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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06SANSALVADOR521 2006-03-02 21:22:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Salvador
Cable title:  

EL SALVADOR ELECTIONS: LA PAZ AND CUSCATLAN

Tags:   PGOV CU ES SOCI 
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VZCZCXYZ0009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSN #0521/01 0612122
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 022122Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1213
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
					  UNCLAS SAN SALVADOR 000521 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CU ES SOCI
SUBJECT: EL SALVADOR ELECTIONS: LA PAZ AND CUSCATLAN
DEPARTMENTS



1. SUMMARY: Poloff visited the cities of Zacatecoluca and
Olocuilta in the La Paz Department on February 22. Two days
later, Poloff visited the cities of Cojutepeque and Santa
Cruz Michapa in the neighboring Cuscatlan department.
Zacatecoluca and Cojutepeque are the capitals of their
respective department, and each currently has an incumbent
FMLN mayor. Similarly, both Olocuilta and Santa Cruz Michapa
have incumbent National Conciliation Party (PCN) mayors
likely to be reelected. While ARENA candidates offer future
municipal infrastructure projects if elected, the FMLN has
guaranteed its adherents medical treatment in Cuba. In the
visited cities, ARENA clearly appeared to have better
campaign financing, as evidenced in larger distribution of
leaflets and billboard displays.

ARENA Poised for Victory in Zacatecoluca, La Paz


--------------------------

---



2. According to a February 9 poll, ARENA candidate Medardo
Alfaro holds a significant lead (31 percent) over FMLN
candidate Raul Pineda. During separate February 22 meetings
with poloff, Alfaro and Pineda outlined similar agendas of
cleaning up the city and rebuilding infrastructure. (Note:
Zacatecoluca was badly damaged during the 2001 earthquakes,
and little infrastructure has been rebuilt to date. End
note.) The incumbent FMLN mayor, Italo Lievano, razed the
city's three earthquake-damaged municipal markets, sending
vendors into the streets where they still remain. Streets
are now nearly impassable due to lack of maintenance and
trash collection. Poloff also spoke with Zacatecoluca
residents and ARENA members Ely Salamanca and Jose Vizcarra,
who hope that a win by Alfaro would entail increased
cooperation and funding from the (ARENA) federal government.
Salamanca and Vizcara nonetheless complained that ARENA had
been inffective in informing the local community of
candidates other than Alfaro.



3. On poloff's later visit to La Paz Department's smaller
city of Olocuilta, PCN Mayor Antonio Funes claimed to have
made many improvements during his time in office, and
outlined several goals. He states that he enlisted
international donors to fund the construction of the "City of
Education," a center where local teens could receive
technical training. He claims that although the federal
government originally committed to fund enough teachers, they
have not actually done so, and the municipality has been
paying the salaries of 17 teachers. Because of this funding
issue, Funes admitted that they are charging student fees to
defray expenses. (Note: It is illegal for public schools in
El Salvador to charge fees. End Note.)



4. COMMENT: Although there seems to be consensus that
Zacatecoluca needs a major revitalization, neither candidate
appears likely to accomplish this goal. A Millennium
Challenge Account project is proposed for northern El
Salvador, but there is at present little GOES or
international development funding for projects in La Paz,
notwithstanding the candidates' "wish lists" for heavy
construction equipment, foreign assistance, and bank loans.
END COMMENT.

Cuscatlan: Corruption and Castro


--------------------------





5. While waiting February 24 to meet with FMLN Mayor Leticia
Cristina Rivas in Cojutepeque (Cuscatlan Department), poloff
overheard the mayor's secretary phoning local residents about
a Cuban-funded medical program. When asked about the
program, Rivas explained that the Cuban and Venezuelan
governments planned to fund the travel and ophthalmologic
surgery of 24 residents in each FMLN-controlled municipality
in El Salvador prior to the March 12 elections.
Early-February CID-Gallup polling for Cojutepeque indicates
that Rivas is in first place with 26 percent support among
intending voters, compared to ARENA candidate Guadalupe
Serrano's 18 percent. However, with 47 percent of the
population still undecided, the election could go either way.
ARENA members in Cuscatlan complained to poloff that FMLN
members had attacked them and torn down ARENA posters; such
tactics on the part of both parties are not uncommon during
campaign season in El Salvador.



6. Poloff afterwards spoke with Santa Cruz Michapa's PCN
Mayor Jose Salvador Vanegas, a former bus line owner who
reported that he had sold his business due to its
unprofitability. When poloff asked Vanegas about a
gift-wrapped box on his desk, he responded that local
residents liked to give him presents to thank him for his
hard work.



7. COMMENT: Mayor Rivas was quite the consummate
politician, with well-rehearsed answers and the ability to

deflect difficult questions and switch to subjects she
preferred. On the other hand, Mayor Vanegas seems destined
to remain a small-town mayor, with little prospect of higher
political office.
Barclay