New El Salvador president vows to fight crime, boost economy
Opposition criticizes lack of specifics
June 1, 1999
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNN) -- A former professor of philosophy on Tuesday became El Salvador's youngest president ever and vowed to tackle the country's two most daunting challenges: economic development and crime.
Francisco Flores, 39, of the rightist Nationalist Republican Alliance, was sworn in as the country's 34th president. Carlos Quintanilla, 52, a lawyer and coffee grower, was sworn in as vice president.
In his inaugural address, Flores pledged to do everything possible to develop the economy.
"The foremost and most urgent requirement of our government is to promote jobs," he said. "We must encourage all enterprises and businesses to create employment as the only alternative to neglect and poverty."
Flores also pledged that his administration would fight "with all our energy" the crime wave that has spread across the country since the end of its civil war in 1992.
El Salvador's murder rate is 12 times that of New York and people are being killed at a greater rate now than during the civil war. There were 582 murders reported in the first three months of this year in the country of six million people.
Flores won by a landslide in March elections over six other candidates, becoming the third straight member of his party, known as ARENA, to hold the presidency.
Some 3,000 special guests attended the swearing-in in San Salvador, including six other Central American presidents, Prince Felipe of Spain and Prince Albert of Monaco.
Opposition politicians, while calling the tone of Flores' address "hopeful," criticized what they considered a lack of concrete commitments to achieve the goals the new president set out.
"The country needs more deed, more action, fewer words," said Facundo Guardado, who was the presidential candidate of the guerrilla group-turned-political movement Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). "That's what we expect beginning tomorrow."
Guardado also scored Flores' failure to make reducing corruption a priority, saying that "you can't fight crime if you don't fight corruption and impunity."
Social Christian leader Ruben Zamora also found fault with the inaugural speech, rejecting it as "pretty words and very few concrete proposals."
Following his inauguration, Flores swore in a Cabinet made up of businessmen, technocrats who were educated abroad and ARENA loyalists.
El Salvador still has a frail economy, the result of the civil war between leftist guerrillas and a succession of U.S.-supported rightist governments backed by the military.
Human rights groups estimate more than 75,000 people were killed in the conflict from October 1979 until January 1992, when peace was established through the mediation of the United Nations.
During the conflict, the United States poured billions of dollars in military and other aid into the country to keep it from falling into the hands of the guerrillas. The conflict largely dismantled a system of government that favored powerful, wealthy landowners and kept the majority of the population in dire poverty.
Even so, living standards remain low for most people, jobs are scarce and crime is widespread. The average salary for a middle-class worker is the equivalent of $150 a month.
Elections in El Salvador
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