Shortly before I began work on El Salvador at the Washington Office on Latin America in the late 1970s, there was testimony on Capitol Hill about police units using radio communications and talking about numbers of tamales. The tamales referred to ballots that needed to be stuffed in ballot boxes.There is no doubt that there have been many, many changes in El Salvador since then and that El Salvador looks extremely different today. But optimism and differences must not replace analytic clarity or gloss over basic issues lying behind the elections.
Today, certainly in the context of the March 1991 elections, it is still important to examine the political power of the armed forces as an institution and their responsiveness to civilian authorities, especially in judicial investigations.This has been a core issue over the decades since the "tamales" period.As regards the past few months, there is a need to distinguish between the real irregularities in the recent March elections and the gains for political pluralism that clearly came out of that process, for example, the seats that were gained by the leftist and center-left parties.Those gains for political pluralism do not make the irregularities any less important, particularly because the key test for the Salvadoran social fabric—the transformation of the FMLN into a political force—will be affected by perceptions of fair play in the electoral process and of fair chances for participation in electoral politics.
On Capitol Hill, attention has been given to the broader political representation in the newly elected legislature, not to new consensus on the need for additional electoral reform or to the relation of the elections to negotiations or, much less, to the 1994 elections.These latter issues____________________