Marxist Rebel Leader Becomes El Salvador President
Leftist Mauricio Funes of El Salvador's former Marxist rebel FMLN party has won the country's presidential election.
He defeated his conservative rival, the Arena party's Rodrigo Avila, who has admitted defeat, the BBC reported Monday. Arena had won every presidential election since the end of El Salvador's civil war 18 years ago.
Addressing jubilant supporters, Funes said it was the happiest day of his life and the beginning of a new chapter of peace for the country.
Branded by his opponents as a puppet of Venezuala's President Hugo Chavez, Funes vowed to respect all Salvadorian democratic institutions.
"This is the happiest night of my life, and I want it to be the night of El Salvador's greatest hope," said Funes.
His FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) party was founded by Marxist guerrilla fighters from the civil war.
The conflict ended in a UN-sponsored peace accord in 1991, after the loss of some 70 000 lives over less than two decades.
Funes, a former television journalist, marks a break of tradition for the party as he is the first of its leaders not to have been a combatant in that war.
He stressed his moderate policies during his campaign and says he intends to maintain good relations with the United States.
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