Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a famed guerilla commander during El Salvador's civil war, has been officially confirmed as the presidential winner by the slender margin of 50.1-49.8 over the candidate of the right-wing ARENA party.
It was a historic victory for Sanchez Ceren, who survived fierce sectarian strife, led a historic military offensive, pushed for a compromise peace settlement, and distinguished himself on education and social issues as the country's vice-president under outgoing Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes.
Sanchez Ceren's lead in surveys narrowed dramatically after his winning 49 percent of the vote in the first round against ARENA and a third right-wing party on February 2. Polls showed Sanchez Ceren ahead by 5-10 points three weeks before this week's runoff, but that lead collapsed while Salvadoran voters were bombarded with television ads warning that their country would become, "another Venezuela."
A decisive issue in the election was the gang truce, which began in 2012 with a cease-fire among imprisoned leaders of rival gangs, and which so far has resulted in a significant reduction of violence and homicides. The truce is supported by many activists in the LA immigrant community. However, hatred of gang members is so widespread in El Salvador that political leaders fear any association. The FMLN generally avoided the issue, following the line of President Funes who promoted the truce indirectly through the Archdiocese. ARENA on the other hand raged against the truce and called for a resumption of the violent police suppression tactics known as "mano dura." The election outcome allows the truce organizing to go on, averting a return to "war on gangs" model of the past.
North American solidarity activists played a significant role in pressuring the US Congress and Obama administration not to take sides in any way as the election unfolded. In previous Salvadoran elections, the US was accused of tilting towards its historic ally, the ARENA party, in spite of that party's long connections with death squads and oligarchs.
ARENA immediately denounced the Salvadoran electoral outcome as fraudulent, suggesting that they will challenge the FMLN government as illegitimate and follow the path of the anti-Maduro protestors in Venezuela.