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Monday, March 22, 2004

El Salvador

Tony Saca, the right-of-center candidate in Sunday's elections in El Salvador has won the presidency over Shafik Handal. According to the Washington Post:

Sixty-three percent of eligible voters -- a record number -- turned out for an election that offered a stark choice for the future of this poor Central American country. Saca, 39, of the Nationalist Republican Alliance, or Arena, promised to continue his party's free-market, pro-U.S. policies. Handal had pledged to move in a different direction, reviewing recent economic reforms and shifting more resources to the poor. He also wanted to withdraw El Salvador's 380 troops out of Iraq, and pursue closer ties with Cuba. U.S. officials declared during the campaign that relations would suffer if Handal won...

The [civil] war was a constant theme of the campaign, reflecting the deep scars from a conflict that left 75,000 dead. On Sunday, Handal attended a memorial service for Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the respected Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador who was gunned down while celebrating Mass in 1980 after he criticized army abuses during the civil war. A postwar truth commission blamed the founder of Arena, Roberto d'Aubuisson, for the death.

It could not have been an easy choice for centrists and independents in El Salvador. Basically their choice was between the former leader of the communists and the candidate for the party with ties to right-wing death squads.

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