In El Salvador, crowds of supporters show their party’s colors. Photo Courtesy

With El Salvador’s Feb. 2 presidential elections rapidly approaching, supporters from the around the Bay Area are rallying to raise awareness to the issues surrounding the elections and El Salvador’s future.

Current polls show a tight competition between the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) candidates— Salvador Sánchez Cerén and Oscar Ortiz—and the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) candidates, Norman Quijano and René Portillo Cuadra.

“We consider that maintaining the achievements of the current administration (FMLN) are of historical proportions and very crucial and pivotal for Salvadoran society,” said Salvadoran National Network Abroad (RENASE) representative, Jorge Rivera. “We believe… it is vital to the empowerment of the working people of El Salvador. Which is our mission as Salvadorans living in the United States.”

The FMLN came to power as one of the two main political parties in the 2009 elections, after fighting for years as a revolutionary resistance movement. For FMLN supporters, the improvements made to the country, such as welfare and educational systems, are things they feel they will lose if the Nationalist Republican Alliance is to regain power.

That is why people like Jason Wallach, organizer for the Center for Political Education, is working hard to spread FMLN’s message in the Bay Area as well as educating people on why it is important to travel to El Salvador to help with the election process. “Election observation can have a direct affect on election results—I think election observation had a lot to do with cementing Funes’ victory (FMLN 2009 candidate),” he said.

Wallach went on to comment on how election observation would have an impact in the United States.

“To see first hand how social movements construct political parties and to see how those parties are able to contest the neo-liberal programs, from the U.S. government to corporations all the way down to the local level,” Wallach said. “That process of understanding is invaluable.”

In addition to grassroots organizing and with the aid of local political organizations, more Salvadorans than ever are capable of participating in the 2014 elections from abroad.

“This election is monumental considering that it’s the first time Salvadorans have been able to cast their vote from abroad,” said Ana Valenzuela, Consul General at the El Salvador Consulate in San Francisco. “More than 10,000 packages were mailed out to the voter recipients directly, insuring that the process is fair and transparent.”

After ARENA’s defeat in 2009, the right-wing party immediately took steps to reinvent their public image. This is reflected in their expulsion of former president Antonio Saca — yet seemed to backfire on ARENA when Saca created another party, GANA.

GANA is now running in coalition with other small right-wing parties such as UNIDAD and has been profiled as the third force by the media.

For FMLN supporters, the divide and backlash among members of El Salvador’s right-wing groups has helped put focus on the shortcomings of the ARENA party.

“In addition to their historical abandonment of the majority of Salvadoran people, ARENA, as a party, is going through an internal crisis,” said Rivera. But he is clear that they are still a threat. “Many reforms (by the FLMN administration) are in danger if ARENA is to return to the presidency.”

CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) representative, Emily Tricia Lopez Marchena, agrees.
“Social change is and has been happening in El Salvador since the 2009 elections,” said Marchena. “What’s most important is that right-wing parties stay out of office so these (new) social programs can continue to take hold.”