Viewing cable 08SANSALVADOR53
Title: PUBLIC SECURITY MINISTER FIGUEROA ON THE ARENA

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
08SANSALVADOR532008-01-22 16:09:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Salvador
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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSN #0053 0221609
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221609Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8837
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN SALVADOR 000053 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL ES
SUBJECT: PUBLIC SECURITY MINISTER FIGUEROA ON THE ARENA 
CONTEST, ELECTION SECURITY, ECONOMIC MISSTEPS 
 
REF: A. SAN SALVADOR 33 
 
     ¶B. SAN SALVADOR 36 
 
Classified By: The Ambassador, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
¶1. (C) Summary: Public Security Minister Figueroa told the 
Ambassador January 17 that, given his membership in COENA and 
in order to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, 
he would not support any candidate during ARENA's internal 
nomination process.  He had cautioned former FM Lainez to 
avoid suggesting he was a shoo-in for the nomination, warning 
this could backfire.  Figueroa said President Saca was 
opposed to VP Escobar's candidacy.  He said violent groups 
sympathetic to the FMLN were unlikely to act until after the 
elections, and only if ARENA won.  He lamented recent 
regulatory decisions that were likely to harm El Salvador's 
attractiveness to investors.  End Summary. 
 
¶2. (C) Minister of Public Security Rene Figueroa told the 
Ambassador January 17 that he was happy with his decision not 
to seek ARENA's nomination for President.  He said he would 
not throw his support to any candidate until after ARENA's 
decision was made in March in order to avoid any conflict of 
interest, given his membership in COENA (ARENA's executive 
board).  Figueroa said he would encourage every interested 
candidate to pursue ARENA's nomination in order to ensure the 
best possible candidate. 
 
¶3. (C) Figueroa said he had cautioned former Foreign Minister 
Francisco "Pancho" Lainez to avoid giving the impression he 
was certain to be annointed ARENA's candidate by COENA.  By 
protecting COENA from charges of favoritism, he told Lainez, 
you protect yourself and your candidacy.  Figueroa said he 
believes VP Ana Vilma de Escobar should be one of the three 
finalists and that Lainez concurs in that assessment, but 
that President Saca is opposed to her candidacy, largely due 
to continuing pique over the snap announcement of her 
candidacy (without consulting Saca) in September. 
 
¶4. (C) Looking forward, Figueroa said he enjoys government 
service and would gladly return in a future ARENA 
administration if the opportunity presented itself.  He said 
he would not be interested in serving as foreign minister, 
nor as vice president. 
 
¶5. (C) Figueroa said the FMLN had a number of violent 
splinter groups, but assessed they would not act 
independently of FMLN leadership.  Figueroa said these groups 
enjoyed popular support in several neighborhoods of San 
Salvador, including Soyapango and Mejicanos, and had an 
infrastructure of safe houses in these areas.  Figueroa 
doubted they would take any violent actions before the 2009 
elections, judging it more likely they would take action 
after the elections if ARENA won.  He speculated their 
actions would be indirect, e.g., in the form of hidden 
explosive devices, rather than more overt acts like shootings. 
 
¶6. (C) On the economy and economic reforms, Figueroa was 
concerned over recent decisions against Exxon and Shell, as 
well as recent regulatory decisions to impose rate reductions 
on electicity distribution companies.  He lamented the impact 
these and other decision would have on El Salvador's 
investment and business climate (Ref A).  Figueroa offered to 
convoke a meeting with the Presidency's technical secretariat 
in order to discuss the impact of these moves. 
 
¶7. (C) Comment: We share Figueroa's concerns about recent 
Administration decisions that reflect negatively on El 
Salvador's investment climate and may not even be successful 
in attracting the public support for ARENA that Saca seeks. 
We will follow up with Figueroa and others in the Saca 
Administration on economic regulatory issues with the hope of 
minimizing the long-term damage to El Salvador's economy at 
the cost of limited and questionable short-term electoral 
gain.  The Ambassador will meet with Technical Secretary 
(Chief of Staff equivalent) Eduardo Ayala January 23 to 
discuss the anti-competitive actions of the GOES. 
 
¶8. (C) Comment continued: Figueroa is being wisely cautious 
in appearing impartial during ARENA's candidate selection 
process, and will undoubtedly throw his complete support 
behind ARENA's candidate, regardless of who emerges 
victorious.  We are hopeful that Figueroa's influence will be 
key to ensuring VP Escobar receives a fair shake within ARENA 
and does not emerge from the process with bitterness towards 
her treatment.  End comment. 
Glazer