El Salvador in central America has a brutal past. It was a reactionary, feudal state up to the 1970s where 14 wealthy families, all with close ties to the US, owned virtually everything - land, and all the state apparatus of power.
The workers and peasants laboured in desperate conditions of widespread poverty, little health care or education and few rights. Massive inequalities in all areas of life led to an inevitable upsurge in demands for change.
As a protest movement began to grow in the mid-'70s, inspired by Cuba and the struggle of the Sandinistas in neighbouring Nicaragua, the Salvadorean state responded with massive repression in an attempt to annihilate the movement.
The death squad became the first solution of the state to any kind of opposition. The people reacted with thousands joining the Farabundo Marti Front of National Liberation (FMLN) guerilla organisation with the aim of bringing about revolutionary change.
Additional inspiration came from the 1979 triumph of the Sandinista revolution and the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.
Within months El Salvador became a patchwork of areas controlled by the armed forces and state and liberated zones controlled by the FMLN.
The civil war lasted from 1980-92, resulting in 75,000 civilians and combatants being killed and nearly 2 million - of a population of just 6m - became internal or external refugees. US governments under Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr saw El Salvador's murderous regime backed to the hilt to stop a further spread of revolution in the region.
Peace negotiations brought the civil war to an end - without the hoped for military victory for the left - but the FMLN gained the space to organise freely and stand for elections at local, national and presidential levels.
The right, however, continued to hold power through the National Republican Alliance Party (Arena) and used all the levers available to keep the FMLN out of power. Finally in 2009 the FMLN candidate for the presidency, Mauricio Funes, was elected.
Funes, a former TV journalist who quit the media to join the FMLN, is not an old style Marxist commandante battle-hardened in the civil war, several of whom stood for election previously and lost.
He has set a moderate, broadly social democratic course echoing the policies and attitudes of Luiz Lula/Dilma Roussef in Brazil rather than those of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
The 2009 military coup in neighbouring Honduras was a warning to Funes and the FMLN - the right in El Salvador openly sympathised with the coup.
Furthermore there are great tensions within the FMLN, between those seeking more fundamental and much swifter social and economic change and those supporting the current line. The one thing they all agree on is that it is far better that the FMLN stays in power being part of the progressive tide making sweeping changes across the whole of Latin America than languishing in opposition to the neoliberal, oligarchic Arena.
But what has the new government achieved?
As William Hernandez, FMLN representative to the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), reported, "We have provided 1,300,000 school children with two pairs of free shoes, a school uniform and a set of school supplies."
There has been funding for local agriculture, free health care at local clinics and free hospital care has been introduced, and a pilot project funded to tackle the growing problem of chronic kidney disease.
Relations have been normalised with Cuba, Venezuela and other progressive governments in Latin America, allowing international "fair trade" projects to go ahead including cheap "Chavez petrol" at designated service stations in FMLN-controlled municipalities.
The new government has not formally joined Alba - the Cuba-Venezuela led Latin American co-operation alliance - but has welcomed its support for rural communities in the shape of cheap loans and technical support to promote food sovereignty.
Legislation has been adopted limiting the stranglehold of the wealthy families on the import and sale of medicines - bringing an immediate massive reduction in the price paid by individuals and the country's public health services.
A formal apology has been issued for the human rights abuses of the civil war.
What about the difficulties and disappointments?
For those hoping for revolutionary change in El Salvador the pace of development is too slow, change is superficial with too many concessions to the right.
The March 2012 elections for parliament and local councils saw a "mid-term" setback for the FMLN with small losses in terms of seats and councils.
However, the overall share of the vote was still very close between the two largest parties, with Arena's share at 39.8 per cent and FMLN at 36.8 respectively. National political power lies with the presidency, so this has not led to a change of government.
The FMLN statement post-electoral statement said: "Our friends, allies, supporters and the Salvadorean people in general, we express our readiness to continue together in this process of change that the country has embarked upon. We now begin the search for a new national agreement with the Salvadorean people, so as to achieve a further victory in the upcoming Presidential elections of 2014. The struggle continues!"
El Salvador is now part of the progressive Latin America - but the future has to be argued over and struggled for.
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