Catholics of El Salvador are seeking “dialogue and national consensus,” following a March 16 decision by the country’s supreme electoral court that confirmed the former guerrilla commander Salvador Sánchez Ceren as president-elect of the Central American republic. Sánchez is a member of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front ( FMLN ), a Socialist party whose armed wing fought against U.S.-supported governments for decades in a deadly civil war (1979-1992).
The Catholic bishops, in a statement released on March 16, wrote "The outcome of the elections is a wise message of the Salvadoran people to be governed with an attitude of dialogue and national consensus, which reconciles us as a society and that leads us to reach major agreements at a national level, so that together we can solve big national problems."
The leftist Sánchez surpassed the votes garnered by right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) candidate Norman Quijano by only 0.22 percentage points during the first round of presidential elections on March 9, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Sánchez (69) won by a razor thin margin of 50.11 to 49.39. The result, announced on March 13 after a partial recount, is the same as that announced immediately after the March 9 poll.
Expressing concern, the Church leaders added, "for this reason, as pastors, we appeal to the leaders of political parties, asking good will and good intentions to solve as soon as possible and in the best possible way the current problems."
Sánchez succeeds his leftist predecessor, Mauricio Funes, who also represented the FMLN. The result of the election appears to indicate a nation sharply divided over ideology. How this will play out in the 2015 parliamentary and municipal elections remains to be seen. Sanchez is the first former guerrilla commander to occupy the presidential chair. He takes office on June 1. President Funes, elected in 2009, was the first leftist elected to the office, following decades of rightists and moderates.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.