| SAN SALVADOR, March 12
SAN SALVADOR, March 12 El Salvador's top
military commander said on Wednesday the armed forces would not
intervene in the disputed presidential election between a former
leftist guerrilla leader and his right-wing rival, who has asked
for the result to be annulled.
Norman Quijano of the right-wing Nationalist Republican
Alliance (Arena) came second in Sunday's vote, narrowly trailing
the ruling leftist party candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who
was known as Commander Leonel Gonzalez during the country's
12-year civil war.
Quijano has asked the country's election tribunal, which has
called the outcome "irreversible," to annul the result, claiming
widespread fraud and threatening to take his complaint to the
Supreme Court if necessary.
"They know very well we've defeated them," Quijano told his
supporters on Sunday. "Our armed forces are keeping an eye on
this fraud. They can't play with the desires of the people, nor
can they upend the foundations of our democracy. They can't
steal the legitimate triumph from my nation."
But on Wednesday, Defense Minister General David Munguia
ruled out the prospect of military intervention, saying the army
would abide by the result, irrespective of the winner.
"We promise to wholeheartedly respect the sovereign decision
of El Salvador, expressed in the polling booths," Munguia said.
"In no way, at least on behalf of the armed forces, is a coup
being plotted or any other conspiracy."
Quijano later sought to distance himself from his previous
comments, saying he never meant to imply the army was planning
an overthrow and was simply referring to the military's role in
monitoring voting centers.
"Arena is not an anarchical party. Arena is not a party
prone to violence," he said at a press conference. "We don't
support any act of violence."
Sanchez Ceren, of the ruling Farabundo Marti National
Liberation Front, has said he expects he could be declared
winner by Thursday, which would make him the first leftist
ex-rebel leader to become president.
The war claimed 75,000 lives and left the country deeply
divided after leftist insurgents battled a string of U.S.-backed
right-wing governments between 1980 and 1992.
Sanchez Ceren has promised to make a "national pact" with
conservative parties and business owners and to establish a
Quijano has argued Sanchez Ceren would steer the country to
the far left and bow to the influence of socialist Venezuela.
(Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Simon Gardner and