Who is Mauricio Funes?
Mauricio Funes is a Salvadoran politician who served as president of his country, as a member of the left-wing socialist ‘FarabundoMartí National Liberation Front’ (FMLN) party. In school he studied communications with a focus on the audio visual aspect, but left university before earning his degree when his eldest brother became a victim of the Salvadoran Civil War. After leaving school, Funes began his career as a popular television reporter and personality, and reported on political events for several Spanish language channels broadcast both in El Salvador and internationally. During this time he developed his left leaning philosophies and began to use his position as a television reporter to criticize the actions of the right-wing political party in power. Despite harsh censorship and other opposition, he continued to rise in popularity for his vocal support of the working class. He ran for president and defeated the right wing incumbent, peacefully taking control of the government in a political system usually well known for violent exchanges of power. During his presidency Funes established policies that brought about social and economic reform in many ways, including public health care and a reduced crime rate. However, he had difficulty enacting his plans in a divided legislature, and ended his term amid strong accusations of corruption and deceit
Childhood & Early Life
Mauricio Funes was born October 18, 1959, in El Salvador. He was educated in Jesuit grade school before going on to study communications at the ‘Jesuit Universidad Centroamericana de José SimeónCañas’ (UCA). His Jesuit Catholic upbringing and leftist professors during his education set an early foundation for his political philosophies.
In August of 1980, Funes' older brother was killed by police in a student protest turned violent. This tragedy prompted him to leave his studies at university before completing his degree.
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After leaving his university education, Funes did not immediately choose a political party or become involved in his country's ongoing civil war, despite his leftists leanings. Instead he began teaching literature classes for Catholic schools, with an emphasis on the audio-visual aspects of communication.
In 1986, Funes began his television journalism career with a spot as a reporter on the state education channel. Shortly thereafter he moved to ‘Channel 12’, an independently owned network known for its news coverage. During his time as a reporter for ‘Channel 12’ he interviewed many important Salvadoran political figures and became known for his support of leftist and working class interests.
In 1991, Funes worked with his sociology professor from his university days, a leftist activist named Francis Miguel Hasbún, to develop an audiovisual center and radio station at the UCA. During this time he reported for ‘Channel 12’ and was also a prominent Spanish language correspondent for the ‘Cable News Network’, and continued to rise in popularity as something of a leftist celebrity.
Although Funes' leftist coverage of Salvadoran politics made him popular with the people, he made many enemies in the right wing ‘National Republican Alliance’ (ARENA), which held power at the time. He was censored heavily and even received death threats.
In 2005, he was fired from his position with ‘Channel 12’, along with several other journalists. He continued to make journalistic television appearances on other channels, and his popularity expanded.
In 2007, Funes used his popularity as a leftist activist and reporter to become the presidential candidate with the ‘FarabundoMartí National Liberation Front’ (FMLN), a political party that had started life as a rebel group of Marxist guerrillas. He became their first non-guerrilla candidate in over 25 years.
During his long electoral campaign, Funes fought against the incumbent ARENA party and promised social justice for the working class. He built his platform on economic reform, universal health care, better access to housing and education, and policies to reduce gang violence and crime.
He was elected on March 15, 2009 with 51.3 percent of the vote. His swearing in marked the third time in his country's history that power had shifted peacefully from one governing party to its opposition.
Despite claims during his electoral campaign that he was neither Marxist nor socialist, one of his first acts in office was to sanction $600 million dollar for a plan, aimed at assisting poor Salvadorans, which involved massive social reform policies. He also reestablished relations with Cuba after 50 years of silence.
Funes ran a conciliatory administration that sought to acknowledge and make amends for the human rights violation committed during the Salvadoran Civil War, which claimed his own brother's life. He also worked during his term to reduce the homicide rate in his country, oversee health care reform, and maintain good business relations with other countries, especially the US.
Despite early progress, in 2012 his political party lost its plurality in the 84-seat legislature, which effectively removed his ability to enact or enforce his policies. The crime rate and poverty in El Salvador continued to drive its native inhabitants to flee the country, and he ended his five year term among accusations of corruption and a constitutional case against him.
In his first year of presidency, Funes was called upon to respond to the devastations caused by the torrential rains of ‘Hurricane Ida’ in 2009, as well as earthquakes and volcanoes in the area.
His administration's efforts included public school rehabilitation and temporary lodgings in which refugees took shelter for over three months while entire communities were rebuilt or relocated.
Awards & Achievements
The ‘Columbia University’ conferred upon him the ‘Maria Moors Cabot’ prize in 1994. The award was recognition for his efforts to promote and empower the press.
Personal Life & Legacy
His wife is Wanda Pignato, who was once involved with the ‘Worker's Party’ in Brazil. His oldest son Alejandro Funes Velasco was killed in Paris while studying photography, at the age of 27.
This famous politician himself cites his years as a reporter to be instrumental in developing his left leaning philosophies. During that time he interviewed many political leaders, including those of the party he would later go on to be a part of.