El Salvador in Peril
If leftist Sánchez Cerén becomes president, the future would be grim.
El Salvador’s presidential election on February 2 will have consequences beyond its borders. In the 1980s, chaos in that small nation cast a large shadow over the neighboring region, causing the U.S. to expend blood and treasure to safeguard democracy in the Americas. El Salvador may be about to cast another dark shadow over Central America.
Twenty-five years ago, U.S. policy consisted of defeating violent extremists on both right and left, enabling democratic Salvadorans to build a political center. In 1992, after a dozen years of bloodshed and about 70,000 dead, Salvadoran democracy achieved an important victory over what had been a Soviet- and Cuban-supported Marxist-Leninist guerrilla force known by its initials, FMLN.
That democracy is again at risk, this time because one of the military leaders of the erstwhile-defeated FMLN, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the current vice president, is a leading candidate for president. 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.
Sánchez Cerén is no friend of the U.S. In September of 2001, he enthusiastically participated in an anti-American political rally in the Salvadoran capital shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The event featured the burning of the American flag and the display of handmade signs that justified the carnage at the hands of al-Qaeda.
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