Artículos en Inglés
Jorge Velado – President of COENA
Translated by Cristina Interiano
What has been Jorge Velado’s course before politics?
Since I was young I have been involved in various activities, for example, I was member of the 20-30 Club when the first telethons were starting. I even came to be president of my Club. That happened several years ago.
I had an active participation in various labor representations as well: five years in El Salvador’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry board, five years as president of the Association of Advertisers, National Council of Publicity. I have participated in boards such as the one in the Sherpa Club. That is to say, I have vastly enjoyed serving my country. I participated as FUNTER’s director for about eight years. And there has always been a need to do more aside from a professional career.
How did he become involved with ARENA?
I always helped the party during the electoral periods, in the campaigns, taking care of voting stations, and organization of this type, until 2004 when I became professionally involved within the party. I held that post for about five years, and after that in 2009 there is an opening in the National Executive Council (COENA), where I accompany president Alfredo Cristiani as the party’s Vice-President of Ideology and now, as of a month ago, I hold COENA’s Presidency.
Given your recent nomination as president of COENA, what challenges do you consider to have ahead?
The first objective that I personally have as the party’s president is to win the next elections on the 2nd of March. However, at the same time, there are other institutional objectives for the country and internally within the party. Regarding the institutional part towards the country, we recently approved the plural councils, which is something that was being worked on. However those of us in ARENA also want to participate in making this country more institutional every time, for example, depoliticizing some institutions.
¿Will you keep working in your current job?
I must tell you that right now, as president of the party, I’ve had to take a difficult decision which is that I leave Excel Automotriz at the end of March to dedicate a hundred percent of my time to the party. The company has given me a sabbatical, so to speak, however the idea is to return. I do not want to make a political career. Honestly, I want to go back to the professional life because I do believe that the time demand in the party will be huge at this moment. And then it will be truly difficult serving two masters, right?
Regarding Francisco Laínez’s recent departure from the party, is it not the first time a member quits, claiming to disagree with the course of ARENA? What is the party’s course?
Well, Pancho has granted the party and the country a large amount of time and work. I respect his decision. I do not support what he said and the reasons he gave to why he was abandoning the party or quitting the party. I do not support them because I don’t think I agree with him in that. But I do respect them. I wish him the best of luck. I think that on the other hand, some people have wanted to magnify this and say, “Ah, Arena is being destroyed,” but the party is not being destroyed. In fact, he left, but a great amount of people also joined the party. They may not have the knowledge and experience that Pancho had, but they are people who are willing to work.
Is there room for new ideas and new waves of thoughts within the institution?
Yes, and perhaps the best way to demonstrate that opening is presenting concrete facts. There is, for example, the Ethics Tribunal, which was an internal idea from the party. In the end the ones who did the proposal of how it should take shape was a group of young people. I believe none of them was older than 30 or 32 years of age. A group of young people who perhaps was thinking, ‘How can I participate in politics?’ and at some point we told them, “Look, we would like to have a tribunal of honor, how can you help us?” And surprisingly, in a matter of two weeks, that group of people had already conducted investigations regarding how ethic tribunals work in political parties, companies, and institutions around the world, and one of their proposals began take shape.
¿Who rules in ARENA?
This is actually a funny question because it has two heads. I’ll explain it in the following way. This is a matter of roles. In Arena, a good thing is that we don’t have a vertical organization anymore. That verticalism which was an old way of administrating companies or government, has changed favoring a circular format, in which each team has its role. And when everyone does their job right this allows a structure, in this case a political party, to its corresponding tasks well. Therefore, there are three very different roles here: one role is played by the Ethics Tribunal, another role is the Political Commission, and there is an executive role which is of COENA, which is managed by the party’s president.
When people ask, who rules? Who makes the decisions? I answer: “each and every one of them, out of these three instances make their decisions”. What needs to be respected is that they do not step on each other.
Should parties, being political entities, be accountable for the donations received?
I think that the political parties have to be accountable, first to its political militancy. I am convinced regarding transparency, I think that when one is transparent, one generates confidence. Therefore, when a party is transparent with its militancy and shows how funds are being managed and what they are being invested on, it is very important.
And why its militancy?
Well, because they are precisely the ones who generate income for the party but also the ones who generate work for the party. Now, what I do believe a party must make transparent are other concerns, such as the party’s organizational work. The public must know who administers and who manages a party, this is not exclusive to the party’s leadership but also various instances, like in our case, people have to know. The people also have to know how a political party administers its internal work, such as elections, or those type of things, I believe they should know. There are also topics that are somewhat private, in the sense that probably someone does not want the amount of their donation to become public knowledge. However, if in this country, for example, there is a law against money laundering, which forces companies to report when a person buys something in cash as an attempt to launder the money. It is possible that political parties could say, “Look, when I receive a donation bigger than x amount of money, the law forces me to report it so it is known that it is not laundered”. Those of us in Arena would never accept that a launderer or a drug trafficker donated funds. And at the moment we are willing to present the information that the State requires to make sure that the funds are clean.
What is your opinion on absentee ballots or foreign votes? What will be ARENA’s approach to all Salvadorans living abroad? Will the votes for financing be given?
For me, excellent. In fact, in Arena we have been promoters of allowing the absentee ballot or voting abroad. We are totally convinced that it is good that our distant brothers who live abroad vote as well. And we have a strong argument, aside from it being a basic Salvadoran right, the Salvadoran citizens living abroad generate a little more than 3 thousand millions of dollars yearly through remittances. Therefore, they have greater reasons for being interested in what will happen in the politics of this country.
Yes, I think mistakes have been made during the process.
Well, for example, in order for people to vote abroad, they need an ID. A foreign ID because if they have an ID from El Salvador, they have to come vote in El Salvador. But when reviewed through the RNPN how many people have their ID we find the number is very low. And let’s remind ourselves that there is a deadline to close the electoral roll. So, what will happen?
How sad would it be that after all the effort that has been made, let’s say that around 7 thousand or 10 thousand IDs were made abroad and that only around 10 thousand people will vote, and that only in the United States there are around 2 million Salvadorans living there. But let’s suppose that there are one million Salvadorans and that out of that million, half are adults, that is to say 500 thousand. Well the logical thing to do would be that 500 thousand people would have ID and those 500 people would vote over there. But we will make a vote just for that. And I’m talking about the United States because up to what we understand now, the majority of the voting population abroad is in the United States, possibly Canada, and later will reach other countries.
Moving on to the topic of the elections. Why choose René Portillo Cuadra as the candidate for vice-presidency of the country, if, compared to other possible candidates, he has a limited political experience?
I love Dr. René Portillo Cuadra profile for various reasons. First the politics, any person can say that Arena has taken a person who does not have a direct link to political participation but he has had contact with El Salvador’s politics. Because he is a person who is, if we want to see it from a positive point of view, uncontaminated of political partisanship, but somehow affected by the country’s politics.
Therefore he has a very good mixture. When we surveyed and asked the people what profile they would want in a candidate for vice-presidency, not necessarily from Arena, but in general, many people said, “I would like to see someone who is not too involved in a party’s politics”. That is positive, but what I like the most about Dr. Portillo Cuadra is not that, but that I see a person (I already had the chance of conversing with in several occasions, in fact, we will be on a television program together) with organized thoughts. I see someone who is engaged with his country. I see a clean person, who likes transparency, who works according to the country’s institutions, who is convinced of democracy, and oversees projects such as the party-depoliticization of some institutions of the State.
How strong is the threat you see in Tony Saca?
In a political race, one cannot underestimate any adversary. However, we see Mr. Saca as someone who already had his chance. And unfortunately, his management was neither transparent nor effective. We can see the number of projects he left incomplete.
On the other hand, I think Salvadorans have also realized that this country cannot handle political campaigns where we will be tearing one’s clothes and attacking each other. And even though he has been quite prudent concerning direct attacks, he has had a very direct participation in bribing congress members and, at some point, mayors, who, thank God (they were the only two mayors who at some point could have joined the project he had created, which later became known as GANA), returned to the party. But we have infinite evidence from our people pointing out that it was he who in many cases has called our mayors and deputies. Therefore, he has been using dirty work.
When do you plan on leaving COENA? politics? What legacy would you like to leave, or how would you want Jorge Velado to be remembered?
Well, I would like to leave two things: one, a party which is much more institutional and much more democratic. Definitely that, and we will work on it. And the other thing is leaving a new ARENA government for El Salvador.
If at this moment you would have all the young citizens of El Salvador in front of you, what would you say?
That they have a great responsibility towards their country, that they have the obligation to participate in politics, even if it’s not through a political party.
Jorge Velado: Lover of his country
ARENA: Democracy’s last bastion
Salvador Sánchez Cerén: Vice-president of the Republic
René Portillo Cuadra: Future Vice-president of the Republic
Tony Saca: Corruption
Hugo Chávez: Corruption
Youth: This country’s present
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