The WPost’s Salvadoran History Lesson

The Washington Post editorial page produced a remarkable editorial on Saturday (3/21/09) headlined “Victory in El Salvador.” It’s not surprising that the Post would try to argue that the victory of left-wing FMLN presidential candidate Mauricio Funes was not another sign that the region’s politics are shifting to the left. No, in fact it was a blow to folks like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “El Salvador’s election was also a triumph for a system that Mr. Chavez has disregarded: liberal democracy.”

The Post didn’t elaborate on that idea. They did, unfortunately, attempt to recast U.S. involvement in El Salvador’s bloody civil war. The U.S. provided support to the death squad-linked military leaders over the course of the conflict–a war in which the U.S.-backed government and its allies killed 75,000 Salvadorans, mostly civilians.

Somehow, though, this election was what the U.S. had in mind for El Salvador all along (see bold):

If Mr. Funes as well as the election’s losers now respect the rule of law, the result could be the consolidation of the political system the United States was aiming for when it intervened in El Salvador’s civil war during the 1980s. At the time, the goal of a successful Salvadoran democracy was dismissed as a mission impossible, just as some now say democracy is unattainable in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the right-wing ARENA party, whose leaders were linked to death squads in the 1980s, proved during the last few years that it could embrace democratic practices. Its presidential candidate, Rodrigo Avila, acknowledged his defeat on election night.

Official U.S. policy towards El Salvador was based on a paranoid anti-Communism that insisted on supporting any government threatened by left-wing guerrillas, no matter its record of brutality. To suggest the goal was merely the “consolidation of the political system”–the mind reels.

The Post closes by saying the Funes government “has the potential to complete a victory for Latin American democracy–and U.S. foreign policy.”

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.