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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

El Salvador Presidential Inauguration

Submitted by Doug Norton

Perhaps it is no coincidence that as red banners were flying in our Central Baptist Church worship commons this past Sunday for Pentecost, winds of change were blowing through the waves of red FMLN banners and shirts as throngs of Salvadorans celebrated the return of their government to the people.

In the first peaceful transfer of power from one party to another since the long civil war ended in 1992, Mauricio Funes of the FMLN was sworn in as president of El Salvador on June 1. Funes visited the grave of Archbishop Oscar Romero on the morning of his inauguration and invoked the memory of Romero as both his teacher and the spiritual guide of the nation in his inaugural address. He struck a note of contrast with the governments of the past decades, promising an administration that recognizes people because of their talents and honesty rather than their connections or their surname, saving special consideration for the poorest, the vulnerable, and the excluded. Funes held up “the strong examples” of U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva “as proof that progressive leaders, instead of being a threat, can be a new, safe alternative for their people.” Funes promised to renew and expand relations with the United States, with which “historically, we are bound by many ties, in particular by the presence of millions of our compatriots who live there, work there and build their dreams there.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the inauguration. Funes praised Clinton in his address as a “woman who honors America” and said in a joint news conference with Clinton after the ceremonies that the FMLN was ready to “turn the page” on its troubled past with the United States.

“We need to reinvent the country. We need to carry out a peaceful, democratic and ethical revolution; the change is starting today,” said Funes. A survey carried out by the University Institute of Public Opinion at the Central American University (UCA) in late May showed support of Funes by 82 percent of the Salvadoran people. This support was reflected in huge celebrations across the country on the days before and after the inauguration. This sense of strong support by the people was felt by the members of CBC who served as
election observers in San Salvador in March.