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The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (in Spanish: Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, FMLN) is since 1992 a Socialist political party in El Salvadormarker and formerly a coalition of five revolutionary guerrilla organizations. The FMLN formed as an umbrella group on October 10, 1980 from the left wing guerilla organizations: the Fuerzas Populares de Liberación Farabundo Martí (FPL), Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP), the Resistencia Nacional (RN), the Partido Comunista Salvadoreño (PCS) and the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores Centroamericanos (PRTC).

After peace accords were signed in 1992, all armed FMLN units were demobilized and their organization became a legal political party. The FMLN is now one of the two major political parties in El Salvador.

In the elections of March 15, 2009 the FMLN won the Presidential elections with former journalist Mauricio Funes as its candidate. Two months earlier in municipal and legislative elections, the FMLN won the majority of the mayoralties in the country (though losing San Salvadormarker) and a plurality of the National Assembly seats (35 out of 84).

History of the FMLN

The FMLN was named after the rebel leader Farabundo Martí, who led workers and peasants in an uprising to transform Salvadoran society after the devastation caused by the eruption of the volcano Izalco in 1932. In response, the military regime led by General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, who had seized power in a 1931 coup, launched an effective but brutal counterinsurgency campaign. Known as "La Matanza" ("The Massacre"), this campaign saw the killing of some 30,000 people under the guise of being supporters of the insurgency. A good number of those killed were peasants and members of the various indigenous groups that inhabited El Salvador. Thousands of innocent civilians were killed.

Communist Party of El Salvador

The Communist Party of El Salvador was formed in the 1930s. One of the principal leaders was Farabundo Martí. Some later leaders of the Communist Party of El Salvador included Cayetano Carpio and Schafik Handal. From the 1950s through the 1970s, the Communist Party of El Salvador opposed armed struggle and mainly engaged in legal electoral and trade union organizing. After the Cuban revolution in 1959, and with a growing radicalization in the 1960s, some within the Salvadoran Communist Party began to advocate armed struggle to overthrow the Salvadoran military dictatorship. They ultimately had to leave the Communist Party to initiate the armed struggle.

Popular Liberation Forces "Farabundo Marti"

In 1970, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of El Salvador, Cayetano Carpio, left the Communist Party to form a new organization to wage armed struggle to overthrow the military dictatorship. This new organization became the Popular Liberation Forces "Farabundo Marti" (in Spanish: Fuerzas Populares de Liberación "Farabundo Martí", also known by the Spanish acroym, FPL). Throughout the 1970s the FPL grew and became the largest and most influential organization on the Salvadoran left. In the 1970s many other revolutionary organizations were formed as well. Three others ultimately became part of the FMLN in 1980 along with the FPL and the Communist Party. These were the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP), Resistencia Nacional (RN), and the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores Centroamericanos (PRTC).

Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP)

ERP was formed in 1972. The principal leader of the ERP was Joaquín Villalobos. They were based primarily in Morazán and had a perspective that focused almost entirely on the military aspect of the struggle, and less on the aspect of political organizing.

La Resistencia Nacional, (RN)

the Resistencia Nacional (RN), was formed in 1975 as a split from the ERP. The RN was formed by people who left the ERP after the leadership of the ERP assassinated a group within their organization that advocated more of a mass orientation, as opposed to the militarist orientation the ERP had at the time. The assassinated group included famous Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton. The RN put into practice the line that Dalton and his co-thinkers in the ERP had advocated, putting more emphasis on sectoral organizing amongst the masses of people (in unions, student organizations, etc.). The RN was primarily based in Morazán as guerrilla commandos as well as in the city of San Salvador as clandestine urban forces mainly composed of university students.

The National Resistance conducted fewer attacks against the dictatorship in El Salvador compared to the FPL or ERP, but the RN operatives were much more effective in destabilizing the national tyranny with many fewer deaths on both sides. The armed wing of the Resistencia Nacional was FARN (Fuerzas Armadas de la Resistencia Nacional) known as RN-FARN.

Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores Centroamericanos (PRTC)

The PRTC was part of a Central America-wide organization that advocated a regional revolution as opposed to a country-by-country revolution. The PRTC left their Central America-wide organization when they joined the FMLN.

Civil war and emergence of the FMLN

On December 17, 1979, in period of national crisis, the three dominant organizations (FPL, RN and PCS) of the Salvadoran left formed the Coordinadora Político-Militar. The CPM's first manifesto was released on January 10, 1980, and the day afterwards the Coordinadora Revolucionaria de Masas was formed as a union of revolutionary mass organizations. CRM later merged with the Frente Democrático Salvadoreño to form the Frente Democrático Revolucionario.

It is alleged that some credit for the unity of the five organizations that formed the FMLN may belong to Cuba'smarker Fidel Castro, who facilitated negotiation between the groups in Havanamarker in December 1979. While all five groups called themselves revolutionaries and socialists, they had serious ideological and practical differences, and there had been serious conflicts, even including in some cases bloodshed, between some of the groups during the 1970s. It is rumored Fidel Castro invited the five organizations separately to Havana, where, once assembled, he prompted them to join together at gunpoint with an AK-47.

On May 22, 1980 the success of negotiations led to the union of the major guerrilla forces under one flag. The Unified Revolutionary Directorate Dirección Revolucionaria Unificada was created by the FPL, RN, ERP and PCS. DRU consisted of three Political Commission members from each of these four organizations. The DRU manifesto declared, "There will be only one leadership, only one military plan and only one command, only one political line." Despite continued infighting DRU succeeded in coordinating the group's efforts and equipped forces.

Banner used until 1992.
Clarification: the official FMLN banner was red and white; the red and yellow version shown above was used by the FPL.
Photos of the celebration of the peace accords on January 16, 1992 by the whole FMLN show the red and white flag, which, slightly adapted, became the banner of the legal political party.
On October 10, 1980 the four organizations formed the Frente Farabundo Martí de Liberación Nacional (FMLN). In December of the same year, the Salvadoran branch of the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores Centroamericanos broke away from its central organization and affiliated itself to FMLN. Thus the following organizations composed FMLN (listed in the order of size at the time of the peace accords in 1992):



Youth organizations of FMLN at the time of armed struggle included:
  • Juventud Farabundista (FPL)
  • Juventud Comunista Salvadoreña (PCS)
  • Juventud Revolucionaria (PRS)
  • Jóvenes en Resistencia (RN)
  • Juventud los Muchachos (PRTC)


FMLN in armed struggle

After the formation of the FMLN, they organized to launch their first major military offensive on January 10, 1981. During this offensive, the FMLN established operational control over large sections of the departments of Morazán and Chalatenango, which remained largely under guerrilla control throughout the rest of the civil war. Revolutionaries ranged from children to the elderly, both male and female, and most were trained in FMLN camps in the mountains and jungles of El Salvador to learn military techniques.

The FMLN's other largest offensive was in November 1989. In that offensive, the FMLN caught Salvadoran government and military off guard by taking control of large sections of the country and even entering the capital of San Salvador. In San Salvador the FMLN quickly took control of many of the poor neighborhoods until the military bombed their positions -- including bombing residential neighborhoods [41268] -- to drive the FMLN out. One of the most famous battles in San Salvador was in the Sheraton Hotel ( ), where guerrillas and army soldiers battled floor-by-floor in the hotel. The guerrillas eventually captured 12 U.S. military advisors (Green Berets) in the hotel until the Catholic Church negotiated their release. The FMLN's November 1989 offensive did not succeed in its stated aim of overthrowing the government. But many analysts point to the FMLN's show of strength in the 1989 offensive as the turning point in the war, where it became clear that the government would not be able to militarily defeat the FMLN. Soon after the November 1989 offensive, the U.S. government started to support a negotiated solution to the civil war, whereas up to that point they had pursued a policy of military defeat of the FMLN. Since the U.S. government was the major funder of the Salvadoran government and military, they exercised considerable influence over the course of events. So when the U.S. began to advocate negotiations instead of a military solution, a negotiated peace accord between the FMLN and the Salvadoran government was reached in fairly short order in 1992, despite a few incidents that could have marred the accord, such as the high-profile murder of the peace-seeking FPL commandante Antonio Cardenal, aka Jesus Rojas.

Citations for Salvadoran military bombing of civilian population:Douglas Tweedale, “Rebels pull back; Next move unclear in Salvador war,” United Press International, November 19, 1989 reports hours of bombardment of FMLN-occupied areas of San Salvador during the early morning of November 19. Via Ochoa thesis cited below.

Paying the Price: Ignacio Ellacuria and the Murdered Jesuits of El Salvador by Teresa Whitfield, Temple Press 1994, p.3: "...the FMLN occupied areas that were poor and heavily populated. All feared the civilian cost of the armed forces' counteroffensive. Artillery and aerial bombardment had left some families trapped in their homes without food, water, or power; others were fleeing their neighborhoods, running through the streets beneath the paltry protection of white flags."

"El Salvador 1989: The Two Jesuit Standards and the Final Offensive", by Ignacio W. Ochoa, 2003, master's thesis in Latin American studies at San Diego State University, p. 56: "At daybreak [on November 18] army airplanes were dropping highly destructive bombs over the civilian areas under FMLN control; helicopters constantly flew over using heavy artillery. In response, the guerrillas began to use anti-aircraft artillery within the city itself." The author was in San Salvador, at and near the University of Central America campus, during November 1989.)

After the peace accords: FMLN participation in elections

After the ceasefire established by the 1992 Chapultepec Peace Accords, the FMLN became a legal political party. The FMLN has now participated in elections in 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2009. The 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2009 elections were for the Presidency. The 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2009 elections were for Legislative Assembly seats and mayor and municipal council positions.

An FMLN rally with Handal in Jiquilisco, prior to the presidential election in 2004


The FMLN is currently, along with ARENA, one of the two dominant political parties in El Salvador. Since 2000, the FMLN has gone back and forth with ARENA in controlling the largest number of Legislative Assembly seats. The FMLN has controlled the mayor's offices in many of the large cities of El Salvador since 1997, including the capitol of San Salvador and the neighboring city of Santa Tecla. The current FMLN mayor of San Salvador is Violeta Menjívar, the first female mayor of San Salvador, who was elected in a narrow victory in 2006. The current FMLN mayor of Santa Tecla is Oscar Ortiz, who has served in that position since 2000.

In the legislative elections, held on March 16, 2003, the FMLN won 34.0% of the popular vote and 31 out of 84 seats in the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador, becoming the political party with the most assembly members. The FMLN's candidate in the March 21, 2004 presidential election , Schafik Handal, won 35.6% of the vote, but was defeated by Antonio Saca of the Nationalist Republican Alliance.

In the March 12, 2006 legislative election, the FMLN won 39.7% of the popular vote and 32 out of 84 legislative assembly seats. The FMLN also retained the mayor's seats in the largest cities of El Salvador, San Salvadormarker and Santa Teclamarker, as well as hundreds of other municipalities throughout the country. Two months before the elections of 2009, however, the FMLN lost the mayoralty of the capital, San Salvador.

At the January 18, 2009 legislative elections, FMLN won 42.6% of the vote and 35 seats. FMLN is now the largest party in the Salvadoran legislature, though it does not have a governing majority.

On March 15, 2009, the FMLN's candidate Mauricio Funes won the presidential elections. He will be inaugurated in June as the first president coming from the FMLN party.

Post-war splits and internal changes

At the end of the civil war in 1992, the FMLN became a legal political party. At the end of the war, the FMLN still comprised the five political parties -- FPL, CP, ERP, RN, PRTC -- each of which retained their own organizational structure but with a matriarch. During the civil war, and continuing in the post-war period, people did not directly join the FMLN per-se, but joined one of the five component groups.

1994 - ERP and RN leaders split

After the end of the war, it became clear that there were serious divisions within the FMLN, some of which had existed during the war but had been somewhat hidden from the general public. Particularly it became clear between 1992 and 1994 that the leaders of the ERP and the RN had a number of disagreements with the leaders of the other parties. Soon after the 1994 Legislative Assembly elections, the leaders of the ERP and the RN left the FMLN, and at least initially taking many of their members with them. The leaders of this split (including FMLN commandante Joaquin Villalobos of the ERP) then formed the Partido Democrata (Democratic Party), which was short-lived. Many members of the ERP and RN who had left in 1994 then returned to the FMLN.

1995 - Dissolving the five organizations to become a single party

After the 1994 elections and the 1994 split, momentum grew to unify the FMLN into a single organization without separate internal parties. In 1995, the five parties that had formed the FMLN dissolved themselves. It is at that point that the FPL, CP, ERP, RN and PRTC ceased to exist, and what remained was a unified FMLN. Then people could join the FMLN directly instead of having to join one of its component parties. While this decision liquidated the parallel organizational structures inside the FMLN, there still remained strong loyalties along historic organizational lines, some of which can still be seen today.

Renovadores split

In the 1999 presidential election, the FMLN ran Facundo Guardado as their candidate. This was a contentious decision, and many in the FMLN did not support Guardado, as they believed that his politics were moving to the right. Out of this internal conflict, two organized tendencies emerged in the FMLN - the Renovadores ("Renovators" or "Renewal Movement") and the Coriente Revolucionario y Socialista (CRS - Revolutionary Socialist Current). The two main leaders of the CRS were the historic FMLN leaders Schafik Handal and Salvador Sanchez Ceren. The main leader of the Renovadores was Facundo Guardado. As a charismatic former FPL commander, Guardado had a base of supporters in the FMLN. He criticized the historic leadership as being too communist and called for a renovated ideology. The CRS criticized Guardado for advocating social democratic politics and for not being clearly against neoliberalism. After a couple years of internal turmoil, in which the Revolutioanry Socialist Current won the majority of the internal elections in the organization, Guardado became more frustrated, publicly attacked the FMLN leaders he didn't agree with, and took actions contrary to decisions the party had made. He was ultimately expelled and some of his supporters left the FMLN. Guardado tried to form the Renovadores as its own political party, but they received negligible support in the 2003 election and then ceased to exist as a party.

After the Renovadores vs Revolutionary Socialist Current factionalism, the FMLN's leadership decided to stop organized internal tendencies, and none have emerged since then.

2005 - FDR split

In 2004 and 2005, the FMLN experienced another split. Five FMLN Legislative Assembly members, along with a number of their supporters, left the FMLN to form a new political party, the Democratic Revolutionary Front (in Spanish: Frente Democratico Revolucionario). Some of the principal leaders of this split were Ileana Rogel and Francisco Jovel. The people who left to form the FDR chose this name because it has a legacy in the Salvadoran revolutionary movement; an organization by the same name was formed under the leadership of the FMLN during the civil war to bring together parties and individuals doing legal political work during the civil war. As opposed to previous splits from the FMLN which openly proclaimed that they were ideologically 'center' or 'center-left' or were no longer self-declared 'revolutionaries', the people who split to form the FDR claimed to still be part of the revolutionary legacy of the FMLN. In the 2006 elections, no FDR candidates won office, except for the incumbent mayor of Nejapamarker, Rene Canjura. Canjura was a popular FMLN mayor of the municipality of Nejapa for three consecutive periods, and therefore under FMLN statutes, would not have been eligible to run for a fourth consecutive period. So he left the FMLN and successfully ran in 2006 as the FDR candidate. Other than him, no FDR candidates won any electoral victories in 2006.

2009 - FMLN Candidate Elected President

On Sunday, March 15, 2009 an FMLN candidate, Mauricio Funes, was elected President of El Salvador.


See also



References

  1. Above.
  • Cynthia J. Arnson ed., El Salvador's Democratic Transition Ten Years After the Peace Accord (2003).
  • Yvon Grenier, The Emergence of Insurgency in El Salvador (1999).
  • Marta Harnecker, Con la mirada en el alto.


External links




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