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El Salvador's Values Voters

Evangelicals discount portrayal as leftist voting bloc.
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Were El Salvador's evangelicals responsible for putting into power a party once considered a terrorist organization? News reports said evangelical Protestants, who compose one-third of the country's population of seven million, were behind the March 15 presidential election of Mauricio Funes. His FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) was the leftist guerrilla movement of the country's 1980s civil war and has been reborn as a peaceful Social Democratic party.

But reports of evangelicals' support were overblown, said Javier Osorio, a Baptist pastor and El Salvador director of Christ for the City International. Osorio said his congregants divided their votes between left- and right-wing parties, as did other church bodies in the nation's evangelical alliance. Endorsing candidates from the pulpit would not violate Salvadoran laws, but most local churches stay out of politics. "Within the church, we're to glorify the Lord," said Osorio.

Funes's platform—that churches' moral strength was the key to solving El Salvador's rampant problems with gangs, violence, and unemployment—may have been compelling, but observers stressed that evangelicals did not vote as a bloc.

"It's a lot more complicated than that," said Danny Carroll, a Denver Seminary professor and adjunct professor at the Central American Theological Seminary in Guatemala City. Corruption in the current right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance is believed to have moved many to support the FMLN. "I don't think evangelicals anywhere have a consistent political theology," said Carroll. "They're just looking for a change."



Related Elsewhere:

The Christian Science Monitor also wrote about the elections in El Salvador.

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