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Column 012014 Brewer

Monday, January 20, 2014

El Salvador and the Hemispheric Impact of its Looming Election

By Jerry Brewer

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. A notable demographic transition describes the nation as experiencing slower population growth, a decline in its number of youths, and the gradual aging of its population. A 2008 national family planning survey showed that female sterilization remained the most common contraception method in El Salvador (its sterilization rate is among the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean), but that the use of injectable contraceptives was growing.


The demographics that appear to be the catalysts for the most deteriorating factors in El Salvador, that include murder with impunity, fear, intimidation, violence, and lawlessness, are brought about courtesy of the familiar theme and specter of transnational organized crime.


Within a region of overwhelming death, misery, and deception, El Salvador's dollarized economy, geographic location and spot on the drug route from South America to the US makes it a home of convenience to a myriad of criminal groups. Furthermore, El Salvador’s violent gangs, especially the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Eighteenth Street (M18) gangs, have coyly used truce announcements to apparently increase their identity and boost their strength and control, much like the Colombian FARC guerrillas.

The first round of a presidential election will take place in El Salvador on February 2, 2014. This election may be one of the most important elections in El Salvador and Central America in many decades. A failure of a new administration to make significant proactive inroads to curb criminal insurgent violence and take control of the homeland may prove disastrous to the entire region. A failure to strategically act may further strengthen the organized criminal bridge of lawlessness and mayhem saturating Honduras, Guatemala and many parts of Mexico.  


All of these continued failures to strengthen security and enforce the rule of law follow north to the US border and beyond, and obviously require a massive organized and cooperative effort in strengthening enforcement and security infrastructures. Much of this must include a needed, yet absent, dialogue between US governing officials from an efficiency and quality control standpoint, beyond just throwing dollars south to see where they land and what they may actually do towards progress.


Although US funding for equipment, systems, and training are in abundance to many affected regions, political aspects of governing philosophy, attitudes, abilities, strengths and weaknesses play a most important part of coordinated strategy and communication that must be delineated in expected necessary goal achievements. There must be a raised US government platform of facilitative dialogue with as many governments south of the US border as possible. This as many Latin American nations complain that they are perceived as lesser need mandates and ignored for other world regions and hotspots.


Just how important is a secure US border?


With the US being a primary destination for massive illicit drugs and those wishing to do harm to the nation, the southern border requires vigilance and communication with those cooperative Latin American governments wishing to be a part of the solution.


Just what do the two leading candidates, among those on the ballot for the five year presidential term in El Salvador, bring to this hemispheric table of discourse?


Norman Noel Quijano Gonzalez (67) is the current mayor of San Salvador. A dentist by profession, his introduction to the political domain began as Manager of Social Action of the Municipality of San Salvador from 1989 to 1994. Since 1994 he participated in five continuous legislative periods, holding the position of secretary of the Board of the Legislative Assembly from 2006 to 2009.

In 2008 Quijano was the candidate of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) for mayor of San Salvador, a position he won in open elections held on January 18, 2009. On August 20, 2012 he was named to be ARENA's presidential candidate in the 2014 elections.

The other leading candidate for president is Salvador Sanchez Ceren (69). His political ideology derives from various democratic and revolutionary (i.e. leftist) organizations that he has been a member of over the years. Today he belongs to, and is the presidential candidate of, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation (FMLN), a left-wing political party that prior to 1992 was a coalition of five guerrilla organizations.


Sanchez became politically active in the late 1960s, as a student and during the movement in El Salvador against US policies. With the start of the Salvadoran Civil War in 1980, Sanchez adopted the pseudonym "Commander Leonel Gonzalez," plus he was appointed to the position of "comandante."  The FMLN leadership described its ideology during the war as Marxist-Leninist.


To ensure free campaigns and transparent balloting, El Salvador must remain cognizant of any efforts by nondemocratic institutions, or rogue nations, to intervene or attempt to rig the election in order to advance anti-democratic and corrupt agendas -- factors that continue to threaten regional stability.

More than 4 million people are expected to vote in the Salvadoran elections on February 2, when they will pick a president and vice president who will govern the gang-ridden, violence-torn, poverty-stricken country for the next five years. The winning candidate will need more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off election, which would take place on March 9.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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