Former Leftist Guerrilla Leader Sworn in as President of El Salvador

Former Leftist Guerrilla Leader Sworn in as President of El Salvador

Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a former officer of leftist guerrilla group, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), has been sworn in as president of El Salvador, promising to fight “organized crime” while strengthening ties with Venezuela.

Sánchez Cerén, who served as vice president during the previous administration, was sworn in on Sunday, promising “honesty, austerity, efficiency and transparency.” The Associated Press reports that many former members of the FMLN–and current members, as the guerrilla became a pacific political party in 1992–attended the ceremony, chanting, “Yes, we could!” as Sánchez Cerén accepted the presidential sash. 

The new president spoke of fighting for social justice and against crime. “Citizens’ security requires that we work together against organized crime, drug trafficking, extortion and all expressions of violence,” the new president asserted in his speech. Sánchez Cerén defeated conservative candidate Norman Quijano for the presidency in a run-off vote after a close first round. Quijano, notes the Agence France-Presses, was linked to former President Francisco Flores, currently a fugitive of the law after allegations surfaced that he “misappropriated $5.3 million donated by Taiwan.” Flores is believed to have fled to Nicaragua and, subsequently, Panama, according to Justice Minister Ricardo Perdomo. While Flores has fled the country, he has always denied any wrongdoing, claiming to have accepted Taiwan’s money but invested it properly into the government.

Sánchez Cerén was not only a member of the FMLN guerrilla, but he “rose to become one of the guerrilla group’s top commanders, under the nom de guerre Leonel Gonzalez.” Bloomberg News notes that the left-wing candidate promised, not only to combat violence and poverty, but to rehabilitate and strengthen ties with the socialist government of Venezuela “to get access to cheaper oil.”

Venezuela has already complied with building a bridge to the new leftist president. President Nicolás Maduro announced this week the incorporation of El Salvador to Petrocaribe, an energy alliance created by Hugo Chávez in 2005 meant to aid allied countries in the region. Maduro also acclaimed Sánchez Cerén’s contributions to a violent guerrilla and his past as part of a leftist gang. “The youth of the ’80s were forced to take up arms, until they said, ‘Enough of arms; we have to find the peaceful way to social transformation,'” Maduro said in a speech in which he commended Sánchez Cerén. “Here in Venezuela,” he concluded, the Salvadorian president “has a people and a revolution who are brothers of the Salvadorian people.”