Rolling Circle Press

Mill Valley, California

Bush-Gore in El Salvador?

Results from the March 9 presidential runoff election in El Salvador are in, and they strangely mirror those of the 2000 Bush-Gore contest in the US. In ES, the Left’s man Salvador Cerén, a guerrilla fighter during that country’s 12-year long civil war and now the leader of FMLN, its progressive party, beat Norman Quijano, the candidate of the Right, by just 6000 votes out of 3M cast. The two men have diametrically different ideas about what to do about their country’s major domestic problem, gang violence. Although down from its peak, at 70 per hundred thousand per year the country’s mostly gang-related murder rate is still one of the highest in the world. Quijano wants to double down with the mano dura approach: militarize the country, draft anyone between ages 18 and 30 who’s not working, military courts martial for those who commit gang crimes. Cerén’s approach by contrast is to conciliate and integrate with education, training and amnesty. It is pleasant to believe in the latter strategy, but with a split electorate and a weak economy it’s hard to see how either side can get enough traction to prevail. In this their situation resembles that of their overbearing neighbor to the north ever since the tossup election of 2000, which was “resolved” only by the hairsplitting chicanery of the Roberts-Scalia Supreme Court.