Salvador Sánchez Cerén, President of El Salvador (since Jun 1, 2014)
Sánchez Cerén was born in Quezaltepeque. The ninth of twelve children, three of his siblings died at young age. His parents struggled to raise nine children. His father Antonio Alfonso Sánchez a carpenter and his mother Dolores Rodas a market seller worked hard to give their children a better future. Salvador Sánchez Cerén at a young age had to work with his family to help the family survive. At a young age he was exposed to collective work. His working-class background has always characterized Salvador Sánchez Cerén as a man of communal living, anti-free trade, and redistribution of wealth. He attended Escuela de Varones Jose Dolores La Reynaga for his middle school education. He attended Alberto Masferrer School (school for teachers) in San Salvador and it was there where his political consciousness and participation developed. After graduating he taught for ten years in public and rural schools.
His political ideology derives from the various democratic and revolutionary organizations of which he was a member. He became politically active in the late 1960s when he was a student at Alberto Masferrer School, but he was not part of any political organization until he was introduced to the Unified Popular Action Front (FUAR or Frente Unido de Accion Revolucionaria). The FUAR exposed him for the first time to the political arena and allowed his involvement in the student movement.
He was a member of the PRAM (Partido Revolicionario Abril y Mayo), a political party that was against the dictatorship and advocated anti-imperialism. Then he joined (UDN) Union Democratica Nacionalista and PAR (Partido Accion Renovadora). He was also a participant of the (UNO) Union Nacional Oppositora as member of the UDN. In essence his experience and the things he learned in San Salvador at Masferrer school from his peers he took back to his town and began to implement it. He was an active member of the ANDES 21 de Junio, a teachers union that practiced and believed in the ideas of Paulo Freire and his analysis on pedagogy. In the 1970s he joined the Fuerzas Populares de Liberación “Farabundo Martí” (FPL), one of the five left-wing organizations, all of differing Marxist-Leninist tendencies, that later merged to form the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN).
President Mauricio Funes, Former President of El Salvador
Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena (born 18 October 1959 in San Salvador) is the President of El Salvador. He won the 2009 presidential election as the candidate of the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) political party and took office on 1 June 2009.
Prior to his involvement with politics, Funes was a journalist who hosted a popular interview show on television. He made appearances on Channel 12 and CNN and also hosted local news programs which were critical of previous governments. He was a reporter during the Salvadoran Civil War and interviewed leftist rebel leaders. It was during this time that he became more politically oriented and left-wing.
Funes was nominated to be the FMLN candidate on 28 September 2007 and competed against the Nationalist Republican Alliance’s candidate Rodrigo Ávila, a former deputy director of the National Police. Funes won the Salvadoran presidential election, 2009 achieving an absolute majority with 51.23% of the popular vote. He is the first FMLN party leader not to have fought in the civil war. His presidential campaign was highlighted by statements endorsing moderate political policies. Political opponents stated that Funes’ election would herald an era of Venezuelan influence but he insisted that “integration with central America and strengthening relations with the United States will be the priority of our foreign policy”.
Funes is married to Dra. Vanda Pignato, who was involved in the Workers’ Party in Brazil. They have three sons. He received his High School Diploma (Bachillerato) from the Externado San José and later went on to study literature at Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA) in San Salvador.
Funes’ brother was killed during the civil war. His oldest son, who was 27 years old, died after being attacked by a Moroccan delinquent in Paris, France. He was studying photography.
Antonio Saca, Former President of El Salvador
Elías Antonio (“Tony”) Saca González (born in Usulutan, 9 March 1965) is a Salvadorian politician and the current President of El Salvador. He was elected President in 2004. He was elected to serve a 5-year term that ends in 2009.
Saca is descended from Palestinian immigrants who arrived in El Salvador in the early 20th century. Prior to becoming President he was a broadcast journalist, specializing in sports radio and a prominent businessman.
On 21 March 2004 he was elected President of El Salvador and, on 1 June 2004 succeeded President Francisco Flores. Both Saca and Flores are members of the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance party, generally known by its Spanish-language acronym ARENA.
During the election campaign, some commentators criticized Saca’s lack of political experience. In the election Saca defeated leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) candidate, Schafik Handal, also of Palestinian descent, by a margin 45% with 55% voter turnout. With his embracing of the free-market and pro-United States policies like those pursued by Flores, Saca was the clear favorite of George Bush’s administration in the 2004 presidential election. Influenced by the U.S.A. government, Saca has become one of the most criticized presidents of El Salvador.