At first glance the presidential elections in Costa Rica and El Salvador on 2 February produced contrasting fortunes for the Left. In El Salvador it will take something very special from the right-wing opposition Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Arena) to prevent the left-wing Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) from securing the presidency. The FMLN’s candidate Salvador Sánchez Cerén came excep- tionally close to winning the 50% of the vote required to win in the first round and is in a commanding position heading into the March run-off against his Arena rival Norman Quijano. In Costa Rica, the electorate denied the left-winger, José María Villalta, a berth in a two-way run-off in April, but a late surge of support propelled Luis Guillermo Solís of the left- leaning Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC) into the second round.

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