On Thursday, August 15, former Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) President and current right-wing “Unity” (UNIDAD) coalition candidate Tony Saca presented his campaign platform ahead of the February 2014 presidential elections. Saca promised to incentivize foreign investment, reinvigorate the national economy and, without raising taxes, continue many of the pioneering social programs begun under the current leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) administration.
Saca is the first of all five presidential candidates to present his platform, though he is the only one yet to announce a running-mate. As the online magazine El Faro noted, Saca’s proposal was particularly lacking in specifics: “The ex-president did not present how to reach the objectives that he enumerated in his proposal, which is full of verbs like ‘promote,’ ‘stimulate,’ [and] ‘foment,’ along with a series of goals in areas like public security, agriculture and tourism, but without the specific actions to needed to reach those goals that could then be evaluated and monitored.”
Indeed, the only concrete measures the former president outlines were those already put in place by the FMLN government; Saca declared that he would maintain policies like those guaranteeing children a free glass of milk, school uniforms, shoes and school supplies, and tuition-free high school. Despite Saca’s adoption of popular FMLN policies and progressive discourse his track record reveals his hard-line conservative politics: as president from 2004-2009, he oversaw the implementation of the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the founding of a US-funded police training academy for Latin American law enforcement in El Salvador, the establishment of a draconian US Patriot Act-inspired anti-terrorism law, an “Iron Fist” anti-gang policy, as well as widespread government corruption.
But even as the “Unity” candidate moves forward with his campaign, a new obstacle has arisen for Saca: on July 31, a professor from the National University of El Salvador presented a claim to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the former president’s candidacy. The constitutional language around second term presidents is notoriously vague, prohibiting consecutive terms but leaving candidacy’s like Saca’s in murky legal terrain. Saca, in turn, has accused both ARENA and the FMLN of plotting to boot him from the race.