Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vanda Pignato, El Salvador's First Lady

As Mauricio Funes enters his 18th day as the first-ever leftist president of El Salvador, Funes' wife, Vanda Guiomar Pignato, continues to quietly shape her role as the first lady. Vanda, a native Brazilian and current Salvadoran citizen, had an incredible influence over her husband's presidential campaign and will no doubt have a strong influence over his presidency.

Vanda grew up in Sao Paulo and, while attending law school, joined the international movement in solidarity with the FMLN during the Salvadoran Civil War. Vanda's strong interest in politics led her to join Brazil's Workers' Party, the political party of current Brazilian President Lula da Silva. One year after the signing of the Peace Accords, Vanda moved to El Salvador in the early 1990s to represent the Workers' Party in Central America. She later became the director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at the Brazilian Embassy in San Salvador. On Inauguration Day, Funes named his wife the Minister of Social Inclusion.

Funes has often remarked that he hopes to model his government after that of Lula da Silva's. Vanda will likely have a hand in making this possible, given her friendship with Lula and her years of experience with the Workers' Party. Either way, Vanda will certainly be a strong political force guiding the future of El Salvador.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

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