Monday, March 16, 2009

FMLN wins Presidential Elections

The Presidential elections took place on March 15th. Although El Salvador has five political parties on two parties entered candidates in the presidential elections. Arena, the current party in power, has been in power for the last 20 years and is the more conservative party. The FMLN is the leftist party that formed a political party after the end of the civil war. The FMLN, also know as “the front”, were the guerilleros during the civil war. When the peace agreement was signed in 1993, FMLN formed a political party. Although they have not held a majority in Parliament since their formation, they won the majority of seats in the municipal elections in January. This has become a very polarized election and the campaign has turned fairly negative. In the campaigns, Arena threatened that if FMLN wins the election the country will be “sold” to Hugo Chavez. The FMLN has adopted the slogan of change similar to the Obama campaign. The Obama administration actually asked the FMLN to stop associating itself with Obama since the US does not openly support either party.

The act of casting a vote is very different here than the US. I went to three different voting centers. The voting centers are divided by last names in each city and town. Therefore you do not necessarily vote in your neighborhood, like in the US. Most voting centers are schools. Outside of the voting center is a list of all the names that are registered in each center. Once inside, the voter goes to the area that corresponds to their last name. The identification is checked with the log of names and you are given a ballot. On the ballot is a picture of each party’s logo. You are given a black marker and proceed to the voting booth which is made of cardboard. The cardboard is covered with a small cloth with a window where you put the ballot and look through to mark your vote privately. When finished, you put your ballot in a cardboard box and sign next to your name on the log. The last step is to ink your finger so as to stop people from voting more than once with possible fake identifications. I was able to go to three different voting centers. The most chaotic park was the traffic and the parking. However, once inside things were very organized and orderly. There are many representatives from each party that share the responsibilities of observing to make sure things are done properly. There are also official observers, many of which are foreigners.

It was a very interesting experience. In San Salvador, the streets were full of people watching and waiting in anticipation. I have a feeling that many of the people in the voting centers were purely hanging out to witness the process and be a part of the action. Voter turn out seemed high and the excitement was very visible, as you can see in the pictures.

Los Tercios

Los Tercios is a unique rock formation near Suchitoto that is an amazing waterfall during the wet season. It is about a 45 minute walk from Suchitoto. I visited Los Tercios with my friends Jess and Mamet. They were both volunteering for the Permaculture Institute here in Suchitoto. Jess is from England and has recently moved to Argentina and Mamet is a student at Evergreen University in Washington. The little boy in the picture lives on the property and proudly appointed himself as our guide to the waterfall. Currently there is no water but should be overflowing in June.

La Costa del Sol

My friend Angie came to El Salvador for two weeks for a wedding and to visit friends. We took advantage of her visit to take a little vacation to the beach. A friend of Angie’s loaned us her beach house en la Costa del Sol. The house was a great beach house with a screened in area for eating and relaxing, a swimming pool and plenty of coconut trees. We spent the days reading, walking on the beach and eating coconuts and mangos. Since the house was on the beach we fell asleep each night to the sound of the waves of the ocean. The beach was rather deserted so we had the ocean to ourselves. I believe it was the first time that I saw cows walking on the beach. Somehow they seemed out of place.