El Salvador: FMLN wins presidency

On 9 March, Faribundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren was declared a narrow winner of the presidential election in El Salvador in a run-off against Norman Quijano of the deeply reactionary Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). Ceren’s majority was just 6,600; his victory came despite ARENA death squad intimidation in some communities, employers threatening those voting for the FMLN with dismissal and appeals by ARENA members for military intervention.

 

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Report back from the World Festival of Youth and Students

In December, an RCG delegation went to Quito, Ecuador for the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS). They joined around 8,000 young people from all over the world for debates and discussions around fighting imperialism and capitalist austerity. Sam Baker reports.

WFYS provides an international forum for anti-imperialist youth to meet, discuss and build links. It takes place every four or five years and is organised by the World Federation of Democratic Youth. The first festival took place in Prague in 1947. The RCG sent a delegation to this year’s festival as it was hosted in Ecuador, part of the anti-imperialist bloc that has emerged in Latin America since the late 1990s. In 2009 Ecuador joined the Bolivarian Alliance for Latin America (ALBA), a progressive regional bloc set up by Venezuela and Cuba.

 

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RCG delegation: The World Festival of Youth and Students 2013

18 World festival

During 7-13 December, three supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Group will be in Quito, Ecuador at the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students

As the capitalist crisis bites in Britain, it spreads war, poverty, austerity and despair worldwide. To successfully resist the war on welfare and peoples abroad we must support the war for welfare and for people’s freedom taking place across Latin America.

 

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Paraguay: reaction entrenched

The constitutional coup that removed President Fernando Lugo from office on 21 June highlights the intense struggle waged by imperialism and its money-crazed servants in Latin America against the impoverished masses. Alvaro Michaels reports.

Lugo’s election promise in 2008 was to redistribute land to some 87,000 landless families, in a country where 80% of land is owned by 2% of the population. He promised to end corruption. It was a popular programme but with the limited political forces at his disposal, unachievable. The powerful landowners, enjoying a massive growth in global demand for agricultural produce, split the President’s coalition with the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (ARLP). They impeached him for ‘poor performance’ and replaced him with ARLP leader and Vice President Federico Franco until the end of Lugo’s term of office in August 2013. Franco had objected entirely to Lugo’s land reform proposals. On 11 July the Paraguayan Supreme Court heard and rejected an ‘unconstitutional appeal’ July against Lugo’s removal. He will now appeal to the Inter-American Human Rights Court.

 

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Paraguay’s President Lugo removed – June 2012

Paraguay’s President Lugo removed – June 2012

On 21 June 2012, Paraguay’s reactionary Chamber of Deputies voted 76-1 to impeach President Fernando Lugo. The Senate confirmed this with a 39-4 vote the following day.

This ‘constitutional coup’, reminiscent of the removal of President Zelaya in Honduras in 2009, has been condemned across South America. Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba refuse to recognise the change and Venezuela will cease providing oil.Brazil and Argentina have called their ambassadors home and Uruguay has expressed concern. On 25 June, the Mercosur trade bloc suspended Paraguay from taking part in a summit in Argentina.

 

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Tension builds in presidential election race

Tensions are building in the run-up to the Venezuelan presidential elections in October. Hugo Chavez of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is standing for his third term. Opposing him is Henrique Capriles Radonski, from the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (Mesa de unidad democratica or MUD).

 

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The disintegration of the Organisation of American States

In the context of deepening economic crisis, the US and Europe are losing their grip on Latin America as Cuba and Venezuela strengthen regional ties. SAM MCGILL reports.

Bullies, blunders and prostitutes

The Organisation of American States (OAS) was founded in 1948 on lofty-sounding ideals including non-interference in the internal affairs of other member states. In reality, it acts as a cover for US imperialist interests in Latin America. The OAS summit held in Cartagena, Colombia, in April reflected this, as the United States once again vetoed Cuba’s attendance. Leader after leader condemned the US veto and Rafael Correa of Ecuador boycotted the meeting in protest. Even staunch US allies Mexico and Colombia demanded Cuba’s inclusion. Countries belonging to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) made it clear that without a radical change in the nature of the summits, they would not attend the OAS again. Before President Obama even arrived, his bully boy Secret Service agents were setting the imperialist tone as they were caught taking prostitutes back to their hotel, flaunting their ID cards in an arrogant attempt to get past the reception desk.

 

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The 1982 Malvinas/Falklands War

2 May 1982 - the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano after being attacked by a British submarine during the Malvinas/Falklands war

Thirty years ago, on 2 April 1982, an Argentinian force landed on the Malvinas/Falklands islands having already occupied the island of South Georgia. The response of the Thatcher government was immediate: it authorised the assembly and dispatch of a huge fleet to recapture the islands. British imperialism would not accept such a challenge: its global position was at stake. It was the dawn of neoliberalism: the end of capital controls had unleashed a flood of overseas investment with British banks in the lead. British imperialism had to demonstrate that it would use military force to defend these rapidly expanding interests.

 

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Falkland crisis: oppose imperialist war

As we go to press the largest British imperialist naval fleet assembled for 25 years has started a war to retake the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. On 2 April, the fascist Argentinian junta, headed by General Galtieri, took over the islands in a patent manoeuvre to divert the growing class opposition to its rule. As a result, British imperialism is once again on the warpath to maintain one of the last outposts of British colonialism. It is using all the scientific techniques and weapons of modern warfare to destroy the Argentinian airforce and navy. In this murderous assault British imperialism now has the full backing of US imperialism.

 

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Labour backs Thatcher’s war

As we go to press British troops have begun the final assault on Port Stanley. The British imperialist war in the Malvinas/Falklands has claimed a death toll nearing 1,000 with thousands more injured. All communists and democrats must totally oppose Britain’s reactionary war to conquer territory belonging to another nation. The working class and oppressed in Britain have nothing to gain from Britain’s imperialist aggression. On the contrary, this war has strengthened the most reactionary and anti-democratic forces in British society. A victory for British imperialism will immeasurably strengthen the hand of Thatcher and her government, of the British military establishment, and of the British ruling class as a whole. Thatcher’s ability to step up attacks on the working class and to further build up the repressive police/military apparatus of the state against the oppressed will receive an unparalleled boost from such a victory. The recent local elections in which the Tories did better than any government in mid-term elections since the war is a sign of what could come.

 

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Nicaragua: which way now for Sandinistas after election landslide? - Nov 2011

Daniel Ortega

The divide-and-rule tactics of US imperialism suffered a new setback, and the Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of Our America (ALBA) was strengthened, by the landslide victory that returned the Sandinistas to power in Nicaragua’s November 2011 elections.

According to estimates by the electoral authorities, once nearly 86% of the votes had been counted, President Daniel Ortega had won 75% of the votes on a 70% turnout. Overall, in the congressional elections, the Sandinistas won just under 63% – more than double the votes won by their closest rivals, the Independent Liberals.

 

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PERU: Humala wins the presidency

Ollanta Humala

On 5 June 2011, Ollanta Humala became the new president of Peru, winning 51.6% of the second round. He takes office on 28 July and replaces US henchman Alan Garcia. However Humala’s Gana Perú has only 47 of the 130 seats in Congress, so former president Toledo (2001-2006), whose alliance Perú Posible has 21 seats, has taken  a share in government with him in order to limit changes that Humala attempts .

 

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Haiti: another year of pain -16 Jan 2011

haiti_protests

One year after the 12 January 2010 earthquake that killed 230,000 people and left 1.3 million people homeless, approximately one million people still live under makeshift tents and tarpaulins, close to half of whom are children. Of 180,000 destroyed homes, just 2,074 have been repaired. Of an estimated 1,268 displacement camps at least 29% have been forcibly closed: people are evicted and then search for other camps. Rubble covers much of the capital, Port-au-Prince; less than 5% has been removed, heavy lifting equipment having been withdrawn last summer. Rebuilding the airport remains the only major effort undertaken. Disputes over land ownership and plus property speculation combined with an influx of international aid workers have pushed rents beyond the reach of Haitian people who consequently have no alternative other than to remain in camps. Studies show that 40% of displacement camps do not have access to water, 30% have no access to toilets of any kind, 44% of their inhabitants drank untreated water and over 50% of children in the camps go without any food whatsoever for at least one day a week. Rape is described as ‘endemic’ in the camps.

 

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The Biggest Show on Earth

chilean_miners

Our Chilean correspondent Marcelo was in Copiapo when the 33 Chilean miners were lifted to safety. This is his report.

The incredible media frenzy has now passed, and Chile has returned to normal life. The global phenomenon is now a thing of the past and so too are the 24-hour transmissions dedicated to the 33 ‘heroes’ and to President Sebastian Pinera’s personal endeavour. Chile´s government proudly displays the ‘Fenix II’ capsule used to rescue the miners from the ‘gut of the earth’ in front of the presidential palace like a trophy of war. The San Jose Mine collapse ended happily for the 33 miners and their families, though the happiest of all are without a doubt the Chilean government, now rolling in popularity after an apparently well-planned and executed rescue mission.

 

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National Assembly elections: PSUV majority reduced

A vitriolic campaign run by the opposition-dominated media has been successful in denying the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) its goal of retaining a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly following the elections on 26 September. However, the PSUV still has a substantial majority: as we go to press, it had secured 96 out of 165 seats, the United Democratic Roundtable (MUD) opposition alliance 62, with three seats going to non-aligned indigenous candidates. In 2005, the opposition had boycotted elections and had therefore been unable to prevent the National Assembly from agreeing changes to the constitution. Now, however, it is in a stronger position, and can for instance block approval of the national budget or appointments to the Supreme Court. The opposition won 12 out 15 seats in the state of Zulia, a reactionary stronghold bordering on Colombia. Sam Mcgill reports.

 

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Haiti: independence not dependence

Haiti has gone from the headlines but its people are still in great need. The Haitian government estimates the death toll of the 12 January earthquake at 230,000 people. Three million Haitians, a third of the population, have been severely affected by the earthquake and over 1.1 million Haitians are homeless, living in refugee camps. Two million people need food aid. Diarrhoea and urinary infections are rife, as is malnutrition. Heavy rains came in mid-March, threatening dengue fever and malaria.

 

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Haïti: Évacuez les troupes!

Annulez la dette !

Mercredi 20 janvier 2010, 12h 38

L'ampleur du désastre haïtien se révèle peu à peu. Le séisme du 12 janvier a causé près de 200 000 morts et la destruction de Port-au-Prince, la capitale. Les anti-impérialistes doivent maintenant dénoncer les responsables de ce désastre. Bien que personne ne puisse empêcher un tremblement de terre, les états ont les moyens de limiter l'ampleur des dégâts et de mettre en place des infrastructures permettant une réponse efficace. En Haïti, l'absence de prévention et de moyens d'action a eu des conséquences dramatiques. Cependant, la principale responsabilité de ce désastre incombe bien moins à l'état haïtien, dramatiquement appauvri, qu'aux responsables de sa paupérisation : l'impérialisme de manière générale, et plus particulièrement l'impérialisme américain. Haïti est l'exemple typique d'un état sous dépendance étrangère, constamment contrarié et mis en difficulté par ceux qui souhaitent garder son territoire et son peuple sous contrôle.

 

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The 1999-2000 Cochabamba Water War

On 7 December 2009, President Evo Morales was re-elected president of Bolivia by a landslide. Less than 10 days later, alongside Venezuelan President Chavez, he upset the imperialists’ hope for the Copenhagen negotiations when he stated in a plenary session that not only was capitalism responsible for climate change, but that the rich nations should make climate reparations to the poor. Ten years ago it was unthinkable that a Bolivian president should have such international influence. But that was before the 1999/2000 Cochabamba Water War, an event which together with Chavez’s election in December 1998 turned the tide against imperialism in Latin America, and led eventually to Morales’ first presidential victory in December 2005. Robert Clough reports.

 

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Honduran elections: setback for the resistance

In the last issue of FRFI we reported on the campaign of the Honduran resistance to boycott sham presidential elections organised by the coup regime for 29 November 2009. Three days after the election, the Honduran Supreme Election Tribunal continued to withhold the official results and claimed a turnout of 61%. Later the Tribunal had to concede that only 49% had voted, fewer than the 55% who voted in 2005 when ousted President Manuel Zelaya, then standing as a ruling class candidate, was elected. However, the turnout has been sufficient for the Honduran ruling class to reassert its authority, even if the only countries to recognise the outcome have been the US, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Costa Rica, Canada and Israel. In recognition of the situation, Zelaya left the Brazilian embassy where he had sought refuge since returning clandestinely to the country in September 2009, accepting an offer of exile in Dominica.

 

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Haiti – a history of oppression

In Haiti we see in microcosm the forces that threaten the species with destruction. Not the natural forces that inflicted the earthquake but the social and political forces that magnified its impact and which brought Haiti to ruin long before the fault line ruptured: the forces of capitalism, colonialism and imperialism.

When Christopher Columbus and a band of Spanish gold seekers landed on Haiti’s north coast in 1492 there were perhaps 500,000 Taino Arawak people on the island of Hispaniola. By 1548 there were fewer than 500. The Spanish colonialists enslaved them, forced them to work in gold mines and supply food. Those who refused were hunted down by dogs, mutilated, raped and killed. Others died from influenza, smallpox and typhus.

 

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Haiti recolonised

The earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January measured 7 on the Richter scale, releasing energy equivalent to a half-megaton nuclear bomb, 500,000 tons of TNT. By 28 January estimates of deaths reached up to 200,000 people. In Port-au-Prince there are 500,000 homeless people in 447 improvised camps. People around the world, seeing the devastation, have donated generously to help them. But on 23 January Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said that 90% of the people in camps had received no aid. US imperialism has moved quickly to recolonise the country. Trevor Rayne reports.

 

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UN Conference on Climate Change, Copenhagen

ALBA leads anti-imperialist call to save environment

‘If the climate was a bank, they would have saved it already.’ Graffiti in Copenhagen

Days before the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009, leading climate scientist James Hansen, of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, stated that no deal would be better than the flawed deal that the talks were heading for. Calling President Obama’s policies ‘half-assed’, he compared Obama on climate change with Abraham Lincoln on slavery: ‘You can’t say let’s reduce slavery, let’s find a compromise and reduce it 50% or reduce it 40%’. In particular, he denounced carbon trading as ‘analogous to the indulgences that the Catholic Church sold in the middle ages. The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity’. David Hetfield reports.

 

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Haiti: troops out! Cancel the debt!

En Français

US troops in Haiti

As the magnitude of the disaster in Haiti becomes apparent – perhaps 200,000 dead, the whole of the capital Port-au-Prince devastated as a consequence of the 12 January earthquake, so anti-imperialists have to hold those responsible for this calamity to account. No-one can prevent earthquakes, but states can create conditions where the scale of destruction that follows is limited, and where there is an infrastructure which can support effective relief operations. It is obvious that neither existed in Haiti so that the consequences of the earthquake were all the more horrific. But the primary responsibility for this lies not with the desperately impoverished Haitian state, but with those who caused this impoverishment: imperialism in general, and US imperialism in particular. Haiti is the epitome of a dependent state, its development deliberately obstructed by the US to keep it and its people in subjection.

 

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ALBA: A fight for justice and for the survival of the species

raul-alba

The 8th Summit of ALBA-TCP, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Trade Treaty of the Peoples (formally the Bolivarian Alternative), was held in mid-December in Havana, Cuba. It marked five years since ALBA was set up between Venezuela and Cuba in 2004. From Havana, Sam Mcgill reports for Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

ALBA brings a political, economic and social alliance to defend the sovereignty, self-determination, identity and unity between Latin America and the Caribbean people, practicing the principles of cooperation, solidarity, mutual assistance, social justice and complementary economic planning for sustained integration and development. There are already over 100 ALBA projects spanning health provision, telecommunication, food and fuel distribution, scientific projects and initiatives for environmental protection. The Alliance includes Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Ecuador, St Vincent and Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and, until the coup in June 2009, Honduras. The recent election of Jose Pepe Mujica confirms the likelihood that Uruguay will join soon.

 

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Latin American workers sold out by trade union

Over the past three years FRFI has regularly supported the struggles by low-paid cleaning workers in London for better wages and living conditions. These battles have overwhelmingly been led and organised by the Latin American Workers Association (LAWAS), which has consistently linked this economic struggle to the fight of all workers against capitalism and of immigrants against Britain’s racist immigration laws. Now this principled stance has meant LAWAS has come under attack from the opportunists who control the union Unite.

 

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ALBA: New dawn for Latin America

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) was initiated in 2004 with a set of trade and cooperation agreements between Cuba and Venezuela. Its immediate origins lie in the famous barter trade between the two countries which began in 2000. Cuba sent thousands of educators and medical personnel to Venezuela, which in turn sold 53,000 barrels of oil a day at below world market prices to Cuba. This was followed in 2001 by an agricultural cooperation deal. In December that year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez first proposed a ‘Bolivarian Alternative’, to counter the neo-liberal Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), known in Spanish as ALCA. ALBA means ‘dawn’ in Spanish.

 

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Interview with president Rafael Correa

President Rafael Correa in London President Rafael Correa in London President Rafael Correa in London

Building socialism for the 21st century in Ecuador

In April 2009, Rafael Correa was elected to his second term as President of Ecuador with 51% of the vote. This gave him a mandate to continue and deepen the programme of reforms and structural changes initiated since he first became president in November 2006. In three years Correa’s government has introduced an unprecedented social and economic programme of reforms – the Citizens’ Revolution – to reverse the poverty and exploitation suffered by the majority of the population in a country which has been ravaged by neo-liberalism (see FRFI 210). Correa has announced that Ecuador is building socialism for the 21st century and joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). In late October 2009, he made a brief trip to London, speaking at universities and to over 1,000 Ecuadorians living and working in London, en route to a formal state visit to Russia. HELEN YAFFE had the privilege of interviewing President Correa during a boat trip on the River Thames and a translation appears here.

 

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Peru – indigenous peoples fight back against imperialism

For 58 days in April, May and June, some 3,000 indigenous peoples from 356 communities in the north and central part of the Peruvian department of Amazonas peacefully occupied oil installations and blocked roads and waterways in protest at their exclusion from decisions about the use of their historic lands. On 5 June, heavily armed police attacked them at a section of the Fernando Belaunde Terry highway in Bagua province known as ‘Devil’s Bend’. By the evening of 6 June, up to 70 civilians and police had been killed and some 115 wounded in the bloodiest single attack on indigenous peoples by the state since President Fujimori’s death squads and forced sterilisation campaign in the 1990s.

 

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The struggle against imperialism in Latin America

The US and British invasion of Iraq, trapping US forces and helping to push up oil prices, has created a window of opportunity for Latin America’s revolutionaries and long oppressed masses. Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia are opening the road to profound social change for millions of people, and by so doing they are challenging US hegemony on the continent.

The Honduran elections in November 2005 started a year of polling throughout Latin America. With a dozen presidential contests and 13 legislative elections, the class struggles throughout the region present a new and major challenge to US and European imperialism. So far this challenge has been either superficially portrayed by the European press as an electoral swing to the left, or misrepresented as a destructive ‘populism’.

Years of long and bitter struggles have been waged by the workers and peasants of Latin America to obtain basic democratic rights. Aggressive US intervention for over a century has had severely damaging consequences throughout the region, creating mass poverty and wholesale misery. More recently, from the mid-1960s to the 1990s, the US promoted state terror against the working class and peasantry in all these countries: imposing unserviceable debt and then demanding the subsequent privatisation of state assets as repayment. The accumulation of capital is the accumulation of misery in Latin America and the Caribbean. Last year alone saw a rise in ‘official’ regional unemployment of 1.3 million – half the global increase – with 15-24 year olds three times as likely to be unemployed as adults. In Latin America 23 million workers have no jobs while 103 million work ‘informally’. Workers, a high proportion driven from the land, end up as casual labour, in petty trading, crime, prostitution and despair. A huge, poverty stricken reserve army of labour constantly grows in size. This total of 126 million is expected to grow to 153 million in ten years.

 

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News in brief / FRFI 194 Dec 2006 / Jan 2007

Brazilian elections
On 29 October President Lula won his second presidential election, increasing his first round vote of 48.61% to 60.83%. His supporters were the poor, from the least developed parts of the country and city slums. But this personal vote couldn ’t conceal the loss of four Senatorial and eight Chamber of Deputies seats in the 1 October legislative vote. Already a minority party, depending on the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and a range of smaller parties for support, the Workers Party now faces more difficulties in governing. The PMDB holds 108 seats in both houses (about 20%), an increase of 14 seats, compared to the Workers Party’s 93 (about 16%). The majority of the PMDB vote for Lula in a waiting game. Lula is in no position to challenge his domestic bourgeoisie or imperialism. He has conformed to the demands of the IMF which itself, as in Chile and Argentina, is now prepared to see a minimum expenditure on the poor, the creation of a sector of state paupers, who, saved from starvation, are just that bit less likely to drive radical change. As in Nicaragua the process favours social democratic illusions whilst new formulae are concocted to increase the low rate of capital accumulation at the further expense of the workers.

 

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El Salvador: Presidential election victory for FMLN

On 15 March, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front’s (FMLN) Mauricio Funes won El Salvador’s presidential election by 51.3% against 48.7% for the right-wing Arena candidate, Rodri­go Avila. Whilst Funes ran on a very moderate programme, his election still spells a significant step forward for the people of El Salvador and Central America.

In the 1980s, 75,000 people died in the FMLN-led struggle for national liberation, 90% of them victims of the El Salvadorean army and its paramilitary death squad auxiliaries led by Major Roberto d’Aubuisson. It was d’Aubuisson who set up Arena in 1981, speaking of the need to kill hundreds of thousands of El Salvadoreans ‘to restore peace to El Salvador’. Arena has ruled El Salvador since peace accords were signed in 1992, and still dominates the municipalities, even if it is now the second largest party in Congress after the FMLN.

 

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