- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009

Now everyone is an expert in Salvadoran politics since the recent triumph of President-elect Mauricio Funes. It is quite an achievement that the former guerrilla group, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), recently won the presidential elections, since it fought the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government from 1980 to 1992.

Now that Mr. Funes has won, the real change will begin on June 1, when he is sworn in as president.

James Glassman recently pointed out (“Decline of Ortega’s Nicaragua,” Op-Ed, March 4) that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should have visited Latin America before visiting Asia. However, President Obama recently announced that he will visit Mexico, which is a good sign for Latin America. It shows that the U.S. is beginning to pay attention and is reaching out to establish better diplomatic relations.

Let’s not compare Mauricio Funes to Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega. It is too soon to make those comparisons. In El Salvador, Mr. Funes has to roll up his sleeves and get to work: to create jobs, reduce poverty, reduce migration to the United States, decrease violence, protect the environment, demand permanent residency for Salvadorans in the U.S. - to name a few. He will have to negotiate and come to middle-of-the-road agreements with the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), the conservative party.

If the FMLN does not make substantive changes for the improvement of El Salvador, then the 60,000 voters who supported it may switch sides when the next presidential elections are held in 2013.

For over three decades, thousands of Salvadorans have been raped and murdered while crossing Guatemala and Mexico as undocumented immigrants. Mr. Funes must demand that the human rights of Salvadorans be respected both within their country and abroad.

We want to see an independent and courageous president who will not back down from challenges and who will improve the lives of all Salvadorans, whether they are leftist, centrist or conservative.

So much blood was spilled between 1980 and 1992, during which time over 75,000 Salvadorans were murdered. Mr. Funes has an opportunity to make things right. Time will tell if he does.


Los Angeles

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