El Salvador: Meet the Candidates Maintaining Civil War Roots

Español On Sunday, February 2, El Salvador will hold elections for the 2014-2019 presidential term. Polls indicate the likelihood of a second round on March 9, since no candidate is in track to obtain an absolute majority of ballots, as required by the electoral law for a first-round winner.

Probable contenders for the presidency via a second round include Salvador Sánchez Cerén, from the Marxist Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN), and Norman Quijano – from the anti-communist Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

Salvador Sánchez Cerén

Salvador Sánchez Cerén. Source: Presidencia de El Salvador.

He is the current vice president in El Salvador and a former education minister. He became an important leader in the FMLN after presence in the associated guerrilla group, the Farabundo Martí Popular Powers of Liberation (FPL), where his alias was Leonel González.

Critics stress his alleged involvement in criminal activities, such as murders and kidnappings, while leading the FPL in the years of El Salvador’s Civil War (1980 and 1992). He is also criticized for participating in a demonstration against the United States, which resorted to vandalism and flag burning.

Oscar Ortiz, candidate for vice presidency and another prominent FMLN member, was also involved with the guerrillas as well, under the alias Guillermo Rodríguez. Between 1981 and 1983, he even led a terrorist cell in the Usulutan Department. When FMLN became a political party, Ortiz was elected as a congressman for the National Assembly — in 1994 and 1997. Then, from 2000 he was mayor of Santa Tecla, until last year when he was named candidate for the vice presidency.

Norman Quijano

Norman Quijano.

Quijano, an orthodontist, started his political career in 1989 as the social action manager in San Salvador’s Mayoral Office. He was in the National Assembly for 15 years, and in 2009 he was elected mayor of San Salvdor. He stayed in office until he delegated power to Gloria Calderón de Oñate to campaign as ARENA’s presidential candidate.

René Portillo Cuadra, his vice presidential running mate, has a background in academia. He is a lawyer and notary, a graduate of the University of San Salvador and Georgetown University Law School. He also has a masters degree in pluralist law and a PhD in public and private law from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain.

Portillo arbitrated the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). He teaches in Spain and with the Pontifical Catholic University in Chile. He is also a member of a Technical Committee studying consumers’ capacities and the national consumers’ protection system in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Elías Antonio Saca

Elías Antonio Saca. Source: El Salvador Noticias.

Elías Antonio Saca and Francisco Laínez are the candidates for the Unity Movement (Movimiento Unidad).

Saca was president between 2004 and 2009. He studied Journalism at the University of El Salvador, and is known to be a successful radio owner. He was president of the Salvadoran Association of Radio Stations (ASDER) and president of the National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP).

Saca suffered expulsion from ARENA in 2009, on accusations of conduct against the party’s principles. There are also lingering suspicions of corruption during his term as president.

Laínez, on the other hand, has a long political history. He also started his career in ARENA, reaching a position in the National Executive Council. He was foreign affairs minister during Saca’s administration, and later on he was named ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS).

Both in 2009 and this year’s elections, Laínez tried to be ARENA’s presidential candidate. But not long after Quijano was finally chosen, Laínez quit the party due to ideological differences. In October 2013, Saca introduced him as his Unidad candidate for vice president.

Oscar Lemus

Oscar Lemus. Source: El Mundo.

The Salvadoran Patriots Fraternity (FPS) is a political party with a short history in El Salvador. Their candidates are Oscar Lemus and Rafael Menjívar.

Oscar Lemus has a bachelors degree in law and comes from a rural family. As a teenager, he joined El Salvador’s army and became the liaison between the former National Police and the United Nations’ Observer Mission in El Salvador, to oversee the process of El Salvador’s peace agreements in 1992. Rafael Menjívar was born in 1961 and is a lawyer and columnist, with studies in political science and psychology.

René Rodríguez Hurtado

René Rodríguez Hurtado. Source: El Mundo.

Rodríguez Hurtado, together with Adriana Bonilla, form the presidential candidacy for the Progressive Salvadoran Party (PSP). Rodríguez Hurtado has a bachelors degree in political science and is a retired lieutenant colonel from El Salvador’s air force. He is also a former member of the Central American Security Commission in El Salvador’s Ministry of Foreign Relations. Adriana Bonilla is a graduate specialist in real estate, and performed duties within the PSP in the young women’s secretariat.

Same Old Players

For Guillermo Miranda Cuestas — a lawyer, political researcher, and blogger in El Salvador — this is an election of continuity: “Coincidently, the three main candidates have all been in public office recently, so they can present their time in charge. It would be interesting to actually assess everyone’s performance on their respective positions.”

However, Cuestas told the PanAm Post that the campaign has not centered around proposals, let alone evaluations of the candidates’ performances in the past, rather on character attacks.

“It is a fact that this campaign has been wasted. There are no talks on candidates’ public management, nor an evaluation of policy virtues and errors. Given how recently they were in office, it would be interesting to assess the time everyone spent in their positions, in order to determine who would be the best president.”

Translated by Melisa Slep.

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