Many Mission District residents closely followed the recent Salvadoran presidential elections. Some of us checked the results online. Others watched news reports on satellite television. And others traveled to El Salvador where they volunteered as election observers.
Felix Kury has traveled to El Salvador for every presidential election since the peace accords were signed in 1992. Kury is the program director of Clinica Martín-Baró and instructor of Raza Studies at SF State. Before moving to San Francisco in the early 1970’s Kury was a student at the National University of El Salvador. In this interview he shares his reflections on being a first-hand observer of the historic March election.
What kind of San Francisco-based Salvadoran solidarity work did you engage in during the 1980s?
San Francisco is the first place where a Salvadoran solidarity group was established in 1975 in response to the massacre of university students on July 30, 1975. After this we were able to contact other Salvadorans in other U.S. cities and a solidarity network was organized in New York, Washington D.C. Los Angeles, and other cities that formed the basis for the creation of CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) in 1980. We were able to form 250 committees in diverse cities in the U.S. We worked with the Catholic church, with the Baptist church, with unions. San Francisco is where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union initiated the first blockade of arms [destined for El Salvador]. So, for me, the March 15 elections and the triumph of the FMLN isn’t only a victory of the Salvadoran people – it is a victory of all the people. The men, the women, the religious groups, those who created a sanctuary movement, and all the progressive sectors that struggled to defend the dignity and sovereignty of El Salvador. It was a movement capable of mobilizing thousands of North Americans to demand an end to the U.S. military and economic support of the military that was massacring our people. Work like this – very, very broad based – truly succeeded in changing everything.
Before the elections Funes said that when the people elect him president they will be electing him, not the FMLN party. What do you think about this declaration?
Well, generally when you elect a candidate, that candidate is elected president of a country, not of a party. I don’t think that he has distanced himself from the FMLN nor that the FMLN has distanced itself from him. I think that the Salvadoran people put all their hope in Mauricio Funes and in the FMLN and that is how fear was defeated. But we’re talking about someone who had a lot of support. It’s clear to me that the FMLN won accompanied by Mauricio and Mauricio would not have won if he were not the candidate of the FMLN.
You went to El Salvador with a delegation of election observers. Can you describe the experience of being in San Salvador and hearing the results of this historic election?
It was a cathartic moment. Or rather, a moment to say to myself – as Salvadorans we have waited so long to see and appreciate the triumph of the people. It made me reaffirm the confidence that sooner rather than later we were able to see the beginning of change. I took off my observer [credentials] and I began to jump like everyone else.
Katynka Z. Martínez , Apr 08, 2009
El tecolote Online