the longest day

was yesterday. But it´s over, and for a little while at least, there´s an air of celebration everywhere.

EL SALVADOR - ELECCIONES

I wrote that in some ways this country seemed locked in a kind of frozen (odd metaphor for a tropical country) state, fighting the same battles over and over, never giving up but never winning either.  This is really the first crack in the ice.  The left, no matter how moderate, has NEVER, ever won a national election here.  Fraud, manipulation, violence — we saw all those things in the last two days, but this time the result was different.

In the polling station where I spent the day, we saw a series of  “irregularities,” as the formal term goes, the most serious of which was a family of Hondurans, poor people, evangelicals, escorted by a an intimidating group of burly men in ARENA tee shirts straight to the voting booth. Their IDs checked out, because, as they said, they had voted in the January elections in Chalatenango. Which is to say that the fraud perpetrated in the last election was meant to be a two-(or more) for-one: once people had a history of voting with a fake ID they could be called in as many times as necessary. In this case, the whole group was allowed to vote because there was no legal way to challenge them at that point — their accents, their ignorance of the most basic facts about their supposed native country weren´t enough.  It was clear evidence that the people of Guarjila and the other border communities had been right to be concerned.  But this time it was not enough. The fear campaign wasn´t enough.  The fraud wasn´t enough.  The propaganda that the two million Salvadorans living in the States would lose their residency status wasn´t enough.

This time, for the first time ever, the music we heard as the results came in wasn´t the blare of a fascist military anthem, but the revolutionary songs that the students, the guerrillas, the poets, the country people had created for that time whose coming was believed in but never known.

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