By Dialogo March 31, 2009 The President-elect of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, debuted in the international arena with praise for “changes” in the United States and warned that it will not allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to put “a finger” into the politics of El Salvador. The first leftist President elected in El Salvador, and candidate of the former guerrilla Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Funes joined outgoing President Antonio Saca at a meeting of the leaders of Central America with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is the main contact between the government of Democrat Barack Obama and the isthmus. “Changes now come not only from the south, but also come from the north,” Funes said in a press conference with the host leader, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, to praise Washington for its talks with its Latin American neighbors and for listening to their demands. Funes said that even though they are keeping good relations with Chavez, they will not allow “Venezuela to put so much as a finger into the domestic politics of El Salvador.” He said he wants to have good relations with Venezuela, as well as Bolivia and Nicaragua – governments allied with Chavez – and also with Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, which have moderate leftist Presidents. However, Funes noted that the differences between the left and right do not account for the complexity of today’s society. “People always ask me if I’m on the light left, the vegetarian left, or on the radical left, the carnivores,” said the President-elect, making journalists laugh. “The change we are offering is to improve the quality of life for Salvadorans, and this is not about ideology,” he added. Funes said that he wants to have good relations with Washington when, on June 1, he succeeds Saca, a close ally of former U.S. President George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism” who maintained troops to support the U.S. intervention in Iraq until early this year. Before entering politics Funes was a television journalist, and was elected as candidate of a party of former leftist guerrillas who criticized “Yankee imperialism.” However, Funes congratulated Obama for his “historic” victory, and three days after the election he sent to San Salvador their official responsible for diplomacy with Latin America, Thomas Shannon, who held a private meeting with the President-elect. El Salvador also wants Obama to undertake a comprehensive immigration reform, or at least to extend the temporary statute that permits about 230,000 Salvadorans to live in the United States. Funes, who is married to a Brazilian, also visited Brazil after the election and had a private meeting with President Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva, who is also a friend of his.