Viewing cable 08SANSALVADOR1250
Title: AMB LEON: VP CANDIDATE ZABLAH TO BOOST TICKET

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
08SANSALVADOR12502008-11-03 21:49:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Salvador
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSN #1250 3082149
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 032149Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0269
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN SALVADOR 001250 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL ES
SUBJECT: AMB LEON: VP CANDIDATE ZABLAH TO BOOST TICKET 
 
Classified By: Robert I. Blau, CDA, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
¶1. (C) Summary: Rene Leon, Salvadoran Ambassador to the U.S. 
and platform coordinator for the Avila campaign told PolCouns 
October 30 that he believes that (center-right, pro-U.S.) 
ARENA presidential candidate Rodrigo Avila,s selection of 
former Minister of Economy Arturo Zablah as his vice 
presidential running mate will help ARENA win the March 15 
presidential election.  He expressed concern with what he 
described as plans by the (left-wing) FMLN to lay the 
groundwork for protests and possible violence in the event 
the FMLN loses the election.  He said that ARENA,s internal 
tracking polls following the Zablah announcement place Avila 
about two points behind FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes.  Leon 
said that he expected Avila,s platform would be complete by 
the end of November and that it would provide an added boost 
in the polls.  End Summary. 
 
¶2. (C) Rene Leon, Salvadoran Ambassador to the U.S. on a 
leave of absence to serve as platform coordinator for the 
Avila campaign told PolCouns October 30 he was pleased with 
Avila's choice of Arturo Zablah as his running mate and 
believes Zablah will help Avila win the March 15 presidential 
vote.  Leon was critical of ARENA's legislative slate, which 
he assessed could have been better constructed.  Given the 
risk of ARENA spending several years in opposition, he said, 
the party (and Avila) should have included more subject 
matter experts in defense, security, and fiscal policy. 
While the candidate slate does include several new faces, he 
said, it will neither generate excitement among voters nor 
leave ARENA well positioned in opposition. 
 
¶3. (C) Leon was concerned with what he described as moves by 
the (left-wing) FMLN's presidential candidate Mauricio Funes 
to lay the groundwork for an election protest with incendiary 
rhetoric about fraud and hinting ARENA might try to steal the 
election.  Leon noted that if the FMLN wins the presidential 
election, theFMLN will make no claims of irregularities, but 
are preparing the way for protests and, possibly, violence, 
if the results do not favor Funes. 
 
¶4. (C) Leon described the recent evolution of ARENA's 
internal tracking polls.  He said that after Avila's July 13 
event at San Salvador's Cuscatlan Stadium, he had risen to a 
one-point lead over Funes.  When fuel prices subsequently 
spiked, he dropped to a seven-point deficit.  Following the 
October 9 announcement of Zablah as Avila's running mate, he 
climbed to a consistent deficit of about two points.  Leon 
said ARENA campaign director Cesar Funes (no relation to 
Mauricio Funes) was hoping for a five point lead by 
Christmas, which Leon believes is unrealistic.  Leon said he 
would be extremely satisfied to enter the holiday season with 
a consistent, credible lead of two points. 
 
¶5. (C) Leon said he hoped to have Avila's platform completed 
by the end of November.  He said he was pleased with Avila's 
improving focus at campaign events and expected the platform 
to provide a further boost in the polls.  Leon said he hoped 
Zablah would not simply provide a short boost with party 
faithful followed by a longer-term drag on ARENA's candidacy, 
something he said was a distinct possibility.  Leon said the 
campaign was working to focus Zablah's efforts on four 
themes: Pledging to end abuses of power; recognizing and 
offering solutions to economic pressures on Salvadoran 
families; subtly signaling separation between Avila and 
current Salvadoran President Elias Antonio "Tony" Saca and 
distancing Avila from rumors of corruption in the Saca 
administration; and, providing assurance that an Avila-Zablah 
administration will address the economic crisis facing El 
Salvador. 
 
¶6. (C) Leon, who worked for Zablah during the Cristiani 
administration (1989-1994) said he believed that while Zablah 
was fully on message with Avila now, the honeymoon during an 
Avila-Zablah administration would be short, perhaps only 
three months, at which point "both will want a divorce." 
 
¶7. (C) Comment: Despite being behind in public polls, ARENA 
believes it can and will win the March 15 presidential 
elections.  While privately funded polls in the 
(right-leaning) Salvadoran media have consistently shown 
Funes with about a four-point lead, San Salvador's 
Technological University/CIOPS most recent poll gave Funes an 
eighteen point advantage, consistent with other university 
polls in recent weeks.  Funes' reaction to the divergent 
numbers was to make a public statement suggesting 
ARENA-instigated fraud.  The university numbers are feeding a 
sense of certain victory in the FMLN, and lend credence to 
Leon's concerns about potential violence should Avila pull 
out a win. 
BLAU