There is a dense fog of suspicion surrounding the final round of El Salvador’s presidential elections on March 9th. There have been social media reports of bankers and business owners forcing employees to vote for the right wing ARENA party and stories of gang members bullying communities into voting for the left. In February, President Mauricio Funes was publically accused of drunk driving and crashing a Ferrari worth over two hundred thousand dollars in the early hours of the night in San Salvador. While the President denies involvement in the crash, many suspect that his role in the accident was covered up. The President has argued that the Ferrari story was fabricated by ARENA supporters and has threated to file a claim of defamation against his accusers.
Regrettably Salvadorans have good reason to be guarded about official versions of events. Last August, for example, El Salvador’s soccer federation suspended 22 players in an investigation into alleged match-fixing by the national team. Players were purportedly paid $10,000 to throw international games. Critics like Hector Silva have argued that the soccer sandal is a metaphor for the corruption of the country. In 2012, El Faro, a leading national newspaper, disclosed that the FMLN government had brokered a secret deal with the street gangs to reduce violence. A secret mass grave was uncovered last December that put in question how much violence has actually decreased as a result of the truce. Authorities accuse the gangs of digging the grave to “disappear” victims of continued gang violence.
While Salvadorans have become adept at reading between the lines of official versions of events, the newly elected President will have the critical task before him of rebuilding public trust.