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News > El Salvador

El Salvador Presidential Elections: Who's Who?

  • Supporters of the FMLN. San Salvador, El Salvador. Jan. 31, 2019.

    Supporters of the FMLN. San Salvador, El Salvador. Jan. 31, 2019. | Photo: EFE

Published 1 February 2019

El Salvador will hold presidential elections on Feb. 3 with four candidates. This is the fourth such election since the Peace Accords were signed in 1992.

More than 5.2 million Salvadorans will vote for their next president on Feb. 3, to replace Salvador Sanchez Ceren for the 2019-2024 period after he leaves office on June 1.


El Salvador: Presidential Candidates Debate Before Feb Election

Besides voters within the country’s borders, another 5,948 Salvadorans will be able to vote abroad in diplomatic missions, according to the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE).

The main candidates are Hugo Martinez, from the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN); Carlos Calleja from the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA); frontrunner Nayib Bukele from the Great Alliance for National Unity (GANA) and Josue Alvarado from the VAMOS party.

According to the government, the Organization of American States (OEA) sent 84 observers for the country’s 14 departments, besides other guest observing delegations, such as the European Union’s Electoral Observation Mission.

Over 23,300 security agents will be in charge of safeguarding the polling stations and the final counting of the ballots.

Nayib Bukele

Candidate Nayib Bukele at a rally with business owners. Oct. 8, 2018. Photo | EFE

The 37-year-old politician of Palestinian origin began his political career at the FMLN but was expelled in 2017 after problems with its leadership. He later formed his own political party, New Ideas, leaning much more to the political right.

While he was still in the FMLN he became the mayor of San Salvador, the capital city.

After he failed to inscribe his party to run in the presidential race, he reached a deal with GANA, a right-wing party, and made it to the ballot, earning criticisms for changing political organizations so easily.

But Bukele justifies himself saying that he has no ideology and that the left and right logic of the political spectrum belongs to another era. Instead, he’s running on an anti-corruption platform and connects with younger generations through social media.

Carlos Calleja

Carlos Calleja holding a copy of the Bible at a rally. Jan. 30, 2019. Photo | EFE

Son of a successful businessman and supermarket owner, Calleja left the Central American country  for the United States to study at Middlebury College then at New York University’s School of Business.

Now he owns Super Selectos, the most popular supermarket chain in El Salvador, and is taking part in the race for ARENA, a right-wing party and the traditional political adversary of the FMLN.

ARENA ruled in El Salvador from 1989 until defeated by the FMLN in 2009 and was involved in several corruption scandals. In August 2018, financial auditors of the Public Ministry reported that at least US$7.6 million were deviated to the parties’ accounts as part of a corruption network led by ex-president Tony Saca.

Hugo Martinez

Former foreign minister Hugo Martinez and vice-presidential candidate Karina Sosa during a rally in San Salvador, El Salvador. Jan. 17, 2019. Photo | EFE

The candidate of the ruling FMLN is a 51-year-old agronomist born to teachers. He was a student leader during his youth at the time of the civil war.

He was appointed foreign minister in 2009 when leftist Mauricio Funes won the presidential elections.

During his time as minister he managed to prevent the massive deportation of thousands of Salvadorans from the United States after the Obama administration cancelled migratory programs.

Josue Alvarado

Candidate Josue Alvarado. Nov. 14, 2018. Photo | EFE

Alvarado was born on Dec. 19, 1956, in the El Carmen municipality. He lived in Maryland, United States, where he founded the Rio Grande Foods company. He opened a factory in El Salvador in 1992 and now produces and exports “ethnic” food and drink, mainly derived from corn and dairy, to the United States.

Now, at 62, he’s aiming for the presidency with his VAMOS party, which he founded in November 2017.

He describes himself as a man with Christian values and was the president of the Inter-Continental Christian Fraternity.

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