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Proceso 1052
June 11, 2003
ISSN 0259-9864


Editorial: False Anti-Communist fears?

Politics: The political ambitions of Mauricio Funes

Economy: The FMLN: a transformation of the Salvadoran economic model?


False Anti-Communist fears?


During the last weeks, the common denominator of the opinion articles in the newspapers is the fear for the arrival of Schafik Handal to the Presidency. Those who fear the implementation of an economic and a political model similar to the Castro regime seem to be sure that this will inevitably happen and that it will bring along the following consequences:
- Long lines of people
- A higher cost of living
- The loss of freedom
- Intolerance
- An authoritarian government
- The loss of the foreign investments
- The international isolation
In other words, the Salvadoran society would end up living its worst nightmare, and all because of an inadequate political bet. Some people already believe that this situation will lead the country to bankruptcy.

For those who seem more alarmed by the electoral advance of the FMLN, there is no doubt that the left-wing leaders are communists, and that Handal is their most emblematic figure. This means that the FMLN will do whatever Handal decides; and the main purpose of Handal is to make the dream of the Salvadoran Communist Party (PCS, in Spanish) come true: to establish a Socialist model in the country.

What are the foundations of this assumption? The historic documents of the PCS are. In such texts –as one of the most alarmed individuals by the electoral advance of the FMLN puts it- there are evidences that the Communists still believe in their socialist ideals, and that its compromise with democracy is only a facade; their strategic move is to change the system. Skillfully, Handal would have gotten rid of those who could have overshadowed him or those who could have opposed to his plans. At this point, the experienced Communist leader would have managed to do things his way. Neither the FPL nor the PRTC –the other two historical factions of the FMLN- have an opponent, and this leaves the road clear for the FMLN to become the instrument of the traditional objectives of the PCS.

The alarmed Anti-Communists have always known about the anti-system longings of the Salvadoran Communists. The Anti-Communists were not afraid of those hopes because they saw them as a remote possibility. The electoral advance of the FMLN and the strategic positions of the Communists made them realize that the possibility to implement a Socialist model is not remote, but something that might actually happen. And this is a dramatic situation. It is about being in favor of the system or against the system. Those who support the FMLN -that is the PCN, the unions of professionals, or the common citizens- will help Handal and his followers to end with the historical fight against the system. Those who are against the FMLN will be against the Communist Party and its anti-system dreams; that is, their choice will be freedom and democracy.

The arguments of the Anti-Communists sound outdated, they remind us of the cold war and the Salvadoran civil war. It is inevitable to wonder if this is not a bad joke, not to fight against Handal’s candidacy, but to promote it. There are people with a poor level of analysis, but when that poverty appears as a consensus, something odd might be happening and not precisely because of intellectual limitations.

Without a doubt, the spokespeople of the Anti-Communist aspirations have stated an endless list of nonsense during the last weeks. One of their most absurd ideas is that if the FMLN wins the presidency, this party will definitively establish a Socialist model. It is senseless to say that the historic documents of the PCS are the evidence. This is a ridiculous idea because those documents only reflect a doctrine, and it does not indicate what are the coherent lines of action. The most dogmatic militants of both wings know that very well. For instance, the ideological grounds of ARENA compel –just like their anthem says “El Salvador will be the grave where the red ones will perish”- to fight a mortal combat against the Communists, but how many “red ones” have died after 1992 and how involved is ARENA in those deaths? If the historic documents of ARENA were literally followed, we would have expected a slaughter when the left wing became a powerful political party. And that did not happen because of the multiple conditions the right wing was subjected to –despite the wishes of the most recalcitrant members of the ARENA party- after the Peace Agreements were signed.

What seems to be interesting about all this is not the simple Anti-Communist arguments, but the choir of voices in favor f it. The same thesis is basically repeated: the FMLN has a good chance to win the presidency with Handal; if that happens, the country will be heading towards the worst crisis of its history. Is that a legitimate fear? From a reasonable perspective, there are not enough elements to fear something like that. Are they trying to convince Handal that he is definitively feared by the right wing and that, therefore, he is the best card of his party? It would not be difficult to believe that something like this might be happening. As a candidate, Schafik Handal would be an easy target for the attacks of the right wing. In other words, more than a feared rival, he would be a convenient rival for a dirty campaign. And that sort of campaign would reflect not only Handal’s bad temper, but also the kidnaps in which the sadly famous “Commander Marcelo” was involved.




The political ambitions of Mauricio Funes


The political ambitions of Mauricio Funes
The failed presidential candidacy of Mauricio Funes, the popular news director of Channel 12, is the new issue of discussion among several characters in the media. Did Funes let his journalistic ethics aside? Was it licit, professionally speaking, to declare that he sympathized with the left wing and that he was willing to accept a presidential candidacy under certain terms? Do the declarations of the director of the “Hechos” news program about his political ambitions affect his credibility and his objectivity as a professional? There is not a unanimous answer to these questions. The answers vary according to the political sensibility of the protagonists. This article will intend to discuss these questions and examine the alleged neutrality and the objectivity of the national journalists.

The origin of the bad apple
During April, when the results of the municipal elections were still fresh in the minds of the voters –who were already thinking about the next presidential elections-, several reporters from the electronic weekly publication “El Faro” asked Mauricio Funes about his political preferences and for his electoral aspirations. Funes did not hesitate to answer that he belongs to the left wing and that he could aspire to the presidency of the country with a party such as the FMLN under certain conditions. He declared that “I would not accept to be part of an internal election, because I will not fight for a starring role with historical leaders such as Schafik. I would not do that either if the FMLN does not build a wide coalition with different parties and with the social forces. And a third condition would be that my role as a journalist were about to end”.

Immediately after the declarations made by Funes were revealed, a discussion started inside the FMLN. The leaders were unanimous to declare that they consider Funes an excellent professional who has contributed to the cause of an independent, and an analytical journalism, a key factor for the transition and the consolidation of the democratic process. However, some of those leaders also said that being a good journalist does not necessarily mean that you can be a good politician. When these declarations were revealed, the diverse opinion polls confirmed a well-known “secret”: Mauricio Funes is, by far, one of the most likable characters of the country. That idea led some people to believe that he could be the presidential candidate of the FMLN.

However, a little after that, the leaders from the FMLN ended with the presidential aspirations of Funes. They said that Funes had to become a member of the party (as article 151 of the Constitution states). It seems that they also informed him that he could only aspire to the vice-presidency, and they introduced Handal as the candidate “elected” by the Political Commission. Several members of the party declared their frustration and they did not agree with the decision of the cupola. Funes also expressed his discontent. “I respect the institutional character of the country’s different political parties –said Funes-, although I think that there still is a weak democracy and a lack of civilian participation inside them, which, in the case of the FMLN, led its leadership to close the doors”.

The different reactions of the journalists
During the discussion in the FMLN about the candidacy of Funes, the reporters never referred to the possible consequences of an eventual decision of this kind for their profession. On the contrary, the enthusiasm that they showed when they would read the different opinion polls that revealed how popular Mauricio Funes really is among the Salvadoran population could have led some people to think that his candidacy was not possible. However, when it was made public that the leaders from the FMLN had decided to overlook the results of the opinion polls, in favor of one of their most emblematic characters, some people began to reflect about the consequences of the declarations made by Funes.

Several reporters, among them those who belong to the Salvadoran Press Association (APES, in Spanish), think that Funes did not act against the journalistic ethics. Funes feels the same way about it. In his declarations to La Prensa Grafica, he sustained that “I did not cross the line, because I am not a member of the FMLN, and I am not part of the process of internal elections. In addition, I did not use the news program to favor my chances in politics. Is that uncomfortable for me? Of course it is. It was uncomfortable when I was interviewing someone and a person would call asking why did I not make up my mind”.

Other reporters have a completely different idea. There are those who apparently have good intentions and think that the news director of Channel 12 will not get out of this controversial issue without affecting his image as the editorial conscience of the country. There are also those who definitively do not have good intentions and think that Flores committed “the most terrible sin of journalism”. They think that it was inappropriate to talk about his sympathy for the FMLN and his political aspirations. These declarations would be based on the ethics code of The New York Times, which stipulates that “journalists should have no connection with the political game”.

The issue of the political ambitions of Mauricio Funes has been handled with hypocrisy, and this allows us to examine a complex subject, which is related with the performance of several local news media. The case of Mauricio Funes is not the first case in which a journalist abandons his microphone or his pen in order to be part of a political party. During the last years, several journalists have arrived to the right-wing political parties and have left the news media. In the case of ARENA this happened with Eduardo Torres, Julio Rank, and Medardo Alfaro, for instance. Other communicators have walked out of the news media rooms and walked right into the Presidential Residence.

The former examples do not only show that the case of Funes was nothing new, but they also help to understand the lack of objectivity of those who attacked Funes. None of those who now disapprove of the political ambitions of Funes ever said anything about the connection of other journalists with the right wing. Is it that ethics are only important when the journalists show their sympathy for the opposition?

In addition, it seems odd that those who now insist about the need to disconnect the journalists from politics are those who are well known because they are the spokespeople of the governmental interests. These journalists, when they are not showing their sympathy for ARENA, they usually believe all the rumors spread by this party no matter how ridiculous or far-fetched they might be. This is the case of the present campaign against the alleged communist danger that would come upon the country with the possibility of an electoral victory of the left-wing party. The journalists never bother to question this nonsense during the press conferences, but what is even more critical is that they assume that this sort of rumors are important news.

It is evident that those who talk about the danger of undermining the independence of the media in the case of Funes should examine instead their own performance before analyzing any other aspect of that subject. The case of a communicator tempted to go into politics should be analyzed in the context of the other journalists at the service of the wealthy and the official power. Independence is threatened not only when the journalists express themselves in favor of the left wing. The problem of those who now criticize the political ambitions of Funes is that they had probably assumed that politics is only desirable for the journalists when it is at the service of the official party. Their discontent reveals how affected they are by the worries of ARENA.

Once it is evident how the Funes case was handled, it would be convenient to wonder if his decision to be part of the political life is actually incompatible with the journalistic ethics. No one can deny that the citizens have the right to use their popularity to promote their own interests. Instead of talking about Mauricio Funes, it would be necessary to analyze the situation of the political parties, especially the one of the FMLN. The only alternative for this party to gain a certain amount of credibility would be the presence of a character who is away from its political activity.

The right to promote his personal interests does not exempt Mauricio Funes from doing it with decency and decorum. There is no doubt that the presidential aspirations of Funes are incompatible with his role as the director of opinion in Channel 12. It is shameful for Funes to interview Calderon Sol or Schafik Handal, two of his opponents who compete for the presidency.

In addition, it is not easy to understand the declarations that Funes made about the little influence that the civil society has on the decisions that are made inside the FMLN. To determinate how open this political party really is because of the way in which they received his presidential candidacy project is not a valid argument. The lack of participation in the party’s decisions is something that its militants must resolve. It seems that Mauricio Funes expected a red carpet to celebrate his political ambitions with the FMLN. That seems to be an inappropriate and an arrogant attitude. From now on, if Funes aspires to become the President of the country in representation of the FMLN, he must become a member of this political party and work with them in the not always fulfilling internal struggle to impose the party’s leadership. He should get started right away, in order to participate in the 2009 presidential elections.




The FMLN: a transformation of the Salvadoran economic model?


The Capitalist production scheme, as any other historical system of production, envelopes a group of economic relations that are produced among the members of a society, as a multi-cellular tissue that forms an economic structure. These connective tissues are the result of the society’s adaptation to its production relations (the ownership of the means of production and the division of tasks), the distribution activities (how the product and the surplus are distributed in the society), and the consumption relations (which are the result of both the production and the distribution).

In order to adopt alternative means of production it takes more than a set of regulations. It would be necessary to attack the foundations of the economic relations in which the present model rests. In other words, it would be necessary to reconsider the relations between the aforementioned tissues: the production, the distribution, and the consumption, which make the development of the model possible.

In fact, the regulation mechanisms of the production work to permanently adequate, as it evolves, the development of the productive forces (the human, the natural, and the technological resources) to the economic structure and vice versa. These modifications do not question the ownership of the means of production. The economic structure will be defined in the same way (Feudalism, Capitalism, et cetera), although it will be possible to talk about stages. A production model can be Capitalist, but it can be inclined towards a Neoliberal Capitalism, or towards a “welfare state” without necessarily turning into different means of production.

Theoretically, that is why the possibility to go from a short-term change to a Socialist production model is actually remote. However, some people intend to say that the FMLN is perfectly capable to go through that change. The effort to build a society with those characteristics will take more than an election process, especially in the present conditions. No one can instantly change the production model with just a decree. The way to regulate the binomial Market/State can only be the axis of discussion of the economic platform when it comes to consult on the possibility of a left-wing administration. It is not realistic to talk about a “revolution from above” able to immediately change the production model of the country.

It is important to consider that in a global society, the way in which El Salvador operates is affected by its connection with the global Capitalist system. This is an obstacle for the transformation of the Salvadoran economic structure, since, in a way, it still has to keep trying to adapt itself to that environment.

In spite of those surroundings, what seems critical about the limited action margin that the FMLN might have is its relation with the dominant production model. In other words, the Capitalist production model will keep becoming more complex if there are no strategies to face its attack. From this perspective, it has been easy for ARENA to “get in line” with an economic stoic posture, and go “wherever the market might take it” because it favors the business elite. That is the reason why El Salvador became a peripheral country with an open and a dependant economy, subjected to the services of the capital, unable to generate its own economic alternative.

What changes can be expected from the 2004 presidential economic program of the FMLN? The transformation of the economic model can be expected, but the transformation of the production model is not possible; not yet, anyway. The reasons are simple: the context does not allow it, and it would affect the stability of the governmental administration. This means that it is not very realistic to expect the expropriation of the Capitalists and their investments there where the assets of the State have been already privatized. In the words of Sanchez Ceren, the general coordinator of the FMLN, “all that will be nationalized is the government”. The possible collision with the status quo of the global capitalist system and its imperial nucleus, The United States, are strong variables that cannot be ignored.

This adverse scenario is definitively real. The Salvadoran hegemonic business block does not want to lose the benefits that ARENA gave to them. That is why from the golden ring of the Salvadoran Capitalism the voices of the right-wing block and the organic intellectuals who defend the model in question have launched a propagandistic offensive. This action intends to discredit the image of the FMLN. It refers to it as the “shark” that will affect the stability of the economy by putting an end to the dollarization. That negative propaganda mentions that the business owners will be expropriated from their assets, and that “the country will be turned into a Cuba” where disaster is at the order of the day because “The business companies will be forced to reduce the number of their activities. The unemployment level will increase, and plenty of other problems will be part of a vicious circle”. (See El Diario de Hoy, Editorial, 05-13th-03, page 29).

Other public figures, such as the ideology president of ARENA, Mario Acosta, refer to the FMLN as “the branch of evil”, as a Communist party, and as the promoter of the class struggle. Therefore, he thinks that the country is destined to suffer an economic disaster under the direction of the FMLN. On the other hand, Rose Links, the Ambassador of the United States, did not hide her discontent for the possibilities that the FMLN has to win the presidential elections. She seems worried because the discourses of the FMLN might “put China, Cuba or Vietnam as a role model, or that they speak about negotiating the end of the privatization process when there are American business companies that have invested to develop the key sectors of the national life, which might assume that their investments are in danger”.

All of these perspectives are wrong because all of them are founded in suppositions as well as in the fallacious axiom that states that “the Neliberal economic model based on the free market is infallible, and its flaws –if any- are minimal”. Nothing could be further from reality. Without any regulations or changes in the way the wealth is accumulated, problems such as poverty, unemployment, delinquency and emigration will be intensified in a way that, far from becoming another Cuba, the real danger is to become an Argentina. In that country, the Neoliberal policies prescribed by the International Monetary Fund (FMI, in Spanish) produced an economic disaster.

Because of this campaign of “economic terror” and orchestrated disinformation, it is necessary to say that the economic policies of the FMLN are not about an a priori structural change of the Salvadoran Capitalist production model. The evidence: the five subjects in which it bases its economic axis. The inspiration for the creation of these subjects seems more like a reaction to the Neoliberal policies than an original alternative creation that might be helpful to build a radically different economic scheme.

Those five subjects are:
1. The dollarization. Their proposal is to recuperate the “monetary independence” and the circulation of the Colón.
2. The privatization. They intend to stop the process of the future privatization scheme and examine the ones that have been executed, especially in the case of the pensions and the ones with a retroactive character.
3. The free trade agreements. It is necessary to change the perspective of these agreements, since those treaties are discussed behind the backs of the citizenry, and they bring negative effects for most of the population.
4. The large business companies. Their activity is guaranteed “as long as they follow the law and the precepts of social justice”.
5. The price of the services. They intend to reduce the charge for the electric service, the telephone, and water, in order to alleviate the cost of life.




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