El Salvador: Talking to Both Sides

  • Colin R. Alexander
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Series in Global Public Diplomacy book series (GPD)


El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated of the Central American Republics, advances our understanding of public diplo­macy in the context of China–Taiwan relations. El Salvador exists in an extreme degree of political and ideological disparity, with the center-left Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN) competing against the right-wing Alianza Republica Nacionalista or “ARENA” party in national elections. As a result, each side of El Salvador’s political divide has clearly favored either the China or Taiwan based on their traditional ideological allegiances (Anderson and Anderson, 1986; Lauria-Santiago and Binford, 2004; Wood, 2003). When contrasting this situation with other Central American states, only Nicaragua offers their electorate a similarly broad spec­trum of political options, for in the other countries either the politi­cal right continues to dominate or, in the case of Costa Rica, both main parties now occupy the central ground. This tends to make politics in the other republics an inter-elite competition between lib­erals and conservatives lacking in socialist alternatives. What is more, as a result of the left-wing challenge from the FMLN, the ARENA party remains ideologically entrenched toward the extreme right. This is shown clearly in cables written by H. Douglas Barclay, the US Ambassador to El Salvador (2003–2006), which were published by Wikileaks and reveal the antisocialist sentiment of former president of El Salvador Elias Antonio Saca (2004–2009):

Saca has a visceral dislike for Communism (FMLN, Castro, Chavez), which he blames for having destroyed the country’s infrastructure and overall economy during the war years. Saca is proud to say that he smokes only Padron cigars, made by Miami Cubans, and would never smoke a Cohiba. He also vows never to establish formal relations with Cuba so long as Castro is in power. (Barclay, cited in El Faro, 2011)


Armed Conflict Diplomatic Relation Public Diplomacy Confucius Institute Taiwan Government 
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© Colin R. Alexander 2014

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  • Colin R. Alexander

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