Cablegate: A Pragmatic Shift or Merely a Tactical Move To


DE RUEHSN #0750/01 1761721
P 241721Z JUN 08



E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/02/2018

Classified By: Ambassador Charles L. Glazer, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: In 1980 the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front
Party (FMLN) began as a loose coalition of leftist groups
united with the goal of bringing down the conservative
government. The tumultuous history of the FMLN continues to
influence its actions and internal struggles today, as the
party struggles with modernization and its various factions
vie for greater influence. As we move toward the 2009
legislative and presidential elections, the ongoing struggle
between the hardliners and the members who are pushing to
modernize the party, will have an important impact on public
perception as to who would really govern in an FMLN
administration, more moderate presidential candidate Mauricio
Funes or the hardliners that have historically wielded power
within the party. End Summary.

In The Beginning

2. (SBU) The Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) was
formed in 1980 when four left wing organizations and the
Communist Party of El Salvador joined forces to overthrow
violently the Salvadoran government. Although the war
officially began in 1980s following the formation of the
FMLN, some of the groups had been waging a low-level
insurgency against the government throughout the 1970s.

3. (SBU) The FMLN was formed by a coalition of five groups:
The Communist Party of El Salvador (PC), the Popular
Liberation Forces (FPL), the Revolutionary Army of the People
(ERP), the National Resistance (RN), and the Revolutionary
Party of Central America Workers (PRTC). At present the PC,
and to a lesser extent the FPL, are by far the most
influential factions.

4. (SBU) The Communist Party (PC) was formed in the 1930s,
and although it initially sought to achieve its goals by
political means, it did ultimately support military action
during the civil war. The Popular Liberation Forces (FPL)
was founded by Cayetanio Carpio, former Secretary General of
the Communist Party in the 70,s. The FPL was essentially a
splinter group of the PC that promoted armed struggle and
rejected the PC,s attempts at non-violent change. They
formally joined the FMLN as the Revolutionary Popular Block
Party (BPR).

5. (SBU) Joaquin Villalobos founded the Revolutionary Army
of the People (ERP) in 1972. It focused on armed conflict
and terrorism, and joined the FMLN as the Salvadoran
Revolution Party (PRS). The National Resistance (RN) emerged
in 1975, after the ERP leadership allegedly assassinated a
group within the ERP that supported socialist/communist
indoctrination. Their armed wing during the civil war was
called the Armed Forces of the National Resistance (RN-FARN).
The Revolutionary Party of Central America Workers (PRTC)
was an organization operating in El Salvador, Honduras,
Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemala that advocated for
regional revolution instead of individual movements within
the individual countries.

During the War

6. (SBU) During the 12 year Salvadoran civil war (1980-92),
the FMLN attempted to overthrow the government utilizing a
strategy that included armed struggle, terrorism, and
socialist/communist political indoctrination. The liberation
theology movement within the Catholic Church and labor unions
largely supported these efforts. The group also received
monetary support and arms from the Soviet Bloc and Cuba.

7. (SBU) In January 1981, the FMLN launched a large military
offensive, gaining territory in the northern and eastern
departments of Chalatenango and Morazan, both of which
continue to be FMLN strongholds to this day. In October
1984, President Napoleon Duarte (1984-1989) began peace talks
with the FMLN; however, the final peace accords would not be
signed for another eight years. During this time thousands
more died in the fighting and the FMLN committed several high
profile killings, including U.S. Embassy Marine Security
Guards and other official Americas.

8. (SBU) In May 1987, the FMLN issued a lis of conditions
for peace including the establishmnt of a transitional
government without election, the imposition of a socialist
economy, and onging government support for FMLN guerrilla

9. (SBU) In 1988 and 1989, the FMLN went on a killing spree
that included several democratically-elected mayors, Attorney
General Roberto Garcia, Minister of the Presidency Jose
Antonio Rodriguez Porth, Supreme Court President Francisco
Guerrero, and other high profile victims. In November 1989
the FMLN launched the &Final Offensive8 on San Salvador
which resulted in more than 2,000 civilian deaths.

After the Peace Accords

10. (SBU) The FMLN laid down its arms and became an official
political party in December 1991, one month before the FMLN
and the Salvadoran government signed the Peace Accords ending
the 12-year conflict. (Note: the Peace Accords did not
mention amnesty for crimes committed during the conflict, but
the 1993 Amnesty Law has been an essential part of their
success. End note.) In March 1994, the FMLN, as an official
political party, participated in its first presidential

11. (SBU) Despite legal recognition as a party, the
coalition groups that made up the FMLN retained their
identities and organizational structure. However, this
arrangement quickly proved troublesome and the five groups
formally dissolved in 1995 to create a unified party.
Despite the unification, strong loyalties and divisions still
exist today, and many members continue to identify themselves
with their original associations. Newer FMLN members,
particularly those who joined the party within the last five
years, are far less likely to identify themselves with the
PC, FPL, or other factions that existed during the war.

12. (SBU) Further tensions emerged in 1999 when the FMLN
nominated former guerrilla commander Facundo Guardado as its
presidential candidate. This caused a deep division within
the party and two organized factions emerged, the
"Renovadores", led by supporters of Guardado, and the
Revolutionary Socialist Current (CRS), led by hardliners
Shafik Handal and Salvador Sanchez Ceren. Guardado, although
a popular former guerrilla commander, was considered too
moderate by hardliners within the party, particularly the
CRS. After losing the election and engaging in several
public spats with other FMLN members, Guardado lost control
of the party at the next national council (one of the FMLN,s
principle internal governance bodies) when the majority of
the posts went to Handal and Sanchez Ceren,s bloc.

13. (SBU) Even though ARENA has won every presidential
election since the Peace Accords, the FMLN has made some
inroads. In the March 2000 elections, the FMLN won 31 of 84
Legislative Assembly seats and won 78 of 262 municipalities.
In March 2006, the FMLN won 32 of 84 seats (ARENA won 34
seats) at the Legislative Assembly. In 1997, the FMLN formed
a coalition with the Democratic Change Party (CD) and the
Unity Movement Party (MU) to win the mayorship of San
Salvador, the most populated municipality in the country. The
FMLN's strategy focused on populous urban areas, in addition
to retaining a few rural strongholds from the war years.
Currently the FMLN holds 11 of the 14 municipalities in the
greater San Salvador area.

The FMLN' Leadership Today

14. (SBU) The current FMLN leadership is composed of three
branches: The Political Committee, the National Council, and
the Department Coordinators. The Political Committee, the
real power within the FMLN, is composed of 20 people, most of
them members of the Communist Party (PC) or the Popular
Liberation Forces (FPL). The National Council is composed of
36 people and, much like the Political Committee, most belong
to the Communist Party or the FPL, except for a few who are
members of the Revolutionary Party of Central America Workers
(PRTC). According to several long-time observers of the FMLN,
the PC has steadily maneuvered its former members into key
positions of power utilizing its superior organizational

15. (SBU) Current prominent members of the Political
Committee include General Coordinator Medardo Gonzalez,
Deputy General Coordinator Luz Estrella Rodriguez de Zuniga,
Supreme Electoral Tribunal Magistrate Eugenio Chicas
Martinez, Jose Luis Merino, Norma Guevara, San Salvador Mayor
Violeta Menjivar, Deputy Blanca Flor Bonilla, Youth
Representative Hortensia Margarita Lopez, Orestes Ortez,
Santa Tecla Mayor Oscar Ortiz, Sigfrido Reyes, and Vice
Presidential candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

16. (SBU) Current representatives of the PC are Deputy
Blanca Flor Bonilla, Jose Luis Merino, former Deputy Lilian
Coto, San Salvador city hall counselor Norma Guevara,
Director for International Issues Otto Sigfriedo Reyes, and
Supreme Court Justice and 1999 Vice Presidential Candidate
Victoria Marina de Aviles. Representatives of the FPL are
San Salvador Mayor Violeta Menjivar and Legislative Assembly
Chief of Faction Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the current vice
presidential candidate. Representatives of the ERP are
National Council Member and Youth Representative Gloria Maria
Anaya Perla. Representatives of the PRTC are Supreme
Electoral Tribunal Magistrate Eugenio Chicas and National
Council Member Carlos Rodriguez. (Note: The FMLN requires
that at least 30 percent of elected positions be held by

17. (SBU) In addition, there are fourteen Department
Coordinators, one from each department. The Department
Coordinators have closer ties to the party base and typically
serve as a conduit between the FMLN leadership and the base.

Moving Toward the Center?

18. (C) Although many in the FMLN continue to oppose any
move to the center and cling to pre- and civil war rhetoric
and ideology, the party leadership has apparently taken the
decision that in order to win, some changes, particularly the
nomination of a candidate without war baggage, are necessary.
FMLN insiders, including Assembly Deputy Hugo Martinez, who
has no clear association with the wartime factions, tell us
that the Funes campaign is drawing new supporters to the
party, many who are actively helping the campaign. Some of
these reportedly come from the ranks of traditional ARENA
supporters, particularly small businesses, and (they claim)
even some former ARENA members. While they do not see these
newcomers creating conflict with the hardliners in the short
term, they do see a looming challenge in how to deal with
these new additions after the election in order to keep them
in the party. This challenge will be easier if the FMLN
wins, but if it loses, its rigid structure and ideological
strictures are ill suited to keeping this new membership

Funes and the FMLN

19. (SBU) In November 2007, the FMLN nominated Mauricio
Funes, a popular television personality, as its presidential
candidate and Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a long-time hardliner
from the FPL, as the vice presidential candidate. Funes,
relationship with the FMLN is, however, still uncertain and
likely evolving.

20. (C) Although the FMLN,s Political Committee's support
for Funes stems from an obvious desire to win the upcoming
elections, potential rifts in the relationship have appeared.
The FMLN,s choice of Funes, a former television
personality, as their candidate was an acknowledgment that
the FMLN needed a new face, and not a longtime FMLN
hardliner, in order to mount a serious run at the presidency.
Nonetheless, Funes, independent streak and sometimes
prickly nature (he is currently feuding with El Diario de
Hoy, a leading daily newspaper), have already resulted in a
few public squabbles with party officials.

21. (C) The FMLN has loudly criticized both dollarization
and CAFTA since their adoption in 2001 and 2004; however last
year Funes stated that he would not reverse either measure.
Sigfriedo Reyes, member of the Political Committee and
FMLN,s spokesman and Director for International Issues,
quickly countered that that if the FMLN won the election, the
&party8 would analyze the situation and make a decision.
Many political analysts see this, coupled with Funes,
refusal to answer questions about Venezuela, as potential
rifts between Funes and the hardliners that control the
party. Some analysts are predicting an early &divorce8
between Funes and the FMLN if Funes wins the election. Some
party insiders, in contrast, claim to see less conflict
between Funes and the old guard than they had expected.

22. (C) Comment: The battle for the future of the FMLN will
play out both publicly and privately over the remaining ten
months of the campaign. The legislative slate, which will be
announced in July, will be a signal of party direction, as
internal rules require that at least six deputies stand down.
It is clear that Funes' candidacy is causing many swing
voters to give the FMLN a second look (at least for now), and
demonstrates that some may be willing to overlook Sanchez
Ceren on the ticket. But many months remain before voters
must cast their ballots and ARENA will use this time to
remind voters of the FMLN's bloody history.

23. (C) Comment continued: While the FMLN has a history of
expelling reformers who deviate from ideological purity, the
defenders of the faith are now the ones taking small steps to
modernize with an eye toward electoral victory. Neither
extreme outcome (i.e. the FMLN turns into Euro-style Social
Democrats or Funes wins and is expelled by hardliners) seems
likely at present. We expect, rather, that the remaining
months of the campaign will allow the FMLN and Funes to forge
a modus vivendi and seriously challenge ARENA for the
ultimate electoral spoils. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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