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Victoria Group to Monitor Salvadoran Presidential Election PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Thursday, 04 March 2004 15:29

CommonBorders: VICTORIA ? A group of 13 British Columbians is travelling to El Salvador to help monitor the fairness of that country?s crucial presidential election o­n March 21, the non-partisan group CommonBorders announced today. CommonBorders is a Victoria-based registered society with five years of experience in monitoring and observing elections in several Latin American countries. Delegation members are volunteers who are donating their time and paying their own way to help guarantee that elections are held fairly and in accordance with both electoral laws of the host countries and international standards.

CommonBorders delegations are invited by human rights and electoral organizations in the host countries. In El Salvador, the host is the Centre for Exchange and Solidarity (Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad, or CIS), a non-governmental organization that promotes the development of civil society and democracy.

The delegation for the Salvadoran election includes 10 observers from Victoria, two from Duncan and o­ne from Vancouver. They have undergone training programs here and will leave Canada March 13. Upon arrival in El Salvador, the group will meet with representatives of human rights organizations, government officials and community groups who will provide further orientation o­n Salvadoran society, electoral law and current conditions.

Delegates will be posted at various urban and rural electoral stations where they will observe how the election is carried out and report o­n circumstances which might violate principles of free and fair voting. Their observations will be included in a report to the host country?s electoral authorities and/or non-governmental organizations. A more comprehensive report is prepared after the return to Canada and is made public.

"Our role is not to intervene but to observe and report o­n El Salvador?s electoral process and its progress toward a fair, just and peaceful society," said Linda Shout, o­ne of four co-ordinators with the CommonBorders group. "We are not experts o­n democratic processes or institutions but are participating as learners as El Salvador works toward strengthening its vital political institutions."

CommonBorders delegates previously observed state elections in Nayarit, Mexico in 1999, and national elections in Guatemala (1999), Mexico (2000), Peru (2001) and the municipal and legislative elections in El Salvador (2003).

For more background o­n CommonBorders, or to look at the last electoral report, check out www.commonborders.org. Additional backgrounders are attached.

For further information contact: Linda Shout at (250) 370-9879, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Biographies of the CommonBorders Delegation

Co-ordinators:

Roberto Alberto emigrated from El Salvador in 1984 during the violent civil war. He is a graduate of the University of Victoria (Biochemistry and Microbiology) and currently works in the Biology department at UVic in a genetics lab. Roberto has worked and volunteered as a settlement counsellor at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre, as past-president of UVic?s Latin American Association and as current president of the Hispanic American Cultural Association of Victoria. He was part of last year?s delegation to El Salvador for the municipal elections.

Jessica Asch is a graduate of the political science department at the University of Victoria. She has worked with numerous social justice groups in Victoria including the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group and the Victoria International Development Education Association. Jessica has travelled extensively in Latin America and was an observer with CommonBorders in Mexico.

Theresa Boullard has served o­n previous CommonBorders delegations to Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador. She is a former Human Rights Officer with the BC Human Rights Commission and is now a Human Rights consultant with Ardent Consulting Canada. Theresa has also worked with a number of community groups including the BC Human Rights Defenders and Project Literacy.

Linda Shout recently completed her BA in the Women?s Studies program at the University of Victoria. She has volunteered with CommonBorders for five years and has observed elections in Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador with earlier delegations. She is currently an employee of the BC provincial government.

Delegates:

Alison Acker is a retired university professor, local social justice activist and member of the "Raging Grannies." She has travelled extensively in Latin America, volunteered as a human rights accompanier and worked for years with the El Salvador-Canada Solidarity Network.

Melanie Circle is a painter/printmaker and ESL tutor in the Cowichan Valley. She has worked for the University of Guadalajara in Mexico in the area of professional development for high school teachers, and for many years travelled and studied in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Spain. She still believes in voting!

Peter Golden is a Victoria lawyer specializing in immigration law. He has also worked with CommonBorders, joining the first CommonBorders delegation to the Mexican state of Nayarit in 1999.

Kathy Coster teaches ESL to beginners at the Intercultural Society in Duncan, participates in various women?s circles and sings in the Getting Higher Choir in Victoria. Since 1996, she has spent many months in Mexico travelling but mainly learning Spanish, tutoring English and learning to make pottery. She has lived with Mexican families in both cities and small villages, and spent two years in Europe where she learned to speak French fairly fluently. She has also travelled to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in the Pacific. From 1972 to 1999 she owned and operated the Volume o­ne Bookstore in Duncan.

Rob Fleming has been a member of Victoria City Council since 1999. He is currently a research analyst for a consulting firm. Rob has previously worked for the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology. Prior to municipal politics, Rob worked as a labour union organizer and was employed as a metal worker. He was also involved with the student movement from 1994-99 at the University of Victoria and with the Canadian Federation of Students in BC and nationally. In 1998, he was an observer at the refoundation congress of the national Chilean student organization, CONFECH.

Christine Furberg is the First Vice-president of the BC Ferry and Marine Workers? Union, Local 9. She has strong interest in labour activism and has travelled extensively.

Kevin Gillese is currently trial counsel in a native land claims dispute (representing the Provincial Court); the trial is in its third year. He has been a journalist, teacher and human rights adjudicator, and as a trial and appeal counsel has appeared at every level of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada. As an observer, Kevin has worked in Argentina (1985), Mexico (2000), and as a journalist in India?s 1977-78 turmoil. He has a sister born in El Salvador and adopted into his family in 1978 during a period of intense hostilities that resulted in Project Sanctuary.

Sonya Ignatieff worked for a number of years in Ottawa as a non-partisan researcher in the fields of agriculture, northern resource management and environmental sustainability at Parliament. Since retirement, she has been a social and environmental activist in Ottawa and, as of 2001, in Victoria. Sonya is interested in the democratic process and what makes it tick. While this will be her first visit to Latin America, she has followed the part played by globalization in the economics and politics of the region, and looks forward to the "on the ground" experience.

Ken Orchard retired from teaching in 2002 after 17 years in education. Seven of those were as a technical trainer in Zimbabwe, five were with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre and five with School District 61, teaching a career preparation course in electronics. Before that he worked as an electrician in sawmills, refineries and mines, as well as working o­n the longshore, in pulp mills and o­n construction. He is a lay counsellor who enjoys kayaking and camping. Ken is heavily involved with folk music, hosting a show o­n radio station CFUV, presenting house concerts and he is a member of the Getting Higher Choir. He is active in local politics, and men?s and senior?s groups. He has travelled to over 40 countries but has not been to Central America for 40 years.

Background: El Salvador?s Presidential Election

On March 21, 2004, the people of El Salvador will go to the polls to elect their nation?s President and Vice-President for the next five years. The Centre for Exchange and Solidarity (Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad, or CIS), an experienced Salvadoran non-governmental organization that promotes the development of civil society and democracy, has invited CommonBorders to send a delegation of electoral observers for this important election. More than 200 international observers from Canada, the U.S., Great Britain, Spain and Japan will be going to El Salvador to monitor the election.

These elections take place within a new and developing political context in El Salvador. The March 2003 legislative and municipal elections changed the political landscape as, for the first time in history, the left-wing Faribundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) moved from being the main opposition party to securing a marginal majority of seats in the legislative assembly. The right-wing Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA) party, which had ruled El Salvador since 1989, became the second-largest party. Although the FMLN possesses a small majority in the legislative assembly, movement toward adopting more moderate social and economic policies has been slowed by coalition voting amongst the conservative parties in the assembly.

Prior to the 2003 elections, numerous obstacles to citizen participation in the elections were identified. In particular, electoral reforms agreed to following the signing of El Salvador?s Peace Accords had not been implemented. Many of these concerns remain valid for the 2004 presidential election. In addition, international observers at the previous elections noted many instances of undue voter influence and even intimidation and violence in the period leading up to election day. Numerous irregularities were noted o­n election day itself, and concerns regarding the transparency and accuracy of the process remain serious. For detailed information, please see the CIS Final Report o­n the Municipal and Legislative Elections o­n the CIS website at www.cis-elsalvador.org and the CommonBorders Final Report at www.commonborders.org.

As a result of these o­ngoing conditions of uncertainty, civil society and grassroots non-government organizations in El Salvador are calling for an international presence in support of free, fair, and transparent elections.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 March 2004 15:29
 

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