Ex-guerrilla sworn in as El Salvador president

EL SALVADOR-INAUGURATION-SANCHEZ CEREN

Salvador Sanchez Ceren smiles during his inauguration ceremony in San Salvador, El Salvador on June 1, 2014.

Salvador Sanchez Ceren smiles during his inauguration ceremony in San Salvador, El Salvador on June 1, 2014.
Salvador Sanchez Ceren smiles during his inauguration ceremony in San Salvador, El Salvador on June 1, 2014.

Former guerrilla commander Salvador Sanchez Ceren was sworn in Sunday as president of El Salvador with the pressing tasks of dealing with violent gangs, a struggling economy and endemic poverty.

Sanchez Ceren, 69, promised to govern “with honesty, austerity, efficiency and transparency.”

“After long years of fighting for justice and democracy in my country, I receive the presidential sash with humility and profound respect, with a commitment to exercise the presidency for all Salvadorans,” he said.

A former teacher, Sanchez Ceren belonged to the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front and rose to become one of the guerrilla group’s top commanders, under the nom de guerre Leonel Gonzalez, during the country’s bloody 1979-1992 civil war.

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He was elected president on March 9, defeating the conservative ARENA party candidate Norman Quijano by less than a quarter of a percentage point.

In doing so, he became the fourth former leftist guerrilla to be elected president in Latin America after Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Jose Mujica in Uruguay, and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil.

Sanchez Ceren succeeded Mauricio Funes, a former journalist whose FMLN government in 2009 ended two decades of conservative rule, mostly under ARENA. Sanchez Ceren was Funes’s vice president.

He inherits a country beset by violent gangs, and poverty affecting 40 percent of the population of the tiny but populous Central American country.