Officially, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the candidate of the FMLN, won the recent presidential election in El Salvador. So declared the country’s Electoral Supreme Court in the face of challenges from the ARENA party. The difference between the two parties barely exceeded 6,000 votes. An incredible minutia, when almost 3 million people voted. ARENA asked for a recount of all the ballots, but a recount was not granted. The law was not on its side. Norman Quijano had to settle for a moral victory.
Nobody expected a result of that nature, especially because the FMLN beat him by more than 10 percentage points in the first round. It seems that today’s cruel slaughterhouse in Venezuela reminded the Salvadorans that revolutionary radicalism can end up in a bloodbath.
Now, Sánchez Cerén, communist and former guerrilla, faces a bitter dilemma. Beginning in June, when he officially assumes the presidency, will he devote himself to creating the revolution that his little Marxist-Leninist heart asks him to do? Or will he accept that his is a very poor country, dollar-dependent, crushed by the street gangs, divided into hostile halves and whose main source of income is the emigrants’ remittances, a panorama that advises against adding a dangerous political friction that might again unleash violence?
He would be the fourth of Fidel Castro’s children placed in that quandary. The other three opted to embrace reality and forswear utopia.
Uruguayan José (Pepe) Mujica is one of them. The Cuban revolution sucked his brain, the way the books about chivalry affected Don Quixote, and when he was young he ended up embarked on the bloody adventure of the Tupamaros, major culprits of the collapse of Uruguay’s exemplary democracy.
Mujica, who participated in violent deeds, spent 15 years in prison. When the military dictatorship ended, he integrated into the nation’s political life and placed himself under the authority of the Constitution.
Now installed in the presidency, he has respected the rules of the game and has managed the economy in an orthodox fashion. That is why Uruguay, in 2013, was the Latin American nation that received the largest foreign investment per capita. Mujica had learned his lesson. Fidel Castro and his tyranny were relics from a remote past.
Another is Brazilian Dilma Rousseff. She was a Communist with links to the Revolutionary Armed Vanguard, a Marxist-Leninist group that robbed banks, killed people and hijacked planes.
She was the daughter of a Bulgarian communist, Pedro Rousseff, who had emigrated to Brazil. When she was 23, the Brazilian military, which kidnapped and murdered their enemies, imprisoned Dilma and probably tortured her. She left prison three years later, finished her studies in economics and eventually joined Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Workers Party.
Once elected president, she also chose to forget her Castro-Guevaraist fantasies of youth. The Brazilian reality, in a post-Communist world, did not allow her to bet on the revolutionary roulette. She did not stray far from the model left by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, later continued by Lula da Silva.
Another of Fidel Castro’s “realistic” (or renegade) children is the Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega. Like Mujica and Rousseff, Ortega was part of the Sandinista violence and spent seven years in prison for robbing a bank during Somoza’s dictatorship.
In the 1980s, after the triumph of the insurrection, he presided over Nicaragua for the first time and learned the skills as he went along. It was the costliest course in governance in history. He destroyed the country, but perhaps fully learned what not to do.
When he returned to power in 2007 (thanks to the astounding clumsiness of the liberal opposition), Ortega knew that 66 percent of the population was against any revolutionary project. He didn’t mind. More pragmatic than fanatic, he no longer intended to be like Fidel Castro. He wanted to be like Somoza, to perpetuate himself in power but without breaking with the business sector or the United States, while meticulously pilfering from Chávez and shouting anti-imperialist slogans.
Will Sánchez Cerén be the Castroism’s fourth renegade child? Will he get lost in transit while chasing an impossible revolution or will he realize that that’s the road to mayhem and death, as is happening in Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela? We’ll find out shortly.