Monday, March 16, 2009

Central American Presidents

Two Leftist Presidents Starting Off with Opposite Foot Forward

The revolutionary parties of the 1970s and 1980s have taken their fight to the polls in Central America and after over a decade of heavily conservative pro-USA governments the left is winning. It took 16 years but Nicaragua's FSLN party was voted back into power in 2006 and as of last night the FMLN party of El Salvador is getting its first chance at assuming the reins since the 1992 peace accords that ended its bitter civil war. Nicaragua and El Salvador share a difficult road toward development and a similar history of US intervention, but a brief examination of the two men elected as president depicts an importance lesson in international politics.

President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua is a polarizer that brings a great deal of experience (or baggage) to the political table. He is often said to be a shoot first personality that praises the limelight over deft diplomacy. Ortega wears his politics on his sleeve. A speech seldom goes by that Ortega does not denounce the imperial United States and praise Hugo Chavez as the second coming – a comparison used by Ortega in several speeches. The staunchest of Sandinistas support Ortega, but many also understand that he will do anything to remain in power (see recent interview with David Frost). Historically Ortega has ostracized all contenders or challengers within the FSLN. Even the closest of political allies and highest officials are labeled traitors if they attempt to contest his leadership (see Herty 2006).

Take a short boat right across the Gulf of Fonseca and you will find the opposite of a military man – a CNN journalist. That is the personal story of Mauricio Funes the new President of El Salvador. Perhaps his past work in the media lends itself better to being politically savvy, but it can not be lost that the FMLN chose as its figure head a candidate that did not partake in the civil war. The decision displayed an air of progression. Instead of a guerilla commando like Ortega, Funes appears to understand the importance of nuanced and subtle statements. Yes Funes is “Left” but he understands that to be successful he will have to blur the line. Yes he will re-open trade with Cuba and engage with Chavez, Ortega, and Morales. Yes he will look to run socialist programs and with massive levels of poor housing, poor wages, and poor healthcare the programs are needed. Although fresh faced and new to the political game Funes has proven to start on the right footing - he welcomes relations with the US, he wishes to remain business friendly (but with more strict tax rules), and he has openly stated that his objective is to follow in the footsteps of Latin America’s most respected politician – President Lula of Brazil.

When Ortega won the election it automatically brought forth a sense of “here we go again” among many Nicaraguan locals and the international community. The Bush administration quickly released statements questioning the validity of the election win and strongly made suggestions as to what path Ortega should follow. Instead, the Obama administration has congratulated Funes on his victory and started the way for an open dialogue. The Left clearly won the election but it will remain to be seen if Funes will have the political capital to govern Center-Left a la Lula (a move President Obama is familiar with).

After reading through the NY Times, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and a few Spanish news outlets, I believe this article from the AP on NPR does the best job highlighting several important issues of the Funes win.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This paragraph is genuinely a pleasant one it assists new
web people, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

Here is my web-site: existing customers 2012