FACTBOX-Ex-guerrilla faces tough-on-gangs rightist in El Salvador election

by Reuters
Sunday, 2 February 2014 13:55 GMT

SAN SALVADOR, Feb 2 (Reuters) - A former guerrilla commander hopes to secure the left a second term in El Salvador's presidential election on Sunday, but he faces a strong challenge from a right-wing former mayor who wants to use the army to battle powerful street gangs.

Neither is likely to win the 50 percent support needed for a first-round victory and the election will likely go to a second round. Supporters of a former president who is running distant third would likely decide the winner of a run-off.


The 69-year-old vice president and education minister is running for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), the rebel group turned political party.

Sanchez Ceren turned to the radical left as a young man after working as a rural teacher and he rose to become a top commander during the country's 1980-1992 civil war.

His candidacy was seen as risky since the FMLN lost previous elections when it ran with former guerrilla leaders. The FMLN did not win until it backed journalist Mauricio Funes in 2009.

Main proposals:

* Extend Funes' popular welfare programs, such as free school supplies and pensions for the elderly.

* Renovate the capital's airport and improve port facilities.

* Join the Venezuela-led Petrocaribe oil bloc.

* Fight tax evasion by eliminating loopholes while introducing tax incentives to boost investment in key industries, such as energy.


The candidate of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) is promising to free El Salvador from the gangs behind decades of rampant violence and jump-start growth in the Central American country.

As mayor of San Salvador during the last five years, Quijano gained popularity for city renovations and recovering public spaces from street vendors. His popularity helped Arena gain ground in 2012 legislative and mayoral races.

Quijano, 67, previously supported a nearly two-year old truce between gangs, but once on the campaign trail he proposed deploying the army to defeat the gangs.

Main proposals:

* Invoke presidential powers to use the army to fight gangs.

* Draft 18- to 30-year-olds who do not study or work into the army and subject them to military courts if they commit gang crimes.

* Pass a fiscal responsibility law to limit the deficit while fighting tax evasion and widening the tax base.

* Overhaul investment legislation to boost growth.


The former sports radio jockey became the country's youngest president in 2004. But he was later expelled from the right-wing Arena party amid accusations of abuse of power and corruption.

From behind the scenes, the broadcast radio owner is accused of funding a faction of legislators who broke off from Arena and allied with Funes to move legislation through the divided Congress.

Now he has mounted a bid for a second term in office for a coalition of smaller parties. While he trails a distant third in polls, he could become a kingmaker in the second round.

Main proposals:

* Install anonymous judges as a bid to protect their safety and allow for more independent decisions.

* Raise tax receipts, increase infrastructure spending and widen current social welfare programs. (Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Kieran Murray, Marguerita Choy and Nick Zieminski)

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