Last week, more than 30 Members of Congress joined Rep. Raul Grijalva in asking President Obama to affirm U.S. neutrality in El Salvador's Presidential election on Sunday March 15, to stop the recycling in El Salvador of US threats when Salvadorans voted in 2004. But there has been no high-level response from the Obama Administration, Rep. Grijalva told Democracy Now! yesterday.
But right-wing Republicans in Congress have not been quiet. Upside Down News reports:
On Tuesday El Salvador's largest circulating daily, the Diario de Hoy, published news of a letter signed by over 40 Republicans in Congress, denouncing the FMLN and warning of their links to Venezuela and Cuba. The letter expresses "grave concern that a victory by the FMLN could make links between El Salvador and the regimes of Venezuela, Iran and Cuba, and other states that promote terrorism, and also with other non-democratic regimes and terrorist organizations."
Meanwhile, CISPES reports:
Yesterday, two Republicans gave speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives threatening that Salvadorans living in the U.S. will lose their immigration status and be outlawed from sending money home to their families if voters in El Salvador exercise their right to elect the opposition FMLN party's candidate on Sunday.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said, "Should the pro-terrorist FMLN party replace the current government in El Salvador, the United States, in the interests of national security, would be required to reevaluate our policy toward El Salvador, including cash remittance and immigration policies to compensate for the fact there will no longer be a reliable counterpart in the Salvadoran government."
Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) stated, "Those monies that are coming from here to there I am confident will be cut, and I hope the people of El Salvador are aware of that because it will have a tremendous impact on individuals and their economy." Indeed, these threats carry considerable weight for Salvadoran voters, as 25% of the Salvadoran population lives in the U.S., and 20% of the nation's economy consists of remittances from those family members."
Why did they do this yesterday? Krista Lee, a US solidarity activist in El Salvador as an election observer, writes:
They made this statement yesterday so that it would come out on the front page of the Salvadoran papers today, just a few hours after the campaign officially closed, so the FMLN's ability to respond is severely limited.
Of course, the official US position is that the US is indeed neutral. A State Department spokesman told Inter Press Service today:
"The U.S. government reiterates its official position that it does not support either candidate in the upcoming presidential election in El Salvador on March 15th. Through our embassy in El Salvador, we have stated this position publicly and repeatedly since November of 2007.
"With regard to the letters that have been sent [by members of Congress], the separation of powers and freedom in the U.S.allow for a debate in which members of the U.S. legislature have expressed their opinions. This does not reflect the official position of the United States."
But, being low-profile, this statement will not have the same effect as the Republicans' statements, trumpeted in El Salvador's private media, which like the media in Venezuela, are tremendously biased - in this case, in favor of the right-wing government.
That's why Rep. Grijalva asked for a high-level statement from the Obama Administration. Why has it not yet come?
Here are some actions concerned Americans can take:
1. Call the State Department to ask for a US Embassy press conference in San Salvador to publicly state US neutrality in the Salvadoran presidential elections: (202) 647-4087/ (202) 647-6575 (message.)2. Throw a few bucks in the hat so CISPES can publish the Grijalva letter as an ad in the Salvadoran media.