Wednesday, March 18, 2009

what´s LEFT to say?

el pueblo salvadoreño has spoken and funes is its man. yay!!! let me tell you, it was a very exciting election to be a part of. i´ll take you through the process!

sunday morning i went with antonio to his voting place here in apaneca. voting stations in the municipalities aren´t set up by location (like in the states), but by last name. upon first entering the voting area there are lists of names and you find your name on the list to make sure you´re in the right place. then, next to your name is a number and when you enter the actual building or area where the voting takes place, you find your number and that´s where you vote. there is a big board with photos and names of each person who is allowed to vote at that actual voting stand and you have to make sure that all lines up. when you get to the front of the line, the voting workers match up your name to your DUI (which is an identification card which is a mix between a driver´s license and a social security card) photo and number. then you get your ballot: a single sheet of paper with an ARENA flag and a FMLN flag on it. the back the ballot must have a ¨sello¨ (seal/stamp) and a signature. if those aren´t there, the ballot is considered null and void. so once you get your ballot, you go to a cardboard voting stand that has a piece of fabric in front of it with two holes for your arms. it´s not like in the states where you vote behind a curtain or anything. you stick your arms in and that way nobody can see how you´re´s kind of weird. anyway, in choosing your party, you put a black ¨x¨ on whichever party you are voting for with a crayon they give you. you can´t mark outside the flag...if so, your ballot is no good. if you show anyone how you voted, your ballot is no good either. you then fold your ballot up, stick it in the box and then you have to return to the voting table to get your right thumb covered with this permanent black ink that doesn´t come off for a couple days so that you can´t try and vote again somewhere else. it was quite funny seeing all these salvadorans with black thumbs on television and walking around town the next day!

there were vigilantes from both political parties there making sure that there was no funny business going on and apparently there were UN vigilantes as well, although at antonio´s voting place i didn´t really see anyone ¨foreign.¨ all in all things were pretty tranquilo around town, although i did hear chambre that don rodolfo, who is an arenero, got in a fight with some young guys that are efemelenistas about who was going to win.

anyway, the rest of the day it was just a waiting game...waiting for the polls to close at 5:00 p.m. i didn´t want to watch the news because here´s what happens next: once the polls close, the voting places start counting the votes. channels 2, 4 and 6 send cameras and journalists around the country, mostly in san salvador, into various voting places to watch votes being counted. for example, the camera will sneak in and watch one table count its votes. it goes like this: the table is surrounded by various vigilantes from both ARENA and FMLN. then there is a person who is physically taking the ballots out of the box and reading them. then the person hands the ballot to a representative vigilante from whichever party the vote is for. then, once all the votes have been taken out and read from the ballot box, each person with the stack of ballots counts how many they have. whoever has the most is the winner of that table and all those in support of that party, at that table, erupt in a bunch of hoots and hollers. so, all night, up until about 7:00 p.m. the news was recording these vote counts and it was nervewracking. especially when they´d come to a table that had a lot of ARENA votes....the guy reading the votes would say ¨arena........arena......arena......fmln.......arena..
....arena.......fmln......arena....arena.....¨ and so on. it was difficult to watch and definitely kept me on the edge of my seat!

the vote quantities started coming in around 7:00 and funes was winning san salvador and we started hearing cheers and stuff coming from down the street. so we went over to our neighbors, the owners of one of the ciber cafés in apaneca, and big efemelenistas, and watched some of the news with them. but it was soooo close all night long. i think the biggest margin was funes - 53% and avila - 48%. the rest of the night, the margin kept becoming smaller and it was like ¨oh for the love of god!!!!!!!!¨

then, the election officials read their official statements....reporting on the results from the various 14 departments. during the first official statement most of the departments only had about 30% of the results so far. about 45 minutes later, there was another official statement and about 80% of the results were in and the margin was even smaller.....51% funes, 49% avila. but that´s where it stayed for the rest of the night. there was a huge celebration in the streets and all the FMLN supporters paraded around apaneca. in san salvador it was a huge party......funes gave his speech in a crowded, camera-filled room with people all wearing red t-shirts. avila finally gave his speech and talked about how arena was still strong despite losing the election.

the funniest thing was the fact that after the election, all these areneros kept saying how ¨funes needs to work with ARENA now that the FMLN has won the presidency.¨ i kept thinking - well, yes, that would be my suggestion as well. but ARENA was NEVER willing to ¨ work¨ with the FMLN when they were in power. NEVER. and now they want funes to do that. and i think funes will. in every speech he´s made so far since winning he´s talked about how he´s more interested in a unified country than one with such harsh political divisions. but it´s going to be an uphill battle....just yesterday, three ARENA diputados (kind of like our senators and representatives) quit. i asked the teachers in my school why they quit....they´re elected officials and just because the other party won the presidency, in my opinion, wouldn´t make it necessary to quit their service in the legislative assemply (kind of like our congress). and they said that they ¨had to, before the other guy takes over.¨ it doesn´t make any sense to me, but i´m guessing that nobody really knows what to do because this has never happened before. this is the first time the FMLN has won and what´s the protocol they have to go by? i guess we can only wait and see what happens.

what´s going to be interesting is to see how the ARENA party handles this defeat. i think they are scared. for twenty years, their campaign has been run on fear....telling the salvadoran population that if they vote for the FMLN there is going to be another war, that el salvador is going to be like venezuela and cuba, that all their family members are going to be deported from the united states and remesas will stop. and they have won all past elections with those campaign threats. but now that the FMLN has won and it´s more than likely that none of those threats will come to pass, my guess is that people are going to see that those were JUST THREATS. how is ARENA going to run their next presidential campaign in 5 years? i think it is a good thing for both parties. ARENA is going to have to have a more educated plan de trabajo....what´s THEIR plan to improve the country? so far they´ve never really come up with a work plan......their campaign has always been ¨you don´t want what the FMLN has to offer, so vote for ARENA¨ instead of saying what makes ARENA better in terms of improving the country. meanwhile, mauricio funes´s and the FMLN´s plan this time around was ¨here´s what i plan to do if i´m a women´s center in san salvador, work on programs for farmers, unify the country, etc., etc.¨ there was NOTHING like that from ARENA......just the same old ¨don´t vote for the FMLN because they´re guerrilleros.¨

so now funes has given the FMLN a chance to prove themselves. let´s just hope they hit a homerun!

here are a couple articles about the funes win...

miami herald article

la times article

the BBC

and CNN