El Salvador holds presidential elections every five years. This February and March, the country returned to the polls to vote in a new leader. Leading up to these months the streets of San Salvador were plastered with campaign material: flags, murals, billboards. People and parades saturated the sidewalks, passing out fliers to drivers, waving their parties’ flags, and sometimes even playing live music. Turning on the television, one saw campaign adds at every commercial break. The election was a hot topic here at Love & Hope Children’s Home as well; the adults in the house discussed the pros and cons of each candidate often, sometimes laughing at the campaign tactics of both parties.
The two main parties in El Salvador are the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). ARENA traditionally takes a conservative stance on political and social issues, while the FMLN aligns to more liberal ideals. For the past five years, El Salvador has been led by a member of the FMLN, President Mauricio Funes.
It is interesting to see the election from the perspective of the Love & Hope kids. Many of the older kids already seem disenchanted by it all, recognizing the manipulation and propaganda that often play a part in politics. The younger children give their opinion eagerly, but without real understanding of the issues. Below is a cute conversation between Kirsten and Jeremiah, who is six-years-old. Keep in mind that the actual word “arena” in Spanish means “sand.”
Kirsten: “Quien va a ganar la elección, Miah?” “Who is going to win the election, Miah?”
Jeremiah: “ARENA! ARENA! ARENA!” (He succeeded in getting many of the kids to start chanting.)
Kirsten: “Porque te gusta a ARENA?” “Why do you like ARENA?”
Jeremiah: “Porque hay mucha tierra!” “Because there is a lot of dirt!”
The two main candidates in this election, Norman Quijano (ARENA) and Salvador Sánchez Cerén (FMLN), could not have divided the country more. Because neither candidate won the February preliminary by more than 50% of the vote (11% of the vote went to a third party candidate and former president, Tony Saca), a second vote was taken on Sunday, March 9th. After much stipulation, a recount, and cries of foul-play from ARENA, the candidate from FMLN, Salvador Sanchez Cerén was declared the winner.
Cerén won the election by only 6364 individual votes.
El Salvador is a beautiful country, but also a country plagued by some serious problems. Gangs, violence, drugs, poverty and their related consequences to family structure, health and education are all issues that the new president will have to face head-on. Please pray for unity in the country of El Salvador and wisdom for its new president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, as he takes office.
Source of photographs: http://elecciones2014.elsalvador.com/ and http://www.salvadoryoscar.com/.