OPEN LETTER FROM U.S. ACADEMICS ON SALVADORAN ELECTIONS

COHA has been asked to help with the distribution of the following letter concerned with U.S.-Salvadoran relations. Out of a sense of public service, and its concerns for the issues addressed by the letter, which was signed by scores of distinguished scholars, we are pleased to make it available to our 26,000 member-mailing list.

1 December 2008

We the undersigned are North American academics who study Latin America. We wish to make known several concerns with regard to the electoral process now underway in El Salvador and which include legislative elections in January 2009 and presidential elections in March 2009. In particular, as academics who have studied electoral processes throughout the hemisphere, we believe that there are a minimal set of norms and conditions necessary for elections to be free, transparent, and democratic. These include the freedom to participate in civic and political activities without fear of violence, repression, or reprisals, and the existence of rules and regulations that assure transparency in the voting process and that safeguard against the possibility of electoral fraud. We wish to make known in this regard the following four concerns:

1. We are against foreign interference in the electoral processes and the internal affairs of other countries. We observe in the Salvadoran case that the United States government has brazenly intervened in previous elections to influence the outcome and that once again it appears to be undertaking such intervention. Among various incidents we draw attention to statements made by the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Charles Glazer, in May 2008 on alleged and unsubstantiated connections between the principal opposition party in El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the FARC guerrilla organization of Colombia. Ambassador Glazer stated that “any group that collaborates or expresses friendship with the FARC is not a friend of the United States”1 Also, in February 2008, the U.S. Director of Intelligence Director J. Michael McConnell made public a report that, without any evidence whatsoever, charged that the FMLN was set to receive “generous financing” from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for its electoral campaign.2 In October, Ambassador Glazer made public reference to this report. 3

Such statements constitute unacceptable outside interference in the electoral process. They are a veiled threat against the Salvadoran people that, should they elect a government not to the liking of the United States, they will face U.S. wrath and possible reprisals. We consider this interference to be in violation of international norms and we call on the U.S. government to immediately desist from all such interference. The United States government must respect the right of the Salvadoran electorate to choose its government free from threats of U.S. hostility or reprisals.

2. We are alarmed by the increase in political violence in El Salvador over the past two years and the atmosphere of impunity with which this violence has taken place. There has been a spate of assassinations the circumstances surrounding which strongly suggests that they have been political in nature. The victims of these crimes have exclusively been leaders of trade unions, community and religious organizations and members or supporters of the FMLN. In 2007, according to the legal department of the Archbishopric of San Salvador, only 31 percent of the homicides which that office investigated was attributed to maras (gang members) or to common crime, while 69 percent, showed clear signs of “death-squad style” and “social cleansing” crimes 4. The San Salvador-based Foundation for the Study of the Application of the Law has documented 27 murders of young social movement activists and members of the political opposition over the past three years that appear to be death squad slayings.5 In addition, the El Salvador Human Rights Commission has denounced an increase in such death-squad slayings against opposition leaders as the elections have approached and warned that these assassinations are generating a climate of fear.

3. There have been a series of legal changes and reforms to the electoral code that open up the possibility of fraud. Among these, we observe that article 256 of the electoral law was partially derogated unilaterally in December 20076 by the current government. This article (256-D,c) stipulated that all ballots must be signed and sealed by election officials appointed to each voting center in order to be valid, thus safeguarding against tampering with ballots once they are deposited by voters. In addition, the current Salvadoran government unilaterally moved the official opening of the electoral period from September 17, 2008 to September 1, 2008. This meant that the electoral register will be based on the 1992 national census rather than on the new census conducted in 2007. The electoral register at this time lists 4,226,479 Salvadorans registered to vote, on the basis of the 1992 census. However, the new 2007 census indicates that there are only 3,265,021 eligible voters, 961,458 less than the electoral register.7 Relying on the outdated 1992 census opens the possibility of ballot-stuffing and related types of voter fraud by using the names of people who are have died since 1992 or who have migrated and are no longer residents of the country. Moreover, the Organization of American States concluding its audit of the electoral register at the end of 2007 and in early 2008 presented its report, which included a list of 103 recommended measures with regard to the electoral process, including 56 which that international organization characterized as “obligatory,” incompliance with which would put into jeopardy the integrity of the elections.8 To date, the great majority of these recommendations have not been acted upon.

4. Finally, we are highly alarmed by statements issued in Washington D.C. on September 18, 2008, by the Salvadoran foreign minister, Marisol Argueta de Barillas, in a speech before the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)9. Ms. Argueta was personally invited by AEI visiting fellow Roger Noriega, a U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs during the administration of George W. Bush and a man who shamelessly intervened in the 2004 Salvadoran presidential elections. At that time, and while serving as assistant secretary of state, he threatened that if the FMLN were elected the United States would seek to block the sending of remittances from Salvadorans in the United States to their family members in El Salvador and to deport Salvadorans residing in the United States.10 In her speech before the AEI, the Salvadoran foreign minister openly called on the U.S. government to intervene in her country’s electoral process.

Ms. Argueta declared: “The United States must pay close attention to what is happening in El Salvador and the resulting national security and geopolitical consequences, since our enemies are joining together and becoming stronger. The upcoming municipal and legislative elections in January of 2009 and the next presidential elections in March 2009 will be without a doubt, the closest electoral competitions in the history of El Salvador…The opposition party is a remnant of the former guerrilla movement. Some members of its leadership have been closely related to ETA or to the FARC. Losing El Salvador will threaten the national security of both El Salvador and the United States…It will generate instability in the country and in neighboring countries and it will set El Salvador back 30 years, to when Central America was in turmoil. As President Ronald Reagan said 25 years ago…the security of the United States is at stake in El Salvador.…US foreign policy in the region must be reassessed and there must be a review of growing anti-American sentiment and the coming to power of increasing numbers of anti-American governments in this backyard.”11

These declarations virtually call for U.S. intervention in El Salvador to avoid a possible electoral triumph by the FMLN, and to undermine in this way the right of the Salvadoran people to elect the government of their choosing free from threats, pressures, and interference by a foreign power. Given the long and sordid history of U.S. intervention in El Salvador and in Latin America we view these statements with grave concern and we call on the Salvadoran government to desist from inviting U.S. intervention.

We wish to make these concerns known to the incoming Obama administration. We are hopeful that, with its renewed commitment to better diplomatic relations with Latin America and its message of political change, this new administration will not support any intervention in the Salvadoran elections and nor will it tolerate human rights violations and electoral fraud.

Carta Abierta de Académicos Norteamericanos. sobre Próximas Elecciones Salvadoreñas
15 diciembre 2008

Los abajo firmantes somos académicos norteamericanos que estudiamos distintos asuntos relacionados con América Latina. A través de esta misiva queremos dar a conocer algunos puntos de preocupación en relación al actual proceso electoral que se está llevando a cabo en El Salvador, el cual incluye elecciones legislativas que tendrán lugar en enero del 2009 así como las presidenciales en marzo del mismo año. En particular, como académicos que han investigado procesos electorales en todo el hemisferio, creemos que existe un juego mínima de normas y condiciones necesarias para unas elecciones libres, transparentes y democráticas. Éstas incluyen la libertad de participar en las actividades cívicas y políticas sin el miedo de la violencia, la represión, o represalias, así como la existencia de reglas y regulaciones que garanticen la transparencia en el proceso de votación y que protejan el proceso de la posibilidad de un fraude electoral. Por lo tanto, deseamos hacer públicas nuestras cuatro principales preocupaciones en torno a este proceso electoral:

1) Nos oponemos rotundamente a la injerencia extranjera en los procesos electorales y los asuntos internos de otros países. En el caso Salvadoreño observamos que el gobierno de Estados Unidos ha intervenido descaradamente en elecciones previas con el fin de influir en el resultado y que otra vez parece estar emprendiendo tal intervención. Entre algunos incidentes relacionados al intervencionismo estadounidense podemos señalar las declaraciones hechas por el embajador de Estados Unidos en El Salvador, Charles Glazer, emitidas en mayo de 2008 sobre supuestas conexiones entre el principal partido de oposición en El Salvador, el Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), y las FARC, organización guerrillera Colombiana. El embajador Glazer declaro que “cualquier grupo que colabore o exprese amistad con las FARC no es amigo de Estados Unidos”. Por su parte, en febrero de 2008, el Director de Inteligencia de Estados Unidos, J. Michael McConnell, hizo público un informe que, sin pruebas pertinentes, afirmaba que el FMLN había aceptado recibir un “generoso financiamiento” del presidente venezolano Hugo Chave para su campaña electoral. En octubre de 2008, el embajador Glazer hizo referencia pública a este informe.

Tales declaraciones constituyen una injerencia inaceptable en el proceso electoral. Constituyen además una amenaza encubierta en contra del pueblo salvadoreño para intimidarlo haciéndole temer por la desaprobación así como posibles represalias por parte de Estados Unidos, en caso de que el pueblo salvadoreño elija un gobierno no afín a las preferencias del gobierno norteamericano. Consideramos que esta injerencia es una violación a las normas internacionales y hacemos un enérgico llamado al gobierno de Estados Unidos a desistir inmediatamente de dicha injerencia. El gobierno de Estados Unidos debe respetar el derecho del electorado salvadoreño para escoger su gobierno libre de las amenazas de la hostilidad o represalias de EE.UU.

2) Estamos alarmados por el aumento en la violencia política en El Salvador en los últimos dos años así como del ambiente de impunidad con la que esta violencia ha tenido lugar. Ha habido un incremento considerable de asesinatos en circunstancias que sugieren fuertemente un origen político. Las víctimas de estos crímenes han sido exclusivamente dirigentes sindicales, comunitarios y religiosos, así como militantes o simpatizantes del FMLN. En 2007, de acuerdo con la oficina Tutela Legal, de la Arquidiócesis de San Salvador, solamente 31 por ciento de los homicidios que esa oficina investigó fueron atribuidos a maras (pandilleros) o al crimen común, mientras que 69 por ciento, indicaba señales claras al estilo de los escuadrones de la muerte así como de crímenes estilo “limpieza social”. La Fundación para Estudios para la Aplicacion del Derecho, con sede en San Salvador, ha documentado en los últimos tres años, 27 homicidios de jóvenes activistas de movimiento sociales y miembros del partido de oposición los cuales parecen haber sido cometidos por escuadrones de la muerte. Además, la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de El Salvador ha denunciado un aumento en asesinatos en mano de los escuadrones de la muerte en contra de líderes de la oposición a medida que las elecciones se aproximan y ha advertido que estos asesinatos están generando un ambiente del miedo.

3) Ha habido una series of cambios legales y reformas para el código electoral que abren la posibilidad del fraude. Entre éstos, observamos que el artículo 256 de la ley electoral fue parcialmente derogado unilateralmente en diciembre 2007 por el gobierno en curso. Este artículo (256-D, c) estipuló que para ser validas todas las boletas debían ser firmadas y selladas por fiscales electorales nombrados para cada Junta Receptora de Votos, protegiéndolas de esta forma de cualquier intento de alteración una vez que son depositadas en las urnas por los votantes. Además, el gobierno salvadoreño en curso unilateralmente adelanto la fecha oficial del periodo electoral del 17 de septiembre de 2008 al primero de septiembre de 2008. Con este cambio el padron electoral estará basado en el censo nacional de 1992 en lugar del censo levantado en 2007. El padron electoral en este momento lista a 4, 226,479 salvadoreños registrado para votar, basado en el censo de 1992.

Sin embargo, el nuevo censo de 2007 indica que hay solamente 3, 265,021 votantes, 961,458 menos que el padron electoral. Depender del censo de 1992 abre la posibilidad de manipulación en las papeletas electorales así como de otros tipos de maniobras de fraude, por ejemplo se puede usar nombres de personas que han fallecido desde 1992 o que han emigrado y que ya no residen en el país. Además, la Organización de los Estados Americanos concluyo su auditoría del registro electoral al final de 2007 y a comienzos de 2008 presentó su informe, que incluía una lista de 103 medidas recomendadas con respecto al proceso electoral, incluyendo 56 que esa organización internacional caracterizó como “obligatorio”, el incumplimiento de dichas medidas, señala este organismo, pone en gran riesgo la integridad de las elecciones. Hasta la fecha, la gran mayoría de estas recomendaciones no han sido cumplidas.

4) Finalmente, estamos muy alarmados por las declaraciones emitidas en Washington, D.C. el 18 de septiembre de 2008, por la canciller salvadoreña, Marisol Argueta de Barillas, en un discurso ante el American Enterprise Institute (AEI, Instituto Empresarial Americano). La canciller Argueta fue personalmente invitada por Roger Noriega, miembro activo del AEI, quien fue Subsecretario de Estado norteamericano para asuntos hemisféricos durante la administración de George W Bush, quien además intervino desvergonzadamente en las elecciones salvadoreñas del 2004. En ese momento, y mientras se desempeñaba como Subsecretario de Estado, amenazó con que si el FMLN resulta electo, Estados Unidos trataría de bloquear el envío de remesas de salvadoreños residiendo en Estados Unidos a sus familiares en El Salvador, así como deportar a los salvadoreños de Estados Unidos. En su discurso ante el AEI, la canciller Argueta lanzo una invitación abiertamente al gobierno de Estados Unidos a intervenir en el proceso electoral de su país.

La canciller Argueta declaró: “Estados Unidos debe poner mucha atención a lo que está ocurriendo en El Salvador y a la seguridad nacional resultante así como a las consecuencias geopolíticas, ya que nuestros enemigos se están asociando entre ellos lo cual los está fortaleciendo. Las próximas elecciones municipales y legislativas en enero de 2009 y las próximas elecciones presidenciales en marzo 2009 serán sin una duda, las elecciones mas reñidas en la historia de El Salvador….El partido de oposición es un restro de la guerrilla. Algunos miembros de su liderazgo han estado fuertemente relacionados con ETA o las FARC. Perder a El Salvador amenazará la seguridad nacional tanto de El Salvador como de Estados Unidos….Generará la inestabilidad en el país y en países vecinos y hará que El Salvador retroceda 30 años, un tiempo en el que Centroamérica estaba en un caos total. Como el presidente Ronald Reagan dijo hace 25 años….La seguridad de Estados Unidos está en riesgo en El Salvador.…La política exterior de Estados Unidos en la región debe ser reexaminada y debe haber una revisión del creciente sentimiento anti-americano, así como de la llegada al poder de un número creciente de gobiernos anti-americanos en este patio trasero de los Estados Unidos.”

Estas declaraciones llaman virtualmente al intervencionismo en El Salvador para evitar el posible triunfo electoral del FMLN, así como a debilitar de esta forma el derecho del pueblo salvadoreño a elegir el gobierno de su elección libre de amenazas, presiones e injerencia de un poder extranjero. Teniendo en cuenta la historia larga y sórdida de la intervención de EE.UU. en El Salvador y en América Latina vemos estas declaraciones con grave preocupación y hacemos un llamado al gobierno salvadoreño para desistir de invitar a una intervención de EE.UU.

Deseamos hacer públicas estas preocupaciones a la entrante administración del presidente electo Barak Obama. Estamos seguros que, con su compromiso renovado de mejorar las relaciones diplomáticas con América Latina y su mensaje de cambio político, esta nueva administración no respaldará ningún tipo de intervención en el proceso electoral salvadoreño así como tampoco tolerara violaciones a los derechos humanos o un fraude electoral.

FIRMAN,
SIGNED :

William I. Robinson, University of California at Santa Barbara

Charles Hale, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2006-2007)

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University

Arturo Arias, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2001-2003)

Craig N. Murphy, Wellesley College and past president of the International Studies Association (2000-2001)

Ramona Hernandez, City College of New York and Director of Dominican Studies Institute

Helen I. Safa, Emeritus, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1983-1985)

Carmen Diana Deere, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1992-94).

Sonia E. Alvarez, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2004-2006)

Lars Schoultz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1991-1992)

Thomas Holloway, University of California at Davis and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2000-2001)

John L. Hammond, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY, and former chair of the Latin American Studies Association Task Force on Human Rights and Academic Freedom

Miguel Tinker-Salas, Pomona College

Greg Grandin, New York University

Manuel Rozental, Algoma University

Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, D.C.

Jeffrey L. Gould, University of Indiana

Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mark Sawyer, University of California at Los Angeles

Ramon Grosfoguel, University of California at Berkeley

Peter McLaren, University of California at Los Angeles

Gilberto G. Gonzales, University of California at Irvine

John Foran, University of California at Santa Barbara

Christopher Chase-Dunn, University of California at Irvine

Alfonso Gonzales, New York University

Gary Prevost, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict

Sujatha Fernandez, Queens College, City University of New York

Howard Winant, University of California at Santa Barbara

Jon Shefner, University of Tennessee

Daniel Hellinger, Webster University

Agustin Lao-Montes, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Millie Thayer, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Jeffrey W. Rubin, Boston University

Ellen Moodie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Brandt Gustav Peterson, Michigan State University

Adam Flint, Binghamton University

Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University

Richard Grossman, Northeastern Illinois University

Manel Lacorte, University of Maryland

Ana Patricia Rodríguez, University of Maryland

Beth Baker, California State University at Los Angeles

Aaron Schneider, Tulane University

Misha Kokotovic, University of California-San Diego

Marc McLeod, Seattle University

Michael Hardt, Duke University

Bruce Ergood, Ohio University

Beatrice Pita, University of California at San Diego

Rosaura Sanchez, University of California at San Diego

Nancy Plankey Videla, Texas A&M University

Kate Bronfenbrenner, Cornell University

LaDawn Haglund, Arizona State University

Judith A. Weiss, Mount Allison University, Canada

Susanne Jonas, University of California at Santa Cruz

Robert Whitney, University of New Brunswick (Saint John), Canada

Aline Helg (U.S. citizen), Université de Genève, Switzerland

Stephanie Jed, University of California at San Diego

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, California State University

James J. Brittain, Acadia University, Canada

Margaret Power, Illinois Institute of Technology

Philip J. Williams, University of Florida

R. James Sacouman, Acadia University

Carlos Schroder, Northern Virginia Community College

Frederick B. Mills, Bowie State University

Judith Blau, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Egla Martinez, Carleton University, Canada

Walda Katz-Fishman, Howard University

Judith Wittner, Loyola University

Yajaira M. Padilla, University of Kansas

Tanya Golash-Boza, University of Kansas

Erich H. Loewy, University of California at Davis

Jonathan Fox, University of California at Santa Cruz

Steven S. Volk, Oberlin College

Marc Edelman, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

W. L. Goldfrank, University of California at Santa Cruz

Benjamin Kohl, Temple University

Lourdes Benería, Cornell University

Philip Oxhorn, McGill University

Ronald Chilcote, University of California at Riverside

Judith Adler Hellman, York University, Toronto

Barbara Chasin, Montclair State University

Matt D Childs, University of South Carolina

Sarah Hernandez, New College of Florida

Catherine LeGrand, McGill University

Nathalia E. Jaramillo, Purdue University

William Avilés, University of Nebraska, Kearney

Dana Frank, University of California at Santa Cruz

Robert Andolina, Seattle University

Sinclair Thomson, New York University

Patricia Balcom, University of Moncoton

Josée Grenier, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Manfred Bienefeld, Carleton University

Susan Spronk, University of Ottawa

May E. Bletz, Brock University

David Heap, University of Western Ontario

Dennis Beach, Saint John’s University, Minnesota

Aldo A. Lauria-Santiago, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

William S. Stewart, California State University, Chico

Sheila Candelario, Fairfield University

Erik Ching, Furman University

Marc Zimmerman, University of Houston

Maureen Shea, Tulane University

Héctor Cruz-Feliciano, Council on International Educational Exchange

Karen Kampwirth, Knox College

Marco A. Mojica, City College of San Francisco

Nick Copeland, University of Arkansas

Silvia L. López, Carleton College

Marie-Agnès Sourieau, Fairfield University

Karina Oliva-Alvarado, University of California at Los Angeles

Erin S. Finzer, University of Kansas

Dina Franceschi, Fairfield University

Lisa Kowalchuk, University of Guelph

Amalia Pallares, University of Illinois at Chicago

B. Ruby Rich, University of California at Santa Cruz

Edward Dew, Fairfield University

Nora Hamilton, University of Southern California

Deborah Levenson, Boston College

Linda J. Craft, North Park University

Thomas W. Walker, Ohio University

Jocelyn Viterna, Harvard University

Cecilia Menjivar, Arizona State University

Ricardo Dominguez, University of California at San Diego

María Elena Díaz, University of California at Santa Cruz

Guillermo Delgado-P, University of California at Santa Cruz

Guillaume Hébert, Université du Québec à Montréal

Leisy Abrego, University of California at Irvine

Michael E. Rotkin, University of California at Santa Cruz

John Blanco, University of California at San Diego

Steven Levitsky, Harvard University

John Beverley, University of Pittsburgh

Evelyn Gonzalez, Montgomery College

Tom O’Brien, University of Houston

Pablo Rodriguez, City College of San Francisco

John Womack, Jr., Harvard University

James D. Cockcroft, State University of New York

Mark Anner, Penn State University

John Kirk, Dalhousie University

Jorge Mariscal, University of California at San Diego

Susan Kellogg, University of Houston

Susan Gzesh, University of Chicago

Luis Martin-Cabrera, University of California at San Diego

Lawrence Rich, Northern Virginia Community College

Jeff Tennant, The University of Western Ontario, Canada

Meyer Brownstone, University of Toronto and Chair emeritus, Oxfam Canada

Charmain Levy, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada

Liisa L. North, York University

Denis G. Rancourt, University of Ottawa, Canada

Barbara Weinstein, New York University

Kelley Ready, Brandeis University

End Notes
1 La Prensa Gráfica, 21 mayo 2008. http://archive.laprensa.com.sv/20080521/nacion/1063436.asp
2 La Prensa Gráfica, 6 febrero 2008. http://archive.laprensa.com.sv/20080206/nacion/983447.asp
3 El Diario de Hoy 1 octubre 2008.
4 Informe 2007. http://www.tutelalegal.org/
5 La Pagina de Maiz, No. 195, 5/23/08; “Presentacion de Denucia ante FGR”, 2/12/08
6 Corte Suprema de Justicia. http://www.jurisprudencia.gob.sv/Lgreformas.htm
7 La Prensa Gráfica 5 octubre 2008. http://archive.laprensa.com.sv/20081005/nacion/1152235.asp
8 “Aspectos Relevantes en el Informe de Auditoria Integral al Registro Electoral Realizada por La OEA”, http://www.isd.org.sv/trans_electoral/documents/ASPECTOSRELEVANTESENELINFORMEDEOEA.pdf
9 Diario Colatino 3 octubre 2008. http://www.diariocolatino.com/es/20081003/nacionales/59433/?tpl=69
10 Noticen, 3/25/2004, Latin America Data Base, University of New Mexico.
11 Noticen, 10/16/2008.

The Readership Response

In the intent of scholarly debate, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs is continuing the dialogue over U.S.-Salvadoran policy and the role of the FLMN in the upcoming election in that country. We invite further expressions by various points of view on this subject.
Larry Birns
Director of COHA

OPEN ANSWER TO AN OPEN LETTER
By Paolo Luers

John L. Hammond
HUNTER College, NYC, NY
jhammond@hunter.cuny.edu

San Salvador, December 12, 2008
Dear John Hammond:

Probably you don’t remember me, but we met in the eighties, I imagine in New York. Or was it in México, Managua, or San Salvador, on a fact finding mission of yours? You did fact finding back then, didn’t you?

Doesn’t matter. But we met. You being a left wing scholar supporting revolutionary causes in Latin America, me being a German writer turned Salvadoran guerrilla visiting the U.S. to seek support. I was Paolo Martin back then and worked out of the N.Y. based El Salvador Video Project.

Don’t worry, John, I also forgot about you. Until I found your name in the long list of American scholars subscribing an obscure document named ‘OPEN LETTER FROM U.S. ACADEMICS ON SALVADORAN ELECTIONS’ recently published by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

I single you out because you are the only one out among the more than hundred academics signing that letter I happen de know or remember to know personally. That’s why I’m answering you and not Noam Chomsky who I would imagine receives too much fan post from Latin American revolutionaries to be able to read my letter of dissent.

Somebody has to tell you guys that the war we fought in El Salvador is over. We laid down our arms in 1992, and so did the death squads. We were not defeated, as you probably know. We were strong enough to negotiate the dissolution of death squads, security forces and counterinsurgency battalions before we laid down arms. We were not stupid or suicidal. There have been some political killings committed by both sides in the last 16 years, but very few and isolated. The last ones I know of were committed by a FMLN activist taking an M15 to an opposition rally and shoot two police officers, ironically both of them from families known to have supported the guerrillas during the war.

Somebody also has to tell you guys to be more careful before signing letters. All of you are scholars. Last time I checked, scholars are people who investigate, people who know how to keep critical distance from their sources. Just because organizations like CESPAD (Foundation for the Study of the Application of the Law) or the legal department of the Archbishopric of San Salvador say so, we don’t have a resurgence of right wing death squads in El Salvador. Why don’t you do what scholars are supposed to do and investigate before making and publishing politically biased misjudgments like you did in the Open Letter?

Of course we have a serious violence problem in El Salvador. We have gangs killing peaceful neighbors. We have gang members killing members of rival gangs. And we have vigilante groups and police officers killing gang members. Not to talk about narco induced violence. What we don’t have is a serious problem with political violence, because both right and left wing parties know that it would be political suicide to support or tolerate political violence.

Somebody has to tell you guys that the FMLN you knew and supported during he war doesn’t exist anymore. That was an alliance of all different kind of leftist movements, and that’s why it was so strong and couldn’t be defeated. That alliance doesn’t exist anymore, even though part of it managed to keep the name and the flag of that once glorious movement.

Today’s FMLN will probably tell you that who is writing you this letter and half of the ex guerrilla commanders and fighters have become traitors who have sold out to the right and to imperialism. As a scholar and as a progressive person you should be cautious with that kind of name calling. People have been executed by their comrades for less than that.

Even if your sources would never admit it, there is a left in El Salvador opposed to what today is called FMLN. As there is in Nicaragua a left opposed to Daniel Ortega and in Venezuela a left opposed to lieutenant colonel Hugo Chávez.

Just because the FMLN candidate says so, doesn’t make it true that there is an electoral fraud in the making in El Salvador. Maybe the FMLN is going to win the elections, maybe not. There are a lot of reasons for Salvadoran voters to end 19 years of ARENA government. There are also a lot of reasons for Salvadoran voters to keep the FMLN out of power. For the majority, this is a very difficult decision.

For the FMLN candidate, who is supposed to be a moderate, to travel the world saying that the only way to keep him from winning is by fraud, is a very dangerous and irresponsible thing to do. For American scholars and progressive intellectuals to repeat it without any kind of fact checking, is simply embarrassing.

You are right to be concerned about El Salvador – and you have the right to say so clear and loudly. Some of your arguments are valid, others are very irresponsible and misleading, especially what you say about political violence in El Salvador.

Some of you guys aren’t able or willing to see political violence when it’s hitting the people next to you, like in Nicaragua or Venezuela. How dare you not speaking out about politically motivated violence committed by the FSLN in Nicaragua – and at the same time repeat FMLN propaganda about death squads in El Salvador? How can you call yourself a scholar and a leftist being so blind to authoritarianism when it comes from the left?

Never will I forget the solidarity and the support we received from thousand of intellectuals in the US when we were fighting our war for democracy, social justice and self determination in El Salvador. That’s why I can’t help but dissent when I read intellectually and politically unsustainable open letters like the one you signed without knowing what you talking about. Dear John Hammond, in the name of the common cause we discussed one day more than 20 years ago, don’t do that to yourself. Don’t do that to the left.

Yours, Paolo Luers

El Salvador to your attention.
by Jose Rene Escolan

December 15 th, 2008
To: Mr. William C. Powers Jr.
President
The University of Texas at Austin

It is with deep sorrow and disappointment that I found the name of our University having undersigned an “Open Letter from U.S. Academics on Salvadoran Elections” This letter from the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, that has been circulated widely on the web regards the coming electoral processes in our country, El Salvador (attached).

And should it not matter that the name of The University of Texas at Austin has been used by individuals who do not necessarily reflect the official position of “academics” of our Alma Mater.

And yes, deep sorrow, because these opinions fuel fires of electoral violence on the left with unacceptable cries of “fraud” and “intervention”, when the results of these electoral processes might not go in the direction intended by those who still dream of a world of “peace and love, and equality”. A world that we also dream of, but that reality has taught us that human nature is different and that all communist experiments to change reality have eventually succumbed. How sad that Mr. Charles Hale and Mr. Arturo Arias, past presidents of the Latin American Studies Association of our University, signing the letter, are among these minds.

And yes, disappointing because it expresses an uninformed, unjustified, politically biased and ingenuous opinion of the realities of our countries and of the world we live in, brought up by leftist regimes that openly display democratic principles to get to power, but afterwards also openly leave them behind based on the “rights” of the poor to do what ever is necessary to overcome the “exploitation” of the rich… What a sad and outdated thinking that brings no contribution to the progress and betterment of our societies.

And yes, I DO understand the struggles of our societies and that is why I have been working and not just talking about them, and as past Under Secretary of Housing and Urban Development of our country, and current President of the National Housing Fund that works for the lowest bases of income, I know what I’m talking about, and with due respect would invite this two academic members of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) to look for an informed and constructive opinion from a Longhorn Alumni, and other alumni as well, who live and bleed in El Salvador, before signing these harmful opinions that raise flags that will make things worst in our countries.

Dear Charles Hale and Arturo Arias, sure it is nice to dream of a better world when your pay check from an “academic” job is assured every month. Wish you were here with us, who have to sweat every month hunting for the salaries of those who work for us, spending long nights without sleep when business is not producing enough… Yes, I also wish I could do much better with my people, and kiss peace and love to all around me, but that is not how the world runs. To finish, Charles and Arturo, next time you go to an American Starbucks and pay three dollars for a cup of coffee, remember that ONLY 6 CENTS of that cup pays for salaries of those poor people that collect those grains for your own pleasure… Are we the “rich, educated and successful” the ones to blame for the poorness and inequalities of our world down here? And no, you are not the ones to tell us how to run our countries.

God bless you and bless us all.

Hook´em Horns.

Jose Rene Escolan
BA Architecture with High Honors, 1974.
The University of Texas at Austin

This letter, has been slightly edited by COHA for reasons of length and clarity