Declaring "this is not the time for revenge!", and addressing supporters waving red flags and chanting "Yes, he could!", Mauricio Funes led a party of former communist revolutionaries to success in El Salvador's bitterly fought presidential election.
The charismatic former TV chat-show host declared a narrow victory at a rally in San Salvador early yesterday. His win, for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), ended 20 years of conservative rule. To the consternation of the US, it will sweep yet another left-wing government to power in Central America.
"The time has come for the excluded," Mr Funes told a crowd of roaring fans. "The opportunity has arrived for genuine democrats, for men and women who believe in social justice and solidarity... I want to be the real president of the real reconstruction of the country, which starts with the reconstruction of people."
Mr Funes rode to power on a wave of dissatisfaction with the Arena party, which has seen the economy grow during its two decades in power yet has done little to address social inequality and a growing crime problem. El Salvador has rampant rural poverty and one of the world's highest murder rates.
Although he was highly critical of big business during the campaign – and portrayed as an unreconstructed communist by his opponent, Rodrigo Avila – Mr Funes used his first formal interview since becoming President-elect to strike a conciliatory tone. "Nothing traumatising is going to happen here," he said on television. "There will be no confiscations. We will not reverse any privatisations. We will not jeopardise private property. There is no reason at this moment for fear."
His victory, with roughly 51 per cent of the vote, marked the culmination of a long struggle for the FMLN, which was formed as a Marxist guerrilla organisation and fought a bloody civil war against El Salvador's governing military junta throughout the 1980s.