and “¡No volverán!” (“They will not return!”) were a message to friends and enemies alike that the masses are ready to continue the fight for liberation and justice.
El Salvador faces many challenges. Poverty is rampant. Illegal drugs headed for the U.S. market cause many instabilities and violence, all connected to the Pentagon. The minimum wage in the country is about $6 a day, yet gas is a whopping $4 a quart.
However, according to Venezuelanalysis.com, immediately after President Sánchez Cerén’s inauguration, El Salvador became a member of Petrocaribe. Petrocaribe is an alliance, primarily among Caribbean countries, to trade oil at favorable prices for the non-oil producers. It was established by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
El Salvador Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez issued a statement that because El Salvador has no natural petroleum resources of its own, joining Petrocaribe allows the country to better fulfill its energy needs “under the principles of cooperation, solidarity, fair prices and mutual benefit.”
Exxon’s CEO must have trembled in his boots.
Showing the dangers faced by the FMLN administration, a few days before the inauguration an unknown assailant shot into a bus, killing several innocent people. President Funes described it as a terrorist act and a warning to the incoming Cerén administration.
The greatest danger comes from U.S. imperialism, which has not and never will reconcile itself to the changing tide in Latin America. It has never stopped its war against revolutionary Cuba and continues to attempt to destabilize the Venezuelan, Bolivian and Ecuadorian governments.
U.S. imperialism ousted President Mel Zelaya in Honduras in 2009 and prevented the election of Xiomara Castro de Zelaya in the presidential election there this year.
The FMLN faces the challenge of defending its gains from imperialism while administering a capitalist state. Like the African National Congress in South Africa, a revolutionary grouping that favors the interests of the masses over those of international finance capital, the FMLN too faces a major contradiction.
How much can a revolutionary grouping carry out without seizing — as socialist Cuba did — the means of production from the hands of the capitalist class and putting everything in the hands of the workers?
One advantage the FMLN has is that the masses of El Salvador are class conscious. There are reports that the police in the country are closer to the people than the capitalist class.
Above all, the Salvadoran workers and peasants have the rich experience of doing everything, including picking up arms, to defend themselves from exploitation and misery.
Francisco Morazán, a beloved Honduran leader from the 1800s who is described as the Simón Bolívar of Honduras, asked to be buried in El Salvador upon his death in 1842.
Morazán was a visionary who fought for the unity of Central America as one nation. He was president of the Federal Republic of Central America from 1830 to 1839. He asked to be buried in El Salvador in recognition of the unique fighting spirit of the Salvadoran people.
This is surely the legacy that will ultimately triumph in El Salvador. Sooner or later, the Salvadoran working class, its students, peasants, women and youth will wrest everything their society needs and deserves away from the ARENA party and the d’Aubissons of the country.
U.S. imperialism will be defeated and Central America will one day be united in the vision of Morazán. Victory to the FMLN!