Stuck in the Muddle

Like anyone who pays attention to business and financial news, I am in a state of high economic anxiety. Like everyone of good will, I hoped that President Obama’s Inaugural Address would offer some reassurance, that it would suggest that the new administration has this thing covered.

But it was not to be. I ended Tuesday less confident about the direction of economic policy than I was in the morning.

Just to be clear, there wasn’t anything glaringly wrong with the address — although for those still hoping that Mr. Obama will lead the way to universal health care, it was disappointing that he spoke only of health care’s excessive cost, never once mentioning the plight of the uninsured and underinsured.

Also, one wishes that the speechwriters had come up with something more inspiring than a call for an “era of responsibility” — which, not to put too fine a point on it, was the same thing former President George W. Bush called for eight years ago.

But my real problem with the speech, on matters economic, was its conventionality. In response to an unprecedented economic crisis — or, more accurately, a crisis whose only real precedent is the Great Depression — Mr. Obama did what people in Washington do when they want to sound serious: he spoke, more or less in the abstract, of the need to make hard choices and stand up to special interests.

That’s not enough. In fact, it’s not even right.

Thus, in his speech Mr. Obama attributed the economic crisis in part to “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age” — but I have no idea what he meant. This is, first and foremost, a crisis brought on by a runaway financial industry. And if we failed to rein in that industry, it wasn’t because Americans “collectively” refused to make hard choices; the American public had no idea what was going on, and the people who did know what was going on mostly thought deregulation was a great idea.

Or consider this statement from Mr. Obama: “Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.”

The first part of this passage was almost surely intended as a paraphrase of words that John Maynard Keynes wrote as the world was plunging into the Great Depression — and it was a great relief, after decades of knee-jerk denunciations of government, to hear a new president giving a shout-out to Keynes. “The resources of nature and men’s devices,” Keynes wrote, “are just as fertile and productive as they were. The rate of our progress towards solving the material problems of life is not less rapid. We are as capable as before of affording for everyone a high standard of life. ... But today we have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand.”

But something was lost in translation. Mr. Obama and Keynes both assert that we’re failing to make use of our economic capacity. But Keynes’s insight — that we’re in a “muddle” that needs to be fixed — somehow was replaced with standard we’re-all-at-fault, let’s-get-tough-on-ourselves boilerplate.

Remember, Herbert Hoover didn’t have a problem making unpleasant decisions: he had the courage and toughness to slash spending and raise taxes in the face of the Great Depression. Unfortunately, that just made things worse.

Still, a speech is just a speech. The members of Mr. Obama’s economic team certainly understand the extraordinary nature of the mess we’re in. So the tone of Tuesday’s address may signify nothing about the Obama administration’s future policy.

On the other hand, Mr. Obama is, as his predecessor put it, the decider. And he’s going to have to make some big decisions very soon. In particular, he’s going to have to decide how bold to be in his moves to sustain the financial system, where the outlook has deteriorated so drastically that a surprising number of economists, not all of them especially liberal, now argue that resolving the crisis will require the temporary nationalization of some major banks.

So is Mr. Obama ready for that? Or were the platitudes in his Inaugural Address a sign that he’ll wait for the conventional wisdom to catch up with events? If so, his administration will find itself dangerously behind the curve.

And that’s not a place that we want the new team to be. The economic crisis grows worse, and harder to resolve, with each passing week. If we don’t get drastic action soon, we may find ourselves stuck in the muddle for a very long time.

(The New York Times; el autor es premio Nobel de Economía 2008)

A vigilant press

There's a new president, but for journalists, the job is the same -- hold government accountable.

Few moments in our modern political history have been as eagerly anticipated as today's inauguration. After eight increasingly dispiriting years, the Bush administration at last exits the stage, to be succeeded by Barack Obama and the impressive Cabinet he has assembled. This page supported Obama's candidacy in both the Democratic primary and the general election; it was the first time since 1972 that we endorsed for president, and the first time in this newspaper's history that we supported a Democrat. Obama's victory was therefore welcome news to us, as it was for many millions of Americans.

Today is an occasion for celebration, for basking in the warm fulfillment of a long-deferred promise, as a black man stands before us as our president. In Obama, America has chosen a leader of eloquence and vision, of patience, intelligence and extraordinary capacity.

It is also, however, a moment in which we must pledge vigilance, not unqualified encouragement. Obama offers much promise, but he is confronted with problems of staggering magnitude. He will disappoint some supporters; already, there's grumbling to his left for having retained Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, for the elasticity in his timeline for ending the Iraq war, for his selection of evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver today's invocation, for his refusal to sanction same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Obama has worried some of his more conservative supporters by tapping advocates of protectionism rather than free trade for key administration roles, an area in which Obama sent mixed signals during the campaign.

Governance demands more nuance than politics, and Obama's responsibilities as president, if honestly pursued, will sometimes fall short of his rhetoric as a candidate. We're braced for that, as the nation should be.

But recent history supplies a sobering lesson in what happens when support for a president dulls the skepticism needed to ensure public accountability. In the weeks and months after Sept. 11, 2001, the world rallied behind President Bush, and journalists were among those who sympathized too much. Claims of Iraqi involvement in the attacks and support for Al Qaeda were too readily accepted, as were reports that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction. The result was a war launched on false pretenses, with profound consequences for America's standing in the world and its identity at home. We once were a nation that would have been shocked to learn that the government spied on citizens without warrants, locked up suspects without trial, engaged in torture. But too many of us accepted those compromises of basic American principles as necessary accommodations for going to war.

Journalism was not to blame for those travesties, any more than it was for the administration's callous disregard for hurricane-swept New Orleans. But journalists' responsibilities during any administration of either party remain fixed: We must search out what the government would prefer to keep from the public; we must remind those in power of the pledges that brought them to office; we must encourage debate, not out of cynicism but in the conviction that openness and public discussion produce the most satisfying results in a democratic society.

The Constitution, which Obama today will swear to "preserve, protect and defend," includes only one profession under its guarantees of protection: a free press. It does so not to protect journalists, but in defense of the American people and their right to know their government. As President Obama sets forth in his historic administration, as Americans and people around the world invest their optimism and hope in his success, we pledge to watch him, to hold him to his work, and to report back.

La milagrosa resurrección del PCN

Todavía no sé cómo, pero el PCN resucitó de la muerte, en algún momento de la madrugada del 19 de enero.

Al cierre de los periódicos e incluso a medianoche, cuando me acosté (con la conciencia tranquila de haber asistido al entierro de este viejo conocido), el PCN todavía estaba reducido a cuatro diputados y muchos de sus dirigentes históricos no entraban a la Asamblea.

Algo pasó en las siguientes horas que resucitó al PCN y le devolvió la llave de la gobernabilidad. Cuando amanecimos, nos desayunamos la noticia que PCN era nuevamente tercera fuerza y proveedor de mayoría legislativa.

En Venezuela me regalaron un muñeco inflable de Hugo Chávez que uno puede lanzar o botar de la manera que quiere y siempre termina bien parado. 'El intumbable' lo llaman los venezolanos, o 'el porfiado', que es caraqueño para necio, terco, obstinado. Aquí deberían hacer unos Ciros inflables vestidos de azul y llamarlos 'los inmortales.'

Pero bueno, en última instancia no importa si todos nos equivocamos el domingo en la noche o si hubo negociaciones en la madrugada, ya parece un hecho consumado: Quien quiere gobernar a partir de junio 2009, necesita al PCN. Y también quien quiere ganar las presidenciales. Por esto ni ARENA ni el FMLN cuestionan los números que están resucitando a los diputados del PCN. ¿Quién quiere pelearse con la cocinera (o más bien con la ama de llaves)?

La buena noticia para ARENA: Resulta que sigue intacta la mayoría de derecha, no sólo en la Asamblea (donde ARENA, PDC y PCN suman probablemente 48 votos), sino en el electorado que tiene que elegir presidente en marzo.

El reto estratégico para el FMLN: de ahí a marzo, dividir a la derecha. Por esto vamos a ver aun más intentos de Mauricio Funes y sus amigos de distanciarse ideológicamente del FMLN y de penetrar a sectores empresariales.

El reto estratégico para ARENA: de ahí a marzo, construir una alianza de toda la derecha. Para evitar que se quede sólo con el PCN pero alejando al PDC y a sectores empresariales, ARENA tiene que mostrar en la práctica --quiere decir en la actuación de su partido frente al conteo oficial que inicia hoy (martes) en la noche-- que no es parte de ninguna negociación oscura de salvataje al PCN. Para construir una alianza amplia, ARENA tiene que asegurar que no haya chanchullo ni a favor ni a costa de ninguno de sus potenciales aliados.

Así como están las cosas, el PDC se siente traicionado por la manera como sus diputaciones cambiaron, de la noche a la mañana, a manos del PCN. Y no sólo los pescados, sino todos los que no están de acuerdo que las alianzas, en vez de basarse en principios comunes, se construyan sobre pactos oscuros.

ARENA tiene que aprender una cosa: La alianza que necesita para derrotar al FMLN y a Funes tiene que ser muy amplia. Tendría que incluir a un montón de sectores que no están dispuestos a facilitar la continuidad de los pactos oscuros que han sido base de la 'gobernabilidad' actual.

Certifica.com
(El Diario de Hoy, Observador Electoral)

¿Merece Nicaragua semejante destino?

El viernes de la semana pasada la nación fue testigo, entre estupefacta e indignada, de una de las negociaciones políticas más inmorales y vergonzosas de nuestra historia.

No hay otro calificativo para designar el escandaloso “trueque” convenido entre los dos caudillos: sobreseimiento definitivo para Arnoldo Alemán, pese a la abundancia de pruebas en su contra, tal como lo reconocen en su voto razonado los magistrados orteguistas, a cambio de entregar al caudillo del FSLN el control de la Junta Directiva de la Asamblea Nacional. Afirmar que se trató de una simple “coincidencia” es agregar una dosis de cinismo a la falta de ética.

Existen, además, fundadas sospechas acerca de que el “dando y dando” posiblemente incluya el compromiso, de parte de la cúpula del PLC, de apoyar una reforma parcial de la Constitución Política que suprima la prohibición de la reelección presidencial continua, algo que tanto ambiciona el caudillo del FSLN, que estuvo dispuesto a pagar el enorme costo político que significa la sentencia de sobreseimiento para Arnoldo Alemán.

Y no es creíble el argumento de algunos diputados de la cúpula liberal que afirman que “el trueque” más bien aleja la posibilidad de la reforma constitucional, porque así lo acordó el CEN del PLC (también habían prometido no entregar la directiva de la Asamblea al FSLN), y porque Alemán estaría interesado en postularse como candidato presidencial en 2011, por lo que no le convendría pagar el costo político de la reforma constitucional.

Este argumento nadie se los puede creer, por la tremenda erosión que sufrió la credibilidad de la cúpula liberal con el “trueque”, y el hecho de que si Alemán realmente delira volverse a presentar como candidato, pese a sus antecedentes, entonces más bien le conviene que el candidato contrincante sea Daniel Ortega, a quien se imagina podría derrotar con mayor facilidad por el enorme descrédito que éste viene acumulando como gobernante.

Si las cosas se cumplen de esta manera, en 2011, que está a la vuelta de la esquina, tendríamos un escenario realmente trágico para el pueblo nicaragüense: verse obligado a escoger entre Daniel Ortega y Arnoldo Alemán. Seguramente los dos caudillos, gracias a la reciente reedición del pacto, se las arreglarían para impedir que participe en las elecciones de 2011 otra fuerza política que pudiera representar una alternativa decente para el país.

¿Cómo es posible que habiendo elegido el pueblo 53 diputados, supuestamente democráticos, en las elecciones de 2006, con el 62% de los votos, ese bloque se haya desmoronado por las componendas y disputas políticas, y el FSLN, que logró elegir sólo 38 diputados, tenga ahora el control de la Asamblea Nacional?
Hay que tener presente que 21 diputados del PLC hicieron posible la elección de la nueva Junta Directiva, dominada por el FSLN, a cambio del sobreseimiento definitivo de Arnoldo Alemán, anteponiendo así los intereses personales de su caudillo a los de su propio partido y, ya no digamos, de toda la nación.

Todo esto refleja el total deterioro de la decencia política en que hemos caído. Además, negociar políticamente una sentencia de sobreseimiento representa un estímulo para la corrupción. En el futuro, muchos se sentirán tentados a enriquecerse desmesuradamente desde el poder, sabiendo que en este país las sentencias de nuestro más alto tribunal de justicia son susceptibles de negociación política, aunque se afecten no sólo el erario público, sino también la imagen y el futuro del país.

En conclusión, Arnoldo Alemán dejó de ser reo de graves delitos y rehén de Ortega. Pero ahora es todo el pueblo de Nicaragua el que se convierte en rehén de los mezquinos intereses políticos de los dos caudillos.

Nicaragua no merece semejante destino.

(El Nuevo Diario, Managua; el autor es escritor, historiador y ex-rector de la Universidad Autónoma de Nicaragua)

El tonto útil y los cerebros del poder

Para la gente de mala suerte hay segundos que transforman su vida en una pesadilla.

Una pesadilla tan pesada que te quita las ganas de vivir --si no la puedes olvidar.

Los efectos de unos segundos de horror me han robado todo el sentido de honor y dignidad que tenía.

Hay que despertar, pero no quieres; la vida es demasiado real en sus más negras dimensiones, y prefieres el sueño y la evasión. Es una manera de sobrevivir, no más. Los encantos y alegrías de antes cayeron como estrellas perdidas en el horizonte del tiempo; ahora es el después, vives bajo el signo de la causa perdida de tu vida. Tienes un problema y no lo puedes solucionar; eres el tonto utilizado en una acción de terror y no ves una salida ni para defender la verdad, ni tus valores de lealtad. Eres el eslabón perdido, el testigo clave de un crimen de lesa humanidad cometido por fuerzas oscuras del Ministerio del Interior bajo el mando de Tomás Borge. Un crimen que mató a siete personas, entre ellos tres periodistas internacionales, y que gravemente hirió a una veintena más. A este atentado de La Penca, que transcendió tantas barreras de maldad, el señor Borge lo llamó un “crimen perfecto”.

Déjenme contar:

A fines de abril de 1984 un comandante sandinista me pidió ayudar a un fotógrafo danés con el nombre de Per Anker Hansen para conseguir contactos políticos y periodísticos en San José, Costa Rica. Años después supe que ese comandante era Renán Montero, jefe de la Dirección V del Ministerio del Interior. Eran tiempos de muchas guerras en la región, y Nicaragua vivía bajo la amenaza de una invasión. Yo era periodista, trabajando para la radio, prensa y televisión de Suecia. En aquel momento histórico mis simpatías estaban con la revolución de Nicaragua.

Había vivido el derrocamiento de Allende en Chile y los grises y terribles años de guerras sucias en Argentina, Uruguay y Bolivia en los años 70; por eso me alegraba tanto ver un reverso de la situación aquí en Nicaragua; que el pueblo triunfara en vez de los militares y las dictaduras. Tal vez el jefe de Inteligencia de Nicaragua sabía eso cuando me mandó el supuesto fotógrafo danés allá en San José, Costa Rica. Trabajábamos juntos, filmando mucho a las fuerzas de la Contra por el río San Juan. En esos días Edén Pastora se escondía por razones de seguridad, pero aun así dio una conferencia de prensa en La Penca, en Río San Juan, del lado nicaragüense.

Edén Pastora en esos tiempos era una persona muy controvertida; había abandonado las filas sandinistas para enrolarse con las fuerzas de la Contra, financiadas por la CIA. También para la CIA, Edén Pastora era un personaje dudoso que no ayudaba a cohesionar las tropas de la Contra. Pastora tenía muchos enemigos entonces.

Unos 15 periodistas llegamos en cayucos con motores fuera de borda, como a las seis de la tarde, a este lugar solitario de la selva que era La Penca. La oscuridad cayó cuando los periodistas nos amontonábamos en el piso superior de la choza de madera donde se iba a dar la conferencia.

A las siete y pico de la noche, la conferencia con Pastora empezó en un ambiente muy denso, tanto físico como sicológico. Los periodistas tratábamos de llegar lo más cerca posible a Pastora en este cuarto angosto y desnudo. La casa estaba rodeada de gente armada de la Contra. Un espectáculo exótico.

Tal vez Pastora había contestado unas dos preguntas cuando ocurrieron esos segundos escalofriantes que para todos los presentes transformaron nuestras vidas para siempre. Cuando estalla una bomba, lo primero que sientes es la ola de calor que va quemándote y con su sonido infernal te destruye los tímpanos.

No entiendes nada cuando pierdes la conciencia camino hacia la muerte. Es después, cuando vas despertando, con ese olor de carne y madera quemada mezclado con los llantos de gente muriéndose, es en esos segundos después, que te das cuenta que vives una pesadilla.

Acababa de estallar una bomba en este cuarto pequeño en la selva y no veía a más de un metro; delante de mí, el camarógrafo del Canal 6 de Costa Rica estaba muriéndose, su pierna derecha ya no estaba ligada a su cuerpo y no había manera de parar el desangramiento.

Vi a la periodista Linda Frazier, madre de dos hijos, allí al otro lado del hueco, en el suelo, entrando en la agonía con una luna blanca y fría derramando su luz sobre su barriga desnuda. Se escuchó el intenso dolor de Susan Morgan, la periodista de The Economist, cuando trató de soportar las fracturas de sus piernas y brazos. Vi a mi ayudante, Fernando Peredo, sangrar de los más de 200 charneles que penetraron en su cuerpo. Es el infierno de un matadero de seres humanos.

Y me doy cuenta de una cosa: puede ser el fotógrafo danés mandado del Ministerio del Interior, por el comandante Renán Montero, quien puso esa bomba. Es el único del grupo de periodistas que no está en esa casa de la jungla en el momento de la explosión. Es el único de todo el grupo que sale ileso.

La mayor parte del grupo de periodistas habíamos hecho trabajos a favor de los sandinistas. Habíamos arriesgado nuestras vidas para cubrir eventos que en esos años estaban en el centro de la atención mundial. Yo también lo hice, muchas veces antes de esta catástrofe.

Yo me di cuenta, en esa noche tan negra, que si fue el fotógrafo danés el que puso la bomba, entonces los sandinistas eran los culpables de esa matanza indiscriminada que rompió todas las reglas de convivencia humana. Son mis amigos los que quisieron matarme a mí y a mis colegas. Son los sandinistas los que por primera vez en la historia moderna rompieron el concepto de que una conferencia de prensa es un lugar sagrado, de paz, un forum absolutamente necesario para dar la información sobre el mundo, un escenario indispensable tanto para la derecha como para la izquierda.

Fueron los sandinistas, en este caso, los que el 30 de mayo de 1984 adoptaron métodos fascistas, matando sin discriminación, fuera del teatro de la guerra, a inocentes y simpatizantes. Si fue el danés, entonces fue el Ministerio del Interior de Nicaragua el que adoptó tácticas de terrorismo de Estado, y los responsables de este Ministerio son criminales de guerra.

Para mí, en esos años era imposible pensar así. Había que buscar otra solución que no implicara al danés falso. (En realidad era argentino. Su nombre era Roberto Vital Gaguine, miembro del grupo de Gorriarán Merlo, otro argentino que colaboraba aquí en Nicaragua con Renán Montero y el jefe de la Seguridad del Estado, Lenín Cerna. Pero eso lo supe mucho después de La Penca).

Entonces dediqué unos años para buscar a otra persona que pudiera haber puesto la bomba allí en La Penca. Pero no había otra solución ni otra persona, ni en Miami ni en Honduras o Costa Rica. Era el comando mandado por los sandinistas el que había destrozado tantas vidas en La Penca.

Cuando Daniel Ortega y su comitiva llegó a Suecia a fines de los 80, lo encontré en el castillo de Haga, en Estocolmo. Le pregunté al comandante Ortega qué era lo que él sabía del involucramiento de los sandinistas en La Penca. Él me dijo que nada, pero que lo iba a averiguar. Unos días antes de las elecciones de 1990 lo encontré de nuevo, en Managua. En mi presencia llamó a Lenín Cerna, quien llegó y se sentó a su lado. Me confirmó que había sido una acción sandinista.

-“Sí, teníamos un problemita por allí en el río de San Juan” -dijo. Por razones que desconozco los dos me ofrecieron hacer un documental sobre el atentado.

Había llegado a la confirmación y al principio de la verdad. No llegué a más, porque unos días más tarde los sandinistas perdieron las elecciones y los altos mandos del FSLN ya no dieron ninguna prioridad a un periodista sueco desesperado por su sentido de culpa. En el Ministerio del Interior estaban muy ocupados en destruir los documentos del pasado para la llegada del nuevo poder.

En los años que han transcurrido después de eso, he buscado otras situaciones límite en el mundo para escapar de este sentido de vergüenza y culpabilidad que siento por haber ayudado a un comando sandinista a hacer estallar una bomba, por haber ayudado a este sandinista con mi estatus de periodista a cometer un acto tan cobarde y vil que transciende mi imaginación.

Hace más de un año hice una denuncia en la Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos en Managua. En esta oficina no han hecho nada para investigar el caso. Sólo es un papel que está acumulando polvo, como en una novela de Kafka, en esas oficinas controladas por Omar Cabezas (que era mi amigo en la insurrección y que ha conocido mis dudas sobre La Penca desde cuando nos encontramos en Estocolmo, en el verano de 1984).

Por eso acuso de nuevo a:

Renán Montero --ex jefe de la Inteligencia de Nicaragua, Coronel del Ejército de Cuba, actualmente en retiro-– por crímenes de lesa humanidad, por ser el cerebro detrás de la muerte de siete personas en La Penca y por las heridas graves a otras 22 personas en este acto de terror.

Tomas Borge –-ex ministro del Interior y actual embajador de Nicaragua en Perú-– por haber sancionado y supervisado el trabajo de Renán Montero.

Lenín Cerna –-ex jefe de la Seguridad del Estado-– por la colaboración con Renán Montero y por el ocultamiento de la verdad sobre un crimen de lesa humanidad.

Me pongo a la disposición de la justicia de Nicaragua para que finalmente averigüen la verdad sobre La Penca. Tengo testigos de los hechos que he denunciado en este artículo. No quiero aquí mencionar sus nombres. Que un tribunal o una corte internacional los llame para que testifiquen, sin que ellos sientan temor por sus vidas.

He esperado muchos años para que llegue el momento adecuado para hacer esa denuncia. Pero el momento correcto nunca llega. Siempre hay guerras en el mundo, y situaciones que afectan a Cuba y Nicaragua y que siempre serán utilizadas en la propaganda negra que oculta la verdad. No puedo evitar eso. Mi compromiso es con la verdad y la tengo que decir en vida, antes de morir.

Al final sólo es la verdad la que cuenta.

El autor es periodista sueco. Publicado en El Nuevo Diario, Managua)

Radical in the White House

For one day, for one hour, let us take a bow as a country. Nearly 233 years after our founding, 144 years after the close of our Civil War and 46 years after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, this crazy quilt of immigrants called Americans finally elected a black man, Barack Hussein Obama, as president. Walking back from the inauguration, I saw an African-American street vendor wearing a home-stenciled T-shirt that pretty well captured the moment — and then some. It said: “Mission Accomplished.”

But we cannot let this be the last mold we break, let alone the last big mission we accomplish. Now that we have overcome biography, we need to write some new history — one that will reboot, revive and reinvigorate America. That, for me, was the essence of Obama’s inaugural speech and I hope we — and he — are really up to it.

Indeed, dare I say, I hope Obama really has been palling around all these years with that old Chicago radical Bill Ayers. I hope Obama really is a closet radical.

Not radical left or right, just a radical, because this is a radical moment. It is a moment for radical departures from business as usual in so many areas. We can’t thrive as a country any longer by coasting on our reputation, by postponing solutions to every big problem that might involve some pain and by telling ourselves that dramatic new initiatives — like a gasoline tax, national health care or banking reform — are too hard or “off the table.” So my most fervent hope about President Obama is that he will be as radical as this moment — that he will put everything on the table.

Opportunities for bold initiatives and truly new beginnings are rare in our system — in part because of the sheer inertia and stalemate designed into our Constitution, with its deliberate separation of powers, and in part because of the way lobbying money, a 24-hour news cycle and a permanent presidential campaign all conspire to paralyze big changes.

“The system is built for stalemate,” said Michael J. Sandel, the Harvard University political theorist. “In ordinary times, the energy and dynamism of American life reside in the economy and society, and people view government with suspicion or indifference. But in times of national crisis, Americans look to government to solve fundamental problems that affect them directly. These are the times when presidents can do big things. These moments are rare. But they offer the occasion for the kind of leadership that can recast the political landscape, and redefine the terms of political argument for a generation.”

In the 1930s, the Great Depression enabled Franklin Roosevelt to launch the New Deal and redefine the role of the federal government, he added, while in the 1960s, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and “the moral ferment of the civil rights movement” enabled Lyndon Johnson to enact his Great Society agenda, including Medicare, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

“These presidencies did more than enact new laws and programs,” concluded Sandel. “They rewrote the social contract, and redefined what it means to be a citizen. Obama’s moment, and his presidency, could be that consequential.”

George W. Bush completely squandered his post-9/11 moment to summon the country to a dramatic new rebuilding at home. This has left us in some very deep holes. These holes — and the broad awareness that we are at the bottom of them — is what makes this a radical moment, calling for radical departures from business as usual, led by Washington.

That is why this voter is hoping Obama will swing for the fences. But he also has to remember to run the bases. George Bush swung for some fences, but he often failed at the most basic element of leadership — competent management and follow-through.

President Obama will have to decide just how many fences he can swing for at one time: grand bargains on entitlement and immigration reform? A national health care system? A new clean-energy infrastructure? The nationalization and repair of our banking system? Will it be all or one? Some now and some later? It is too soon to say.

But I do know this: while a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, so too is a great politician, with a natural gift for oratory, a rare knack for bringing people together, and a nation, particularly its youth, ready to be summoned and to serve.

So, in sum, while it is impossible to exaggerate what a radical departure it is from our past that we have inaugurated a black man as president, it is equally impossible to exaggerate how much our future depends on a radical departure from our present. As Obama himself declared from the Capitol steps: “Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.”

We need to get back to work on our country and our planet in wholly new ways. The hour is late, the project couldn’t be harder, the stakes couldn’t be higher, the payoff couldn’t be greater.

(The New York Times)

Questions for Mrs. Clinton

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of state, appears today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Op-Ed page asked 10 experts to pose the questions they would like to hear Senator Clinton answer.

1. United States policy has failed with respect to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The reluctance of any American president to act as an honest broker in the process, rather than as a strong, unquestioning friend of Israel, has contributed to this failure. How do you propose to bring success to the peace process?

2. There is clearly an imbalance of influence and power between the State Department and the Defense Department. An enormous shift of foreign policy influence has also occurred, since the era of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, from the State Department to the National Security Council staff and its head, the national security adviser. How do you propose to bring some of that influence back to the State Department?

— LAWRENCE B. WILKERSON, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005


1. Does it benefit American security to have more liberal democracies in the world? If so, what steps would you take to advance this trend?

2. Do you believe that NATO enlargement has contributed to American security and moved former Soviet states toward greater democracy and regional cooperation?

— MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, the president of Georgia


1. Some say “war on terror” is a misnomer that has led our policy astray. They argue that terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology or a cause, and that a war against it is bound to be ill focused and inconclusive. Do you think we should drop the term “war on terror,” and describe our policy more precisely as a war to defeat Al Qaeda and violent Islamic extremism?

2. In the Middle East, we see a paradox: Countries with pro-American governments like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have populations with high levels of anti-American sentiment. Meanwhile in Iran, whose government is hostile to the United States, public opinion of America is more favorable. How do you explain this, and what can we learn from it? Should the United States disentangle itself from autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt?

3. One of the most damaging legacies of the Iraq war is that it has given idealism and internationalism a bad name. How will you persuade the American people, and the world, that the United States can be a force for democracy and freedom?

— MICHAEL SANDEL, a professor of government at Harvard


1. Tibet may prove to be the most divisive issue between China and the West. There is a real possibility that China and the Obama administration will have friction or even a temporary diplomatic clash over Tibet. How will you treat this possibility? If Barack Obama is inclined to meet with the Dalai Lama, what will be your attitude? Might you or other senior members in the State Department meet with the Dalai Lama or other leaders of the Tibetan exile government?

2. Will you criticize strongly and frequently the status of human rights, religious freedom and public welfare in China? If so, how do you plan to deal with the angry reactions of the Chinese government — and of the Chinese people themselves? Do you think there is any truth to the argument that China is an “authoritarian success”?

— SHI YINHONG, a professor of international relations and the director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing


1. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson appointed William Jennings Bryan secretary of state for solely domestic political reasons. He needed but distrusted him, and thus relied on other advisers to conduct diplomacy. Have you read up on Wilson’s relationship with Bryan, and will it be relevant to your own situation?

2. In the past, you have taken different positions on Iraq. As secretary of state, which of these foreign policy positions are you likely to adopt? Will you be the hawk who voted to authorize the war, or the war critic who referred to reports of progress in Iraq as requiring a “willing suspension of disbelief?”

3. You speak about the 1990s, President Bill Clinton’s era, as a time of peace and prosperity. Yet the ‘90s witnessed a steady trail of anti-American terrorism that emboldened Al Qaeda’s leaders. In the Clinton era, terrorism was generally viewed as a law enforcement problem. Did we really do so well in handling terrorism in the 1990s?

4. Do you think that you have sufficient knowledge of foreign cultures and languages to prepare you to lead America’s relations with the rest of the world?

— FOUAD AJAMI, a professor of Middle East studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and an adjunct research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford


1. The gross human-rights violations and mass displacement of citizens in Darfur has rightly drawn world attention. How would you help end this conflict, which in its governance and environmental challenges reflects similar situations throughout Africa?

2. One key way for Africa to mitigate global warming’s effects is to conserve forests, especially in the Congo Basin. How will the United States support protection of forests as part of its response to climate change?

3. African leadership is seeking closer ties with the East, especially China, which is willing to do business without conditions like respect for human rights. How will the United States address Africans’ willingness to sacrifice some of the most important principles of democracy and good governance?

— WANGARI MAATHAI, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, founder of the Green Belt Movement and goodwill ambassador for the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem


1. The chances of peace between Israel and Gaza seem more remote than ever. Many of the Palestinians in Gaza are impoverished refugees and the overcrowded Gaza Strip has few resources. The two-state solution offers little hope for these people; that is one reason Gaza has historically tended to support radical Palestinian parties like Hamas. How will you make the two-state solution popular among the people of Gaza?

2. Which is worse for the United States, an Iran with nuclear weapons or a military confrontation between the United States and Iran?

3. The Atlantic was the center of world politics in the 20th century. The rise of Asia means that the Pacific is likely to play that role in the 21st, and developing countries in many parts of the world are likely to enjoy rising influence and power. But European countries are still grossly overrepresented on the Security Council and enjoy disproportionate influence in the Group of 8, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. How will you alter American foreign policy, reform international institutions and reconfigure the State Department to adjust to new realities — without damaging relations with our European friends and allies?

— WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, the author of “God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World” and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations

1. During the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations there were clear signs of American solidarity with democratic dissidents in Cuba, both on and off the island. Will the Obama administration maintain its support for these groups and people? Broadcasts by Radio Martí, for example, are trustworthy sources of information for the Cuban people. Will President Obama support these broadcasts?

2. It is possible that after Fidel Castro’s death, the government of Raúl Castro will try to move toward the Chinese model of capitalism within single-party rule. Would the Obama administration go along with this type of transition or would it insist on the establishment of a liberal democracy where human rights and civil liberties would be respected?

— CARLOS A. MONTANER, the author of “Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution”


1. Imagine we see broad demands for truly democratic presidential and parliamentary elections in Russia. Should the United States join in these calls for new elections, despite their destabilizing potential? What should the American reaction be if the opposite scenario takes place, with Vladimir Putin returning as president in a new “election” and further tightening the authoritarian screws? How would we maintain a functional relationship with Moscow without condoning the further strangulation of democracy in Russia?

— CATHY YOUNG, a contributing editor at Reason magazine and the author of “Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood”


1. What concrete steps will you take to rebuild America’s diplomatic strength? What can be done immediately and what can be done over the next three to four years?

2. Foreign policy is not the exclusive purview of the State Department. What role should the State Department play in foreign policy and how will you integrate and coordinate the department’s objectives and activities with those of the Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury Departments, the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies operating overseas?

3. Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program, Iran’s nuclear program and Arab-Israeli peace are at a standstill. How will you revitalize these negotiations and what are your immediate priorities in these areas?

— LEE HAMILTON, vice chairman of the 9/11 commission and president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Tribunal Supremo Electoral en Ferrari

Ah Rodrigo...

Escribo esto mientras espero el discurso de toma de posesión de Obama y me recuerdo de las palabras bochornosas de Rodrigo Ávila durante “la celebración” de Norman Quijano. ¡Que lamentable actuación! Norman habló muy bien, como alguien que entiende cómo ganó, alguien que entiende que gobernará un San Salvador que es más bien de la izquierda y él gobernará desde la derecha. Norman habló de ser humilde en la victoria. Él sabe que su triunfo es fruto de una buena estrategia y de mucho trabajo. Saludó con nombre y apellido a todos los contendientes a la alcaldía.

Luego habló Rodrigo de nuevo, como quien no entiende que la estrella de la noche era Norman, como quien no entiende que está en cámara, como quien no entiende cómo es que Norman ganó San Salvador. Rodrigo habló mentiras declarándose victorioso en San Martín, en Ciudad Delgado, en Chalatenango. En ninguno de estos lugares estaba clara la cosa. Muy pronto para declararse ganador, sobre todo a la hora que estaba hablando. Regresó al discurso de comunistas-terroristas: “¡Les ganamos!” Poca estatura, poco talante de estadista. Hasta malcriado hablando que ya sabían por donde se podían meter las encuestas.

Al parecer no hay nada que hacer, Rodrigo no entiende. No ve que Norman ganó San Salvador a pesar de ARENA, que lo ganó con propuestas. Propuestas que a muchos les parecieron imposibles, pero fue el único candidato que se atrevió a decirnos que un San Salvador distinto es posible.

En lo personal, la victoria de Norman me duele, ya que considero a Violeta una amiga, una persona intachable, con un corazón y una dedicación extraordinarias. Igual le tengo mucho cariño y confío en el profesionalismo de Xochitl Bendeck, quien iba ser una de las nuevas caras en el consejo municipal de Violeta. Pero Norman hizo mejor campaña.

Cuando a Norman le dijeron que los buses no podían funcionar en San Salvador, trajo un Metrobus de Guatemala a dar vueltas por las calles, para mostrar que sí podía ser una solución. Aunque será el Viceministerio de Transporte el que a final de cuentas decida, ellos son los encargados de regular esto. Porque el problema de San Salvador es más grande que San Salvador, habrá que ponerse de acuerdo con el diablito Ruiz y Oscar Ortiz. Si no pensamos en la coherencia del eje Santa Tecla - San Salvador - Soyapango, no podemos solucionar los problemas de la capital.

Cuando Norman habló de bóvedas, entendió que había que solucionar el problema de los barrios, que la construcción de grandes obras para la transformación del paisaje urbano es fundamental para el desarrollo de la ciudad. Todavía hay muchos que lo llaman loco, porque el proyecto es muy caro y muy difícil. Simplemente no entiendo, no lo podré entender, porqué le tienen miedo a las dificultades. Simplemente habrá que tener mayor capacidad para solucionarlas. Ahora, dicho esto, Norman, esto es responsabilidad del Ministerio de Obras Públicas. Lo que me gustará ver es cómo te entiendes con el nuevo gobierno, y espero que la manera en que hablaste en tu celebración sea el tono que mantengas.

Norman fue a los barrios, organizó un excelente sistema de transporte para el día de las elecciones, hizo trabajo en serio, se enfrentó cara a cara con Violeta, se atrevió a desafiar su liderazgo.

Mientras todo esto pasaba, Rodrigo al parecer no estaba prestando atención. La cuestión no es que si las encuestas estaban malas... Bueno, algunas que le daban 14 puntos de ventaja a Violeta, tal vez sí, pero las que daban 8 puntos de ventaja a Violeta probablemente estaban en lo correcto. La victoria de Norman es de las últimas dos semanas, ahí ganó, ahí transformó la elección. Cuando se atrevió a decir: No voten por un partido, voten por un proyecto.

Pero Rodrigo no escuchaba nada. En vez de decir que las encuestas están malas, por favor, mejor debería de enfrentarse a Mauricio y retarlo con propuestas. Pero se dedica a decir que le ganaron a los comunistas-terroristas de Ciudad Delgado... No sé quién cree que somos, así ni a la esquina puede llegar. ¡Que mal discurso, que mal tono! Ah Rodrigo, tocayo, mirá en confianza te lo digo: ¡Así no ganas! Mauricio merece tener reto, necesitamos saber cuál serán tus posturas en los temas difíciles. Mauricio sigue pasando todos los exámenes que le ponen, pero tocayo, vos seguís aplazando todos.

His Way With Words: Cadence and Credibility

Then President Barack Obama stepped to the lectern, surveyed the uncountable crowd, and delivered his Inaugural Address, his clear, insistent, youthful voice that somehow has the lifting quality of an airplane taking off, winging west toward the Lincoln Memorial and across the country.

Seen from the Mall, from bleachers, from a distant seat in a winter tree, he was just another in a long history of tiny humans up there, bustling around against the shoulder-y bulk of the Capitol.

Jumbo screens relayed his image to the crowd -- images rule now, wisdom has it -- and Obama once more had a smooth, cool, minimalist one. But people had come, in a way they haven't come in a while, not just to see him but to hear him, to listen to his words, to compare his speech with the other speeches that have enthralled audiences since his campaign began.

Supporters talk about Barack Obama's speeches as if they were rock concerts. Blew me away . . . I realized I was crying . . . They brag about having been in the hall to hear them the way they might brag about having been at Woodstock when Jimi Hendrix played "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the dawn's early light.

As much as anything else, Obama won the presidency with words. He is an orator, a rare thing in a time when educated people, a lot of them Obama supporters, have been taught to distrust old-fashioned eloquence. They want text they can deconstruct, the verbal equivalent of spreadsheets; they say they want candidates who talk about "the issues."

That's not what they've gotten from Obama. As the presidential race shaped up, Sen. John McCain saw what was happening. He warned Americans against being "deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change." Sen. Hillary Clinton, too: In the process of losing the nomination to Obama, she warned of "talk versus action."

As it happens, Obama can deliver deconstructible text, but in Denver, when he did it, accepting the Democratic nomination with a speech stacked with programs, policies, issues and specifics, he mildly disappointed those who hoped to be enthralled yet again. They didn't want to move into a rational, deliberate future; they wanted to stay with the ancient mojo of one human being talking to a crowd of other human beings.

This is an age of media hipness, when we're virtuosos of data bounced off satellites, when we get weird as wizards, talking on cellphones to electronic ghosts constructed of bandwidths and wavelengths. But Obama has reminded us that none of this modern science has the power of the human animal standing up on two feet and talking -- a sort of ritual shouting, actually, even chanting: oratory, probably not much different than the way it was done by the Old Ones in the forest primeval. We're not used to this. People call it "preternatural."

"The crowd was quiet now, watching me," Barack Obama has written of discovering this power in college. "Somebody started to clap. 'Go on with it, Barack,' somebody else shouted. 'Tell it like it is.' Then the others started in, clapping, cheering, and I knew that I had them, that the connection had been made."

Connect. Yes, we can.

Connect with repetition, cadences, attitude, rises and falls of tone. Yes, we can.

Obama's speech on Super Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2008: "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

This is poetry.

WE are the ONES we've been WAITing for.

It's ancient English metrics: WE are the CHANGE that we SEEK, a chant of dactyls, DA-da-da, DA-da-da, as in Longfellow's "THIS is the FORest primEVal."

Rock it, Obama.

This stuff works. Franklin Roosevelt used iambs (da-DA, da-DA) that could have been lifted from Shakespeare ("To BE or NOT to BE") at the opening of his 1933 inaugural address: "The ONly THING we HAVE to FEAR is FEAR itSELF." (Though the crowd that day ignored the line -- later, newspapers made it the motto of the New Deal.)

Martin Luther King: "I HAVE a DREAM that ONE day DOWN in ALaBAMa . . . "

Analysts of Obama's oratory cite the influence of African American preaching tradition, but the influence is older, rooted like a mangrove in the swamp of the nervous system.

"It's about the tune, not the lyrics, with Obama," says Philip Collins, who wrote speeches for Tony Blair, the former British prime minister. In a BBC report, Collins cites "the way he slides down some words and hits others -- the intonation, the emphasis, the pauses and the silences."

Winston Churchill rocked it in a chant of anapests (da-da-DA): "We shall FIGHT on the BEACHes . . . we shall FIGHT in the FIELDS . . . we shall FIGHT in the HILLS . . . we shall NEVer surRENDer."

He knew about the ancient Greeks controlling and defending against the power of oratory by codifying it with labels you heard once in college and forgot: asyndeton, litotes, epistrophe. For instance, here Churchill is using the technique of anaphora, repeating phrases at the beginning of clauses. Note, too, that in defense of England he uses nothing but Old English words except for "surrender," which comes from the French.

Plato defined rhetoric as "winning the soul through discourse."

Ted Sorensen, who wrote John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, said that great oratory required "speaking from the heart, to the heart, directly, not too complicated, relatively brief sentences, words that are clear to everyone."

Winning souls -- speaking to the heart, not the mind. It is a technology of sorts, a tool that can be used for good or evil, but has no morality in itself. Hitler was eloquent -- strange, though, almost no one can remember anything he said. Eloquence should be listened to with a cool head.

Aristotle said good rhetoric should consist of pathos, logos and ethos -- emotion, argument, and character or credibility. Obama has won souls mostly with pathos and ethos. He hasn't needed logos much because he's usually preaching to the choir, all those shining faces full of hope. In an ugly and dangerous moment in his campaign, however, he used logos to justify the complicated position he had taken on the incendiary racial remarks made by his former, longtime minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It worked for him.

Usually, he is not trying to convince people who disagree with him -- he'll face that chore in the Oval Office. (As former New York governor Mario Cuomo has said: "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.")

Here's an ethos riff from the Wright speech: "I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations."

In his review of "The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric From George Washington to George W. Bush," John McWhorter quotes author Elvin T. Lim: "Presidential rhetoric should articulate programs to citizens in a manner that solicits their support only if its wisdom passes muster."

Wonderful, but America is a democracy. Legend has it that during one of Adlai Stevenson's campaigns against Dwight Eisenhower, a supporter told him that he was sure to "get the vote of every thinking man." Stevenson replied, "Thank you, but I need a majority to win." Hillary Clinton went Lim's route, and lost to Obama, who, McWhorter says, got the majority by electrifying "the electorate with touching autobiography and comfort-food proclamations about hope and unity -- that is, with ethos and pathos."

And there's the charisma factor in his oratory, the quality that powered Kennedy's stunning inaugural speech in the wild winter sunlight that day in 1961: "Pay any price, bear any burden" (alliteration: "pay"/"price," "bear"/"burden"); "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country" (the Greeks called this chiasmus, meaning a reversal of terms -- "country"/"you," "you"/"country").

About a century ago, Max Weber, the sociologist, said charisma defined its bearers as "set apart from ordinary people and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman or at least specifically exceptional powers." Obama has it now. It's impossible to believe it could fade, but it could. After 9/11, George W. Bush seemed to have something like it for a while, speaking from a pile of rubble in New York, striding past troops -- a moment we've mostly forgotten.

With Obama's oratory there is also the factor of cool, which could be a subcategory of charisma. Cool has a history of its own. Renaissance Italians called it "sprezzatura," meaning nonchalance and effortless ease. The Yoruba word for it is "itutu," which literally means cool -- a calm and collected affect. It has universal appeal.

Hence Obama's demeanor at the lectern -- the face lifted as if with a casual curiosity; utterly unneedy, like an aristocrat or a minor god; eyes narrowed with knowing that you know he knows you know. He smothers the last syllables of a word sometimes, casual as a teenager. He drops g's in the rustic manner to be heard in both England and America, though he doesn't drop them as much as Sarah Palin did in her celebrated good ol' girl run for the vice presidency. He shifts accents -- an African American audience will bring a hint of street talk into his voice. It's all hints, nuances, sprezzatura.

He seems at ease with power. Recent presidents have hidden their personal power, their force, during their speeches. Maybe they were afraid of seeming like bullies, of offending political correctness by seeming macho. George H.W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson felt obliged to hide their aggressiveness behind forced smiles. They were men who acted like boys in futile hopes of reassuring their listeners. Obama has the charm of a boy acting like a man -- the magic of the boy king. His smile -- a big one -- is easy.

There is not much to say about Obama's gestures, because gesture has largely vanished from oratory. Aristotle said that only the words should matter, but because of the weakness of men, the tricks of voice and gesture were necessary.

A 19th-century speech manual listed rhetorical gestures: four positions for the feet, nine ways for the hands to show defiance, discrimination and adoration, and so on. Old film footage shows Teddy Roosevelt storming around and waving his fists. Huey "The Kingfish" Long would pound his fist into his hand, then circle his hands over his shoulders as if he were making a speech about helicopters.

Gesture of this sort began to die with film and radio, which brought politicians so close that they didn't need semaphore to reach the back of the crowd. Franklin Roosevelt kept his hands on the lectern during his inaugural address for another reason -- crippled by polio, he used them to hold himself up. At the same time, huge gesticulation came to be linked with such dictatorial crowd-rousers as Hitler and Mussolini.

Except when he points, Obama speaks more in the style of television anchormen, with their rituals of modesty and sincerity -- the raising of hands above the shoulders is almost unthinkable on the nightly news.

Speeches still have gestures, but they're more subtle. Ronald Reagan knew that in televised speeches he needed no more than a savvy eyebrow lift to make a point. Bill Clinton had a concerned frown that claimed he was, well, concerned. Obama has his smile, his thoughtful stare into the distance and his cool grace.

Radio, amplification and film also introduced a conversational tone into speeches. Roosevelt used it in his fireside chats on radio. Cuomo used it to fascinate the 1984 Democratic convention. It seems so sincere, so authentic. But the conversational tone is a trick in itself. Obama uses it to gain intimacy and trust, and to set off, by contrast, his higher-volume calls for belief and support. The sound and sight of a human being calling loudly to us still has force, maybe as much as it ever did.

We might do well to study the architecture of Greek rhetoric, so we know what's happening to us now. Just because eloquence feels good doesn't mean it is good. But that notion was irrelevant to the shining faces looking up at him, the people who had waited so long in the winter weather to be enthralled.

(Washington Post)

No hay ganador, pero sí perdedor

La aplanadora se paró. O más bien, el FMLN no tiene aplanadora. A la hora que cierro esta nota (10 p.m.), ya está claro que no se consumó el gane arrollador que el FMLN estaba anunciando durante meses.

No hay ganador, pero sí perdedor: Se derrotó al excesivo triunfalismo del FMLN y de Mauricio Funes.

El hecho que Norman Quijano, de ARENA, lograra arrebatar al FMLN la alcaldía de la capital, en contra de todo el triunfalismo del FMLN, le ponchó a Mauricio Funes la ilusión sistemáticamente construido de que su triunfo es ya inevitable. Construyeron la percepción de que hay una tendencia al cambio que trabaja exclusivamente a favor del FMLN. Resulta que hay cambio, pero el cambio no tiene partido. El cambio le costó al FMLN la alcaldía de San Salvador...

En la elección de diputados, la carrera era mucho más cerrada de lo que muchos pronosticaron. Es cierto, el Frente gana más diputados, pero queda lejos de la mayoría absoluta que se había puesto de meta. Es más, ni siquiera habrá mayoría legislativa para la alianza azulgrana que el FMLN quería construir con el PCN.

Esto es tal vez el resultado más positivo de esta elección: la derrota del PCN, del partido que vende mayorías. Las principales figuras de este negocio, como Ciro Cruz Zepeda, Rafael Machuca, Francisco Merino y Orlando Arévalo, pueden quedar afuera de la Asamblea si los resultados preliminares se confirman. Lo que queda del PCN ya no será suficiente para conseguirle mayoría a ninguno de los dos partidos mayoritarios.

El FMLN, al anunciar estas elecciones como ensayo para su victoria en la presidenciales en marzo, se metió un autogol. Los ciudadanos no querían figurar en ningún ensayo, sino tomaron las elecciones de enero por lo que son: un ejercicio racional de distribuir el poder, crear equilibrios y consolidar el pluralismo.

A partir de hoy la elección presidencial queda abierta. Olvídense de todas las encuestas, de todas las ventajas grandes del FMLN. No existe tal ventaja. Todo está abierto. La verdadera campaña presidencial comienza mañana.

(El Diario de Hoy, Observador Electoral)