Polls Open In El Salvador Presidential Election Voters in El Salvador are electing a new president Sunday. The former Marxist guerrillas — or the FMLN, as they're known — have put forward a relatively young journalist, Mauricio Funes, as their candidate. He's running against the former head of the national police, Rodrigo Ávila, of the ruling, right-wing ARENA party.
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Polls Open In El Salvador Presidential Election

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Polls Open In El Salvador Presidential Election

Polls Open In El Salvador Presidential Election

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from San Salvador.

JASON BEAUBIEN: The battle for the presidency is playing out in the streets of San Salvador. Telephone poles and billboards that a few weeks ago sported the red, white and blue stripes of Arena, had been freshly painted with a coat of FMLN red.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BEAUBIEN: Unidentified People: (Singing in Spanish)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BEAUBIEN: This is an extremely tight election in a polarized nation. In 1980, that polarization flared into a civil war. The U.S. sent billions of dollars to the right-wing government to fight the FMLN. The communist rebels finally laid down their guns in 1992 and became the political opposition. But Arena has retained control of the presidency.

HERARDO FLORES: (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: This 36-year-old construction worker, Herardo Flores(ph) says El Salvador need a change, a new political party.

FLORES: (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: There's fear to go out on the streets, Flores says. Some robbers, some delinquent might attack you. He says the country's also facing economic problems, unemployment and misspent foreign aid. But just outside a relatively upscale supermarket, Jacqueline Alvarenga(ph) says she's sticking with the ruling Arena Party.

JACQUELINE ALVARENGA: (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Jason Beaubien, NPR News, San Salvador.

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