Chilean president elect Michelle Bachelet (right) with Chilean congresswoman Camila Vallejo. Bachelet was again elected president of Chile four years after leaving office. Photo courtesy of

El Salvador: Uncertainty after tight elections
Update: March 16, El Salvador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal rejected candidate Norman Quijano’s claim of electoral fraud, declaring Salvador Sánchez Cerén president elect.

Monday, March 10, started a recount of the votes in the Presidential election in El Salvador. After a first round on the previous day, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE in Spanish) said that after a preliminary count of the votes, the presidential election remains too close to call due to discrepancies.

Supreme Electoral Tribunal President Eugenio Chicas said there were “discrepancies” which will be reviewed in the tallies of 14 ballot boxes, such as a lack of stamps, numerical inconsistencies, empty spaces and deletions. “We ask for patience, calm (…), we have a verifiable, auditable and backup computer system” he said. The TSE, calling electoral law, refused to hold a vote recount requested by Arena.

Anxious to become the next president of El Salvador, the two candidates assumed the victory early. Salvador Sánchez Cerén, leader of the country’s current ruling party Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) and a former guerilla general claimed that he has no doubt that they will “Will soon all be able to represent again.” Meanwhile, Norman Quijano, who served as mayor of the capital city San Salvador until 2013, assumed a warmonger position. He criticized the electoral tribunal, claiming it to have “sold out to the dictatorship” and that “the armed forces are ready to make democracy.”

With the recount over, FMLN won with 50.11 percent of the votes against 49.89 of Arena, a 6,363 vote difference. In the exterior, where Salvadorans were able to vote for the first time, FMLN received 1,480 votes and Arena 854.

The current elections, after two decades of civil war, incite questions about polarization not only in the political arena but in the way the Salvadoran society is still torn between left and right ideologies.

Luis Guillermo Solis will be the sole candidate left for the Costa Rican presidency in the second round of the elections to be held April 6. Photo

Costa Rica: Araya drops out and Solís will be the new president
Johnny Araya, of Costa Rica’s ruling centrist Citizen Action Party, announced that he will not participate in the second round of the presidential elections just a month before the April 6 runoff. He decided to stop campaigning after polls show his rival with an overwhelming lead of 44 percent.

“Good sense indicates, now more than ever, that reality must be considered and therefore, with a firm intention, I am making known my decision today to conclude my campaign for the presidency,” Araya told reporters, reading from a prepared statement. This way, the center-left candidate Luis Guillermo Solis will have the victory.

The first round of Feb.2 had thrown a dead heat: Solis won 31 percent of the votes while Araya received 30 percent, and nearly 40 percent was scattered among other candidates.

These results have enabled the two candidates to define the presidency in a runoff. However, pre-runoff surveys identified a clear preference for the opposition by those who voted for third forces.

After the announcement, former President Oscar Arias said he was surprised by Araya´s decision and that many Costa Ricans may feel disappointed. “Johnny would not have been able to consult all the leaders on the decision that he was going to take,” said Arias. Former President Rafael Calderon, however, highlighted the fact that he had done the same and said society is already in favor of a change of political orientation.

Meanwhile, the acceding president Solis said that “the war is not over” and that although Araya will not be in the political campaign, the elections of April 6 will fulfill the function of legitimizing its mandate.

Chile: Bachelet returns to power
The moderate socialist Michelle Bachelet took the oath of office as president of Chile Tuesday.

Daughter of an air force general who was assassinated due to his loyalty to former President Salvador Allende, she returned to power after three years and defeated conservative Evelyn Matthei in the December elections with 62 percent of the vote. She was President of Chile from 2006-10.

This time, the Nueva Mayoría coalition will be larger than it was during his last term: it ranges from moderate leftists to Christian democracy to communists, like Camila Vallejo, who led the Chile’s student protest movement and now is a member of the Congress and Bachelet ally. This collaboration appeals to university students who are urging for education reforms.

Moreover, socialist Senator Isabel Allende, Salvador Allende´s daughter, was appointed as president of the Senate. Thus, she will fill in as president Bachelet’s absence–making it the first time that two women are holding the highest positions at once in the state structure of the South American country.

“I hope this to be just an expression of how we have to keep increasing representation of women in cabinet and parliamentary positions,” Bachelet said.