The Foreign Service Journal, September 2012

ference had been preceded by a warm private meeting that included his key foreign and economic policy advisers. Ironically, that meeting followed the president-elect’s meeting with the Cuban delegation, one of several from leftist countries. Though the an- nouncement that the two countries would establish full diplomatic rela- tions made a big splash, I saw the in- coming government’s lovefest with the U.S. delegation as the more significant story. Fidel Castro certainly noticed that, for he published an op-ed column chastising Funes for having publicly recognized Sec. Clinton during the in- auguration ceremony. A Stable Transition Pres. Saca publicly congratulated Funes on election night, and then worked closely with him to ensure a smooth transition. He took the blame within ARENA for a losing strategy be- fore parting ways with the party. ARENA standard-bearer Rodrigo Avila also conceded defeat graciously and returned to private life. The Salvadoran media covered the campaign thoroughly and aggressively, in an atmosphere of complete press freedom. Voters were enthusiastic, peaceful and respectful of the process, and the TSE proved itself up to the task of administering a free and fair election, even if some rules could be tweaked— for example, absentee balloting. Throughout the first three years of his term, President Funes has been a strong defender of democracy, open- ness and pragmatism. But two years from now, he is expected to hand over power peacefully and constitutionally to his successor— just as Pres. Saca did on that memorable day in June 2009. Given El Salvador’s violent history, that outcome could not previously have been taken for granted. The timely resolution of the recent consti- tutional clash will help ensure a clear path to a second smooth transition in 2014. 46 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 2