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El Salvador president elect visits Lula da Silva and talks with Obama

Friday, March 20th 2009 - 08:44 UTC
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President-elect Mauricio Funes President-elect Mauricio Funes

El Salvador's President-elect Mauricio Funes will make his first foreign trip to Brazil, officials said after his party of former Marxist rebels triumphed in weekend elections. On Wednesday US President Barack Obama telephoned Mr. Funes to congratulate him on his election.

The former TV reporter overturned almost 20 years of conservative rule in the small Central American nation when he beat Rodrigo Avila of the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) on Sunday.

Funes will meet with Brazilian President Lula da Silva this week, an official from his ex-guerrilla Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) party said on condition of anonymity.

The White House said Obama discussed his desire with President-elect Mauricio Funes for the two countries to work together on the global economic crisis, energy cooperation and security. Obama commended the people of El Salvador for their commitment to democratic elections

Populist leftist leader Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was the first to congratulate Funes on Monday, seeking to “deepen the links of brotherhood between our people and governments”.

But the Salvadoran president-elect has associated himself more closely with moderates like Lula da Silva and has emphasized that he wants to maintain El Salvador's close relationship with Washington.

The election was closely watched by the United States, which backed a repressive military government during the civil war, and where some 2.5 million Salvadorans reside.

The US State Department's top diplomat for Latin America Tom Shannon visited El Salvador this week to meet with Funes and outgoing president Antonio Saca, the US embassy in San Salvador said.

Foreign observers hailed Sunday's peaceful elections in a region where memories of brutal civil wars are still fresh, including El Salvador's 1980-1992 conflict that left more than 70,000 people dead.

Funes was to take office on June 1 for five years faced with tall challenges, including an ailing economy, widespread poverty and one of the world's worst murder rates.

The National Electoral Tribunal on Wednesday officially declared Funes president-elect with 51.32% of the vote, compared with 48.68% for Avila. Participation was 62% of the country's 4.3 million eligible voters, the tribunal said.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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