Viewing cable 08SANSALVADOR1167

08SANSALVADOR11672008-10-08 19:07:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Salvador

DE RUEHSN #1167/01 2821907
P 081907Z OCT 08
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/03/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador Glazer for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
¶1. (C) Summary:  During a September 28-October 1 visit to San 
Salvador, Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) Madison engaged 
key politicos from the left-leaning FMLN and the 
conservative, pro-U.S. ARENA parties on the upcoming 
elections, and discussed with GOES officials the prospects 
for extending the Comalapa Cooperative Security Location 
(CSL). She also gave a media interview with the largest 
circulation newspaper in which she outlined benefits to the 
region from CAFTA and law-enforcement cooperation.  End 
Elections:  The FMLN,s Take 
¶2. (C) Salvador Samayoa: The former FMLN member and signatory 
to the 1992 Peace Accords is now a prominent political 
analyst.  Samayoa said both parties faced credibility issues: 
ARENA with the economy, and the FMLN with Chavez. Samayoa 
said the FMLN leadership has not changed its ideology since 
the Peace Accords, and that the leadership is at odds with 
more open-minded party activists.  Samayoa said this dynamic 
explains the rift between presidential candidate Funes and 
FMLN General Coordinator Medardo Gonzalez.  While the 
Salvadoran system concentrates power in the President, 
Samayoa told the DAS that modern El Salvador has never seen a 
presidential candidate so at odds with the party he 
represents.  Samayoa predicted that if Funes wins, he will 
not be a puppet for the FMLN.  But, he added that a 
combination of an FMLN victory with Venezuelan cash would 
corrupt the Salvadoran political system.  Nonetheless, he 
suggested that the U.S. should avoid getting directly 
involved in the Salvadoran electoral campaign, and limit 
public comments to exhortations for fairness and respect for 
the democratic process.  Samayoa said the FMLN is convinced 
it will win, and that he is concerned that an unexpected 
ARENA victory would result in violence. 
¶3. (C) FMLN Deputy Hugo Martinez: He said that the Salvadoran 
electorate is divided into three groups: one-third are strong 
ARENA supporters, one-third are strong FMLN supporters, and 
one-third are swing voters.  He said that during the first 
month of the campaign (the official campaign season for the 
municipal and legislative elections began September 1) the 
FMLN,s efforts have been concentrated on winning these swing 
voters by focusing on social issues.  He said the FMLN is 
working to transmit a message of peace and tranquility in 
order to attract new voters.  When asked about the 
possibility of violence if the election was close, Martinez 
said that the FMLN was more concerned about fraud, especially 
after the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) recently 
eliminated the requirement that polling officials sign each 
ballot.  He said that if the election was close, the 
possibility of fraud would increase. 
¶4. (C) David Munguia Payes: The retired Salvadoran Army 
Colonel is widely-assumed to be the Minister of Defense if 
Funes wins.  Munguia Payes told DAS Madison that he was 
concerned about Funes, &delicate8 personal security 
situation. He said the FMLN was taking measures, but that the 
U.S. could help by providing information and intelligence. 
Munguia Payes indicated that the FMLN has information that 
&right-wing individuals8 have stated that saying that they 
&would not let Funes win.8  He then said that, although 
there have not been any political assassinations in El 
Salvador for many years, there are people on the far right 
who would not accept a change of government and could make 
some &bad decisions8.  Munguia Payes also stated that 
right-wing belief that the FMLN would seek to abrogate the 
Amnesty Law also poses a risk to Funes, personal security. 
(Comment:  We do not find these particular allegations 
credible.  End comment.) 
ARENA,s Take on the Elections 
¶5. (C) Salvadoran Ambassador to the U.S. Rene Leon told DAS 
Madison that ARENA presidential candidate Rodrigo Avila 
"still has a chance to win," noting that Funes' initial lead 
of over twenty points had diminished.  He acknowledged 
mistakes in Avila's campaign and said the candidate's inner 
circle was controlling the campaign, in his opinion, to the 
candidate's detriment.  He said the campaign still lacked 
focus.  Leon compared Avila's challenge to that faced by 
Senator John McCain, i.e., how to convince voters to support 
the ruling party while at the same time offering change.  He 
said that, contrary to conventional wisdom, President Saca is 
giving Avila "all the room he needs" to run his campaign, but 
Avila has so far been "unable" to use that space.  Leon said 
that although Avila is still suffering from ARENA's 
"traumatic" candidate selection process, he is &only four or 
five points behind Funes now.8 Leon identified three things 
that could save Avila's candidacy: the selection of a running 
mate; the selection of ARENA's candidates for the Legislative 
Assembly; and proposals to reorganize the justice system. 
Towards the end of the meeting, Leon expressed his fear that 
the presidential race could be extremely close, possibly just 
a few thousand votes, and that the FMLN, which is convinced 
it will win, will resort to violence. 
The Cooperative Security Location (CSL) 
¶6. C) MFA Vice Minister Calix: Calix, joined by Politcal 
Director Werner Romero, said that El Salvado is interested 
in extending the CSL agreement as moothly as possible.  He 
mentioned that El Salvaor was not certain that the U.S. had 
wanted a siple extension, based on having seen an earlier 
US. note that requested an expansion of the agreemet. 
Calix said that the GOES was still considering the risks of 
legislative approval of an enhancedagreement. DAS Madison 
requested an answer to the most recent note, which postulated 
a simple extension; Calix said the GOES would answer as soon 
as possible, maybe within days. Calix and Romero expressed 
interest in adding additional missions to the CSL, and asked 
how a simple extension of the current agreement could 
accommodate these added missions. DAS Madison pressed for the 
simple extension, but added that any further discussion of 
enhanced missions would need to take place at a technical 
level with USG agencies in Washington. 
¶7. (C) DAS Madison also discussed the CSL agreement with 
Ministry of Defense (MOD) Chief of Defense Policy Colonel 
Alvarado. Alvarado said that while the MOD realizes that the 
current political situation is sensitive, he believes the 
agreement could be expanded to include some additional 
missions rather than simply extended.  He said that the MOD 
believed that with some effort, an expanded agreement could 
be approved by the Legislative Assembly.  Alvarado noted that 
the FMLN would find it hard to obstruct an expansion of the 
agreement since that would contradict FMLN presidential 
candidate Mauricio Funes, public statements in favor of the 
CSL. DAS Madison urged avoiding these political risks by 
agreeing to the simple extension. She suggested follow-up 
discussions on other missions subsequent to the extension. 
Alvarado concluded the session noting that El Salvador 
&feels threatened8 by Nicaraguan and Honduran actions that 
have harmed regional security. 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
The Merida Initiative, Public Security, and TPS 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
¶8. (C) DAS Madison discussed the Merida Initiative at length 
with MFA Vice Minister Calix and provided the state of play 
in the USG.  Calix brought up the $900 million security plan 
that Central American countries formulated, and asked where 
the Merida funding stood.  He contrasted the Central American 
plan with the announced Merida funding, which would average 
$6 million per country, and expressed his disappointment in 
the funding.  Calix said that he hopes that some of the money 
can go through this year, and that in the future, perhaps 
after Congressional staff members travel to El Salvador and 
see results, more funding could materialize. 
¶9. (C) DAS Madison also discussed public security with FMLN 
Deputy Martinez.  Martinez said that the FMLN last week 
unveiled a proposal to amend the constitution to allow for 
wiretapping in some cases.  He acknowledged that a proposal 
had already passed the Legislative Assembly, but said that it 
lacked sufficient safeguards to protect civil rights. (Note: 
A proposed constitutional amendment must pass the Legislative 
Assembly twice, the second time by a supermajority. End 
note.)  He also said that while the FMLN wanted to include 
corruption in the list of crimes against which wiretapping 
would be admissible in court, ARENA did not consider this 
request.  Martinez also said that even though wiretapping is 
currently illegal, it is nonetheless being used as a 
political tool. 
¶10. (C) DAS Madison and Vice Foreign Minister Calix also 
discussed immigration and temporary protected status (TPS) 
for Salvadoran nationals.  Calix said the GOES was pleased 
with the joint announcement on the TPS extension from 
Presidents Bush and Saca, and said that it shows the U.S. 
recognizes TPS as an important benefit that offers stability 
to many Salvadoran families.  Calix said that El Salvador is 
looking forward to the upcoming U.S. elections to see how the 
candidates respond to migration issues.  He said that while 
he realizes Americans are concerned about porous borders, his 
government is trying to demonstrate that Salvadorans do not 
pose a threat to U.S. national security. (Comment: The high 
incidence of transnational street gang membership amongst 
Salvadoran immigrants, both legal and illegal, argues 
otherwise.  End comment). 
Left and Right Weigh in on the Economy 
¶11. (C) DAS Madison met September 30 with FUNDE (National 
Development Foundation) President Roberto Rubio, who told her 
that that Salvadorans not receiving remittances are 
vulnerable to rising food and fuel prices.  He also noted 
signs that U.S. economic problems are starting to affect 
remittances.  Rubio described fiscal problems caused by 
rising subsidies and warned that, under worst-case scenarios, 
inadequate revenue growth and failure to refinance GOES debt 
would render the government unable to meet its short-term 
debt obligations within the next 2-3 years.  Rubio was 
pessimistic about the direction the country may take if the 
FMLN does well in upcoming legislative and presidential 
elections.  Noting that he served as FMLN representative in 
Europe during the war, Rubio said that he knows the FMLN 
leadership personally (&they are my friends8) and says 
their thinking has evolved little since the war.  He 
suggested that without any constraints, the old guard FMLN 
would like to &go the way of Chavez and press for 
twenty-first century socialism.8  He did note that in the 
short term, the absence of a legislative majority and other 
constraints will likely limit the FMLN,s ability to carry 
out these ambitions. 
¶12. (C) During her meeting with FMLN Deputy Martinez, DAS 
Madison asked about recent statements by FMLN officials 
implying that they might reconsider dollarization and seek 
renegotiation of CAFTA.  Martinez pointed out that Funes 
spoke to a business group earlier in the week, and that he 
reiterated that he would not reverse CAFTA nor revisit 
dollarization.  Martinez said that the party has evolved and 
that the anti-CAFTA and anti-dollarization statements do not 
reflect the FMLN,s position today. Martinez then opined that 
even if the FMLN wanted to walk away from CAFTA and other 
pro-U.S. issues, the Salvadoran people would never allow 
anything that would damage relations with the U.S. 
¶13. DAS Madison gave a media interview to El Diario de Hoy, 
the largest circulation newspaper in El Salvador, in which 
she outlined benefits to the region from CAFTA and 
law-enforcement cooperation.  She highlighted the "Pathways 
to Prosperity" as a way to boost the process of trade 
liberalization and enhance regional cooperation and the USG's 
efforts to promote security efforts in the region through the 
Merida Initiative. 
¶14. (C) Comment: DAS Madison's visit highlighted that we are 
still waiting for a formal GOES reply to our request to 
extend the CSL at Comalapa.  It also highlighted the 
political polarization in the pre-election season, and 
anxiety over the possibility the FMLN could win in 2009.