During a recent heated meeting at the US Embassy in El Salvador, Ambassador Charles Glazer admitted to U.S. intervention in the 2004 Salvadoran presidential elections. The meeting on June 27 was requested by a group of 12 U.S. citizens, including professors, students, journalists and community activists who were taking part in a 10-day delegation organized by the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).
Delegation participants met with a series of non-government groups and officials.
In their meeting with the Ambassador, the group focused specifically on the history of U.S. political and military intervention in El Salvador. They cited statements made by US State Department officials denouncing. the leftist Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) party during the 2004 presidential campaign. The delegates also referenced legislation put forward in Congress by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) that threatened to cut off remittances sent by Salvadorans in the U.S. to their families in El Salvador should the FMLN win. “The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador never countered this absurd threat or clarified the impossibility of such legislation being passed,” said Rosa Lozano, a delegate from Washington D.C. “Ultimately, such intervention helped turn a close race for the presidency into a decisive victory for the right-wing National Republican Alliance (ARENA) party.”
When asked directly if the U.S. government had intervened in the 2004 presidential elections on behalf of the ARENA party, Glazer replied in the affirmative. When asked if such intervention would occur again, he said “no”. “We believe that this is the first time that a representative of the Bush Administration has taken responsibility for the manipulative interference that took place during the 2004 presidential campaign,” said Burke Stansbury, Executive Director of CISPES and a participant in the meeting with the ambassador. “It’s really quite remarkable; CISPES and others have been crying foul since State Department intervention began in mid-2003 but the Embassy has always denied it played a role in President Saca’s victory,” continued Stansbury. “But admitting fault last time is not enough. We will continue to demand that no such intervention occurs, not in 2009 nor ever again.”
During the meeting, the Embassy labor attaché claimed that the possibility of fraud in the 2009 elections would be diminished because of the active monitoring of various international organizations and emphasized the role to be played by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), both subsections of the National Endowment of Democracy (NED). When challenged about the partisan nature of these quasi-non governmental organizations, as well as accusations that the IRI and NDI have played an interventionist role in other Latin American elections, the Embassy representative admitted that there was controversy and doubts surrounding the NED.
“In 2007, the IRI – headed by Republican presidential candidate John McCain – presented President Saca with its ‘Freedom Award’, showing its clear ideological preference in the polarized Salvadoran political process,” said Laura Embree-Lowry, a member of the Boston chapter of CISPES and a participant in the Embassy meeting. “We believe that the presence of partisan groups like the IRI and NDI will in fact be counterproductive to the goal of the Salvadoran people, which is to hold free and fair elections in 2009.”
The CISPES delegation also expressed concern about the aggressive conduct of Ambassador Glazer during their brief meeting. “Mr. Glazer arrived with the idea of attacking our delegation and rudely countering everything we put forward, to the point of being verbally abusive to at least two of the delegates,” said Andrew Kafel, a member of the delegation from New York. “Whether or not the Ambassador agrees with the concerns we laid out about potential U.S. intervention, he has a duty as a public official to hear us out in a respectful manner,” continued Kafel. “If this is how we as U.S. citizens are treated, we can only imagine how the Ambassador interacts with Salvadorans. We hope that in the future the State Department will better orient their representatives about how to respectfully dialogue with those holding a differing opinion.”
The group plans to issue an extensive report of the information gathered during the June CISPES fact-finding delegation, including an analysis of the current human rights situation, information about the potential of fraud and irregularities in the 2009 elections, and concerns about U.S. involvement in the process. The report will be release at the end of July.
For more information go to www.cispes.org.