Making the transition from guerrilla to president

On March 9, the Salvadoran people elected Salvador Sánchez Cerén as president of El Salvador in an election that reflected the maturity of our democracy and the progress of our society since the end of the civil war in 1992.

The election was free, transparent and extensively observed by international actors such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of American States and the Department of State. This provides our newly elected president and Vice President-elect Óscar Ortiz a strong legitimacy to continue the policies started by president Mauricio Funes in 2009, particularly our emphasis on social measures to alleviate poverty, and incorporate our citizens in the global workforce.

A couple of weeks after the election I had the opportunity to talk to Sánchez Cerén, accompanied by Óscar Ortiz; he is aware that almost half of the country voted for an alternative option. He acknowledges that an important part of Salvadoran society is afraid that instability and political confrontation are serious challenges for his five-year tenure.

Taking this in consideration, President-elect Sánchez Cerén is committed to launch a national agreement with all sectors of our society in order to find common ground on issues such as citizen security, tax reforms, and attraction of foreign investment; he emphasizes the need to improve our relationship with the Salvadoran private sector.

He stated: “The government will remain loyal to its commitment to reduce inequality, and keep its promise to promote social mobility.” Therefore, the expected national agreements will be based on the respect of the Salvadoran Constitution and the defense of rule of law, freedom of expression and private property.

On another issue, President-elect Sánchez Cerén will continue the strong relationship with the United States that former President Funes consolidated; he referred specifically to facilitating and implementing a second compact approved by the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Furthermore, Sanchez Cerén will maintain constant contact and communication with people in both the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government.

It is clear that relations in Sánchez Cerén’s administration will be instilled with a pragmatic consideration of El Salvador’s interest. The fact that 2 million Salvadorans live in the United States represents a powerful factor to developing our ties and working relationship on ways that benefit our immigrants.

The president-elect believes that we can prevent high immigration flows and overcome the challenge of citizen security through the development of education, creation of jobs through the private sector and the empowerment of civil society.

In this new age, Sánchez Cerén’s positive attitude towards national reconciliation will be relevant to reducing political polarization and dismantling the fear of many Salvadorans regarding a new FMLN government.

In 1992, as a former guerrilla commander of the FMLN, the newly elected president was a key actor in achieving peace in the political negotiations brokered by the United Nations and supported by the United States.

As ambassador of El Salvador to the United States, friend of both Sánchez Cerén and Vice President-elect Óscar Ortiz, I am convinced that the new Salvadoran leaders will move our country along the path of openness and democratic consolidation.

Both have demonstrated honesty, fairness and governing capacity in their former positions: Sánchez Cerén as a former minister of education and Ortiz as mayor of a populous city for over 14 years.

Few Latin American leaders have been able to transform an insurgent movement into a progressive and functioning party in a 20-year period. The newly elected president and vice president have made a fundamental contribution to this task with a modern vision of politics and opening the participation in government to the diversity of Salvadoran society.

In short, Sánchez Cerén and Ortiz have demonstrated over time that both are loyal to the pursuit of peace and reliable international partners.

Rubén Zamora is the ambassador of El Salvador to the United States. Salvador Sánchez Cerén will be sworn in as president on June 1.

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