Salvadoran bishops ask new leader to govern with 'attitude of dialogue'
Catholic News Service photo
Salvador Sanchez Ceren, winner of El Salvador's presidential election, gives a speech to thousands of supporters in San Salvador March 15, 2014. The former Marxist guerrilla leader and Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front candidate won the president ial election by less than 7,000 votes.
Catholic News Service
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — El Salvador's Catholic bishops called for the incoming president to govern with an "attitude of dialogue and consultation" after a former guerrilla commander was pronounced the winner of a bitterly contested election.
The guerrilla-turned-presidential-candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren was declared victorious March 13 by the slimmest of margins -- some 6,300 of more than 3 million votes cast -- marking another victory for the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.
The hotly contested election, the winner of which was unclear for days, divided the Central American country of 6 million. In their March 15 letter, the Catholic bishops were quick to remind politicians that their responsibility was to the people.
"The winner of the elections should be the Salvadoran people," the conference said. The incoming president should seek accords so that "together we can solve major national problems."
The tiny Central American country has been beset by violence and drastic social inequality. Drug trafficking, gang violence and the aftermath of the 12-year civil war, which ended in 1992, has left the country with the world's second-highest murder rate, behind neighboring Honduras.
Crime and the economy were major factors in the presidential election. The bishops' conference said it was worried about the post-electoral situation in which the outcome remains contested.
"It's normal after an election that there is tension," the bishops said. "But the nation demands the harmony, unity and agreement needed for a society to peacefully coexist."
The bishops' messages came as runner-up Norman Quijano, a former mayor of the capital, San Salvador, and the candidate of the conservative ARENA alliance, formally asked for a recount.
"I am confident we won this election," he told the press.
Meanwhile, Sanchez, a 69-year-old former guerrilla commander, took on a conciliatory tone, calling for a more inclusive country.
"Twenty-two years after the peace accords, democracy has come to El Salvador to stay," he said via Twitter, referring to the signing of accords that officially ended the civil war.
The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front won the 2009 election, which brought to an end nearly 20 years of rule by ARENA. Current President Maurcio Funes was a former broadcast journalist with leftist sympathies, but the election of Sanchez marks the first time that a former guerrilla fighter has won the highest office in the Central American country.