Community Radio in El Salvador Prepares for the Elections


Elections in El Salvador are coming up and the ARENA party, sponsor of the death squads for many years, is gearing up with accusations against the ruling party of FMLN veterans.
Waves of Change received a letter from Radio Victoria this week:
Radio Victory is ready, set, go to cover the elections in the Cabañas province as well as tuning in to national news stories through our community radio association with 23 stations throughout the country. We will have a team of 28 people directly covering 15 voting sites in Cabañas as well as monitoring social networks, national TV and radio, receiiving reports from all the correspondents and providing analysis and commentary throughout the day.
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Last week the full Radio Victoria team received a workshop by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal on the electoral code, new reforms and journalists rights and duties. 
On Wednesday January 22nd the Ombudperson for the Defense of Human Rights, David Morales, came to visit the radio. David is a soft spoken prinicipled human rights activist who years ago pled Mons. Romero´s case before the Interamerican Human Rights Commision and was fired by the archbishop for refusing to make a deal in that case. He also presented the El Mozote massacre case. 
In 2011 as the Foreign Ministry´s Human Rights officer, David called me one day asking about the threats Radio Victoria was receiving. He asked to visit the Radio and spent a whole morning with our Radio team and community members.
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So his visit last week was a follow-up to find out how things were going at the radio and he told us he came as the head of the human right defense office but he came first as our friend. He is going to investiage what has happened to our case and then meet with us in March.
So folks, stayed tuned. This is a big election. The FMLN has been ahead in the polls, but they need 50% plus one votes to win and there are 3 strong candidates. There may be a second round in March, but the hope is to get this over with next Sunday!!!! 
There are so many good social programs at stake, there is the fear of gold mining being allowed in, which would be an ecological disaster, will the security situation get worse again, what about the progressive and internationally recognized  programs for women, support for public school students, and on and on and on.
The campaign has been heating up during the last week with scandals and crisscrossing corruption accusations abounding.
Ex-President Francisco Flore (1999-2004) was cited in a U.S.Treasury Dept. document that questions suspicious transfers of large funds of money in his name. We are talking about 10 million dollars donated by Taiwan but sent in checks written directly to Flores. There is no legal paper trail of where that money went.
Flores was called before a special legislative committee and baring his teeth in a wide grin, admitted not only to receiving 10 million but maybe 15 or 20 million, he just couldn´t quite remember! And then explained he had given it for earthquake relief and to pay key informers and even that he gave sacks of cash to various mayor's for relief work. Sacks of cash!!!! no receipts, nobody knows nothing!
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The right wing ARENA party has been accusing the present government of negotiating with gangs because of a truce that was worked out between the 2 major Salvadoran gangs 2 years ago. Last week 2 legislative assembly members presented what they said was irrefutable evidence, audio recordings, that President Funes made a pact with these gang criminals and paid gang family members as well as mediators in the process. 
Turns out the recordings came out of the Attorney General´s office and how they got into these clown´s hands is now practically a criminal investigation because they were never uploaded onto the internet (the ARENA folks say they got them from a hacker!). The Attorney General says their system in inviolate and so it had to be someone on the inside releasting the recordings which do not present hard evidence anyway.
These 2 assambly deputies also presented a supposed letter from the secretary to the president which President Funes says has a false signature and seal.
President Funes held a press conference at mid-day and a national broadcast at night totally refuting the accusations saying there were never any funds given to gamg members, their families or the mediators. He also declared that the ARENA party has a clandestine extermination group (remember the death squads...) and their own "intelligence" structure which has been carrying out executions (this has been a common thread at the end of election campaigns, the ARENA party using scare tactics to attract votes saying only they can provide real security). So the recent hike in murders complements ARENA's campaign ads which accuse the government of failed security policies. Also some high profile ARENA members own private security companies.
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ARENA has completely based their campaign on scary ads where their candidate once almost crying says only he can get rid of the gangs and, as he says: " know what has to be done, and I know what has to be done, and I will do whatever it takes." And nobody knows what he means or why he is about to cry. He has talked about militarizing public security and now is attacking the FMLN candidate, who is also Vice Presidnet, accusing him of making a pact with criminals.
He's just scary looking and sounding and the fear is if he wins there will be an all out war between government security and the gangs.
That's the story for now. We're all excitied and hopeful for a better future, for a real chance, for slowly implementing structural changes. Maybe we will know on Sunday February 2nd.