The forthcoming elections in El Salvador promise to be the freest in the countrys history, according to observers, and a step toward the construction of democracydespite a campaign of intimidation and terror by the ruling ARENA party and right-wing death squads.
"Well be making a serious error if we see these elections as the final test of the peace accords," longtime peace activist Jennifer Casolo told Sojourners. "Theyre an important step in the process and theyre one more way of strengthening the foundation of the accords. But theres a lot that still needs to be done."
Documents released last November by the U.S. government demonstrated the link between ARENA and the death squads, including the involvement of current Vice President Francisco Merino and San Salvadors mayor, Armando Calderon SolARENAs candidate for president in the March 20 elections. Among the 12,000 documents declassified by the State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon, there was evidence of U.S. support for death squad activitiesincluding the training of those linked to political killingsas recently as 1990.
While the Archdiocese of San Salvador documented 82 death-squad killings in 1993including the assassination of several prominent FMLN candidatesefforts continue to ensure as free an election as possible as Salvadorans go to the polls to elect a president, vice president, members of the legislative assembly, and the mayors of several cities. Thousands of international observersorganized by the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and many other non-governmental organizationswill serve as election monitors.