Vote “Right” and Win a Cow

I wasn’t going to write any blogs about my El Salvadoran election observer work but the right wing Arena party has given me too good of a story to pass up. I’ve been an official election observer here twice before and each time Arena comes up with a new trick. In 2000 they simply blatantly peered into the voting booths to intimidate voters. In 2009 they had a scam of sneaking a blank ballot out of the voting area which they then filled out for Arena and paid voters to use it, so long as they brought their blank unused ballot back out to them, and around and around the ballots and money would go. In 2009 they also went wholesale with their corruption and bussed 100’s of Nicaraguans and Hondurans to Salvadoran voting stations, all with bogus ID cards, bribe money in their pockets and instructions on how to vote for Arena.

After every election the FMLN learns from these tricks and organises to prevent them in the next election. But every election Arena comes up with new ones. This year they are handing out raffle tickets to the homes of San Rafael Cedros, offering prizes to citizens who vote for “Conchita” the Arena candidate. Supposedly some lucky voters, who votes “right” will win one of three “milking cows”, a plasma TV or a holiday to the 5 star Decameron hotel. Of course after the election there will be no milking cows, TVs or holiday for anyone who was fooled into voting for Arena, but by then it will be too late.

This afternoon over a hundred enraged citizens marched to the San Rafael Cedros, Supreme Electional Tribunal office today, waving the bogus raffle tickets in the air, demanding Arena be reprimanded for attempting to buy votes. The Arena party representative loudly claimed that this was all news to him, that they had nothing to do with the scam and profusely thanked the FMLN for bringing it to their attention. The FMLN mayoralty candidate, none too politiely, but calmly, told the fellow that he certainly f___ing well did know about it. The crowd roared their approval, and then the complaint was duely processed and will be passed up the Election Tribunal complaint ladder.  But the damage is done and we’ll see on the 11th what the result is.

The FMLN candidate is also offering something to the voters of San Rafael Cedros, a promise to get them a much needed ambulance. Perhaps that’s rather mundane compared to winning your own cow, TV or a ritzy holiday, but like the FMLN, it’s a better deal for the people.

Below- FMLN mayoralty candidate Alphonso Portillo with the Arena Party’s win “3 Vacas Lecheras” vote buying raffle tickets.

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