CISPES: Funes to take office in June, the Right stonewalling his mandate

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The Latest from CISPES:

President-elect Funes prepares to take office on June 1, makes official visit to Venezuela

On June 1, Mauricio Funes and Salvador Sánchez Cerén will formally take their positions as President and Vice-president of El Salvador. The former FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) candidates who triumphed at the polls on March 15 will be sworn in at a ceremony attended by foreign delegations and heads of state. Presidents Lula da Silva of Brazil and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, have already confirmed their attendance at the official ceremony. Following this ceremony, a public celebration will take place in Cuscatlán Stadium, where Funes and Sánchez Cerén will celebrate the victory with the people who elected them.

Since March 15, Funes, Sanchez Cerén, the FMLN, and an executive transition team have been working to put together a cabinet, determine the policies to put in place during the first 100 days of the presidency, and visit neighboring countries to discuss foreign aid and mutual collaboration. Shortly after his election, Funes visited Brazil as a guest of President Lula to study the local development projects that have succeeded in the country. President Lula promised financial collaboration with El Salvador over the course of Funes’ 5-year presidency. Funes also attended a meeting in late March with Central American presidents and U.S. Vice-president Joe Biden in Costa Rica, as well as the April 17-19 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, where he had the opportunity to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama.

On May 18, Funes, Sanchez Cerén, and members of the FMLN leadership visited Venezuela to meet with President Chávez and investigate the possibility of implementing Venezuela’s subsidized fuel project, ALBA Petroleos, on a national level in El Salvador. Many FMLN-governed municipalities already enjoy low cost fuel through this bilateral cooperation. However, outgoing Salvadoran president Tony Saca rejected Venezuela’s offer to extend the project throughout the country. On the trip to Venezuela, the transition team explored other areas of collaboration between the two countries, including El Salvador’s participation in the regional Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) initiative.

President-elect Funes has yet to announce his cabinet, though he says it is 80% determined. The remaining 20% will be determined in the week leading up to the inauguration, and the entire cabinet will be announced on June 1. Based on statements made by Funes, FMLN leaders, and other members of the transition team, the cabinet will be made up of FMLN members as well as people from other sectors. Many social movement organizations and non-governmental organizations have submitted proposals to the transition team for their ideal cabinet candidates. The transition team has said it will carefully consider these proposals in making its decisions.

Right-wing legislative faction rushes through reforms, critics fear a crisis of “institutionality”

el salvador government buildingIn mid-May, the right-wing coalition in the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed reforms to the law governing the National Registry of Naturalized Persons (RNPN) and the Law of Administrative and Municipal Careers. The FMLN refused to vote for the reforms and denounced them as an effort by the right to hold onto power and disrupt the functioning of certain state institutions. The changes made to the RNPN endow the Supreme Electoral Tribunal with the task of naming a National Registrar who directs this institution (currently, the President is charged with this task.) The lack of transparency of the Electoral Registry—which is generated from the RNPN—along with its inaccessibility to all political parties as stipulated in the Constitution, was repeatedly denounced by international election observation missions (including those from the European Union and Organization of American States), political parties, and non-governmental organizations.

According to Norma Guevara of the FMLN, “This will make it more difficult for the new government…to be able to audit and correct the problems that the RNPN currently presents. Some might say they are trying to cover up or hide the processes that made it possible to have an inaccurate Electoral Registry containing deceased people, absent people, foreigners, double identities, and who knows what other defects.”

The changes to the Law of Administrative and Municipal Careers that were approved add an additional 42,791 public employees on the list of posts with job stability protection during changes of administration. The FMLN contends that this is an attempt to keep high-level government functionaries in office after Funes’s June 1 inauguration. FMLN legislative deputy Daysi Villalobos explained that, “ARENA does not want to accept that it will no longer be in the Executive and is resisting giving up power. They want to continue controlling things from the outside.”

Both of these legislative reforms were passed in the Assembly with 47 out of 84 votes. The FMLN won 35 deputies in the January Legislative, the most of any party, while ARENA was reduced to 33 seats. Still, the two other right-wing parties with legislative representation, the PCN and PDC, together give the right-wing bloc the additional 14 votes necessary to pass such reforms in a simple majority vote.

The 47 deputies from right-wing parties also managed to confirm PCN deputy Ciro Cruz Zepeda as president of the Legislative Assembly, a position traditionally given to the party with the most seats. All three right-wing parties voted for Cruz Zepeda, while the FMLN abstained in protest. The president of the Assembly has a large amount of influence in what legislation gets voted on, and the party that holds this position is also given the presidency of several important legislative commissions. Protesters entered the legislative session on May 1 to protest Cruz Zepeda’s election, temporarily disrupting the proceedings of the Assembly.

These moves come on the heals of ARENA’s successful effort to block the election of a new Attorney General—effectively leaving the post vacant—as well as blocking the election of new Supreme Court Magistrates. Some political analysts, therefore, are referring to the situation as leading to a “crisis of institutionality” in the country. Guevara explains that while the Right and ARENA continue with a discourse of reconciliation, their actions show “the same nature of this party, the calculating nature, the cynicism, the concrete demonstration that they plan to continue with midnight legislative sessions, surprises, and avoiding proper debate.” The editorial board of the Diario CoLatino newspaper described these actions as demonstrating that ARENA, “has launched into an absurd strategy of demonstrating its power without concerning itself with the fact that it’s endangering the institutionality of the country.”

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~ by Daniel on May 20, 2009.

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