March 21, 2004
Intervention in El Salvador

According to the Financial Times and the Christian Science Monitor, the US is pulling an old-style intervention in El Salvador's presidential elections, which happen today (Sunday).

And some analysts say that the comments by US officials may be bolstering ARENA's message. Last Sunday, White House Special Assistant Otto Reich gave a phone-in press conference at ARENA headquarters. According to local newspapers, he said he was worried about the impact an FMLN win could have on the country's "economic, commercial, and migratory relations with the United States."

To put it mildly. It may be obscure to the folks in the power centres up north, but I suspect that Salvadoran voters received the message loud and clear: elect Marxist, and we'll fuck you up good. Roger Noriega, who apparently pushed hard for the recent US-sponsored coup d'etat in Haiti, went even farther, and not without consequences:

In February, Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega told voters to "consider what kind of a relationship they want a new administration to have with us." He met with all the candidates except Mr. Handal. Last week, 28 US Congress members sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell saying Mr. Noriega "crossed a boundary" and that his remarks were perceived as "interference in Salvadoran electoral affairs." This week two US congressmen blasted Reich's comments as inflammatory.

Of course, the right-wing candidate is playing to the fear of losing ties with the US, as well he might:

More than a quarter of El Salvador's 6.5 million citizens live in the US, and Salvadoran economist Robert Rubio estimates that remittances account for 16 percent of the country's economy. He likens the flow of remittances to a life-support system for the country's poor economy

He can also accurately claim that relations with the US would be way better under his government. The reason this is the case, however, remains obscure. It's not that a lefty government would break off ties with the US. Quite to the contrary, it would not be in their interests to do so. However, what they might do, is begin acting in the interest of the majority of the people of El Salvador, which would guarantee that the US would flip right out, impose sanctions, deny aid, delay or block remittances, and maybe even fund terrorists to knock some sense into the poor of El Salvador.

Indeed, it's no surprise that Otto Reich was involved with funding the contras back in the 1980s.

Dennis Kucinich, who is apparently still a US presidential candidate, showed up on the sane side of the question of El Salvador. That's more than we can say for the NDP about Haiti or Venezuela, for example.

"Unfortunately, what is going on in El Salvador is representative of a Latin American policy that is not about promoting healthy democracies, but instead focused on making Latin American nations bend to U.S. commercial interests."

"The people of El Salvador have a right to free and fair elections without interference from the United States. The U.S. cannot claim to be a leader in promoting democracy worldwide and at the same time hinder democracy by attempting to influence the outcome of elections abroad," Kucinich said.

posted by dru in us