The Economist Misses Facts on El Salvador

The Economist is one of the few English-language media operations that regularly reports on Latin America, so I am slightly hesitant to point out some obvious errors in its report on the build-up to Sunday’s presidential election in El Salvador.

1. The Economist asserts that since the cessation of the war in 1992 the FMLN has been “fielding former guerrilla commanders as its presidential candidates.” Now, I’ve never been a close follower of Salvadoran politics, but as a resident of LA in the early-90s, it was hard to miss the candidacy of Rubén Zamora, who ran and lost as the FMLN candidate in the 1994 election.  Far from being a guerilla commander, Zamora was a social democrat from, at least, the 1970s.

2. The Economist refers to Mauricio Funes, the FMLN’s winning candidate in Sunday’s election “as a fresh, moderate politician in the mould of Barack Obama or Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.” Referring to Lula as “fresh” seems odd, given the fact that he’s been a national political leader for 30 years,  first ran for office in 1982, and started the first of his five runs for the presidency 20 years ago.

3. Like others before it, The Economist portrays the Salvadoran civil war as a simple conflict of moral equivalency in which “an American-backed army battled Cuban-supplied left-wing guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).” Before it writes up Sunday’s results, The Economist might want to send someone to find Mark Danner’s thorough 1991 New Yorker piece on the1981  El Mozote massacre,  and the U.S. role in it. Or one could listen, below in Spanish, to the recollections of Rufina Amaya, a  survivor of the massacre.

For a more insightful take on the election, look to Esmeralda Bermudez’s LA Times article on young Salvadoran-Americans who were involved with the election in their motherland.

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