A Corrupt Pact Threatens El Salvador Elections; A Scheme to Split the Conservative Vote Could Hand the Presidency to the Left
Byline: Jose R. Cardenas, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Voters in El Salvador will go to the polls on Sunday to choose a new president from two decidedly opposite ends of the political spectrum. Former guerrilla and current Vice President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, of the hard-line wing of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), is facing off against San Salvador Mayor Norman Quijano of the pro-U.S. opposition Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party.
As if the stakes were not high enough already - for the Salvadoran people and for U.S. interests in the region - the election is being complicated by the unhelpful role of a third-party candidate, Antonio Saca, the former president of the country who served under the ARENA banner from 2004 to 2009.
Once a favorite of the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Saca was subsequently expelled from ARENA in 2009 for his conspicuous corruption while in office. Today, many in El Salvador think he is running again as a part of an under-the-table agreement with the FMLN to split the opposition vote in exchange for immunity from corruption charges should the FMLN win the election.
Karl Marx once wrote that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. Regional observers cannot help but notice the obvious parallels between what is happening in El Salvador today and what occurred in the Nicaraguan presidential election of 2006, which was undermined by a similarly corrupt pact that allowed the Sandinistas' Daniel Ortega to win office with 38 percent of the popular vote.
That deal involved another disgraced former president, Arnoldo Aleman, who financed a third-candidate to split the opposition against the Sandinistas in return for immunity for charges of widespread graft during his presidency. (In 2004, Transparency International named Aleman as one of the most corrupt leaders in recent history and estimated he looted his country of an estimated $100 million.)
According to ARENA official Ernesto Muyshdont, Mr. Saca is aping that model: For us, it's quite clear. Here, the FMLN's strategy is to replicate what the Sandinistas did in Nicaragua, which is to make an alliance with a corrupt leader from the right in order to remain in power, guaranteeing that the latter's offenses remain in impunity in exchange.
Clearly, Mr. Saca has every motive to avoid judicial scrutiny of his time in office. According to an investigation by a Salvadoran newspaper, El Faro, during his presidency, Mr. Saca's personal wealth skyrocketed from around a half-million dollars to more than $10.5 million.
The U.S. Embassy, for one, noticed, as reflected in several diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. …