El Salvador Elections: Will An Ex-Guerilla Commander Become President?

El Salvador is the center of South American politics Sunday as the rivalry between left-wing Farabundo Marti National Front (FMLN) and right-leaning Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) intensifies with the nationwide casting of votes in the country.

With 50 percent of the votes already counted, current projections point to a possible win for FMLN presidential candidate, ex-rebel commander Salvador Sanchez Ceren against ARENA standard bearer Norman Quijano, mayor of El Salvador capital San Salvador.

Sanchez Ceren currently has an 18 percent lead against Quijano for the presidential seat.

69 year old Sanchez Ceren is currently El Salvador’s vice president under Mauricio Fuenes, television journalist turned president who took the seat in 2009.

Fuenes, the first president to come from FMLN, was instrumental in putting a temporary truce between gangs in El Salvador.

EL Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with an average of 14 dead bodies a day appearing on the streets of the country. This is mostly attributable to the relentless gang wars which have plagued the country until 2012 when the Fuenes government intervened with the affairs of the Mara Salvatrucha, the most active gang in El Salvador.

April 12 2012 was celebrated in the country; a day when no single murder was committed for the first time since 2009.

However, Sanchez Ceren has been observed to stray away from gang issues during his campaign, according to BBC South America correspondent Will Grant.

The ex-rebel promises to uphold a moderate government system in El Salvador which will give the opposition a more involved role in policy making.

His rival candidate, mayor Quijano, warns the citizens of El Salvador that Sanchez Ceren will bring the country towards a communist state similar to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.

He adds that Sanchez Ceren, a top ranking rebel leader during the El Salvador civil war, has once tried with his troop to convert the country into communism.

Al Jazeera notes that Quijano’s strategy of bringing the long-buried issues of the bloody civil war back to the citizens has been ineffective, adding that the majority of the El Salvador population are focused on current issues like gang violence or the dwindling economy.

If victorious, Sanchez Ceren will be the first president to have actively participated in the El Salvador civil war as a rebel. He will also be the second head of state that will hail from leftist FMNL after Fuenes.

Outgoing Fuenes, who was a popular journalist during the civil war, was not directly involved with the political affairs during the civil war but has since shown sympathy for the left-leaning sector of El Salvador.

[Image from Cancilleria Ecuador via Flickr]