El Salvador. The former guerrilla front and now the political party FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional) were shaken during the year by internal contradictions between “innovators” and “orthodox”. The new leader Facundo Guardado sought support from the middle class and entrepreneurs and was accused of betraying the party’s ideology and of being an opportunist. The party leadership defended an open debate ahead of the forthcoming elections in 1999. After a lengthy and infected debate, Guardado was finally appointed FMLN presidential candidate in the 1999 election with María Marta Valladares, known as Commander Nidia Díaz during the Civil War, as vice presidential candidate.
At the ruling party ARENA’s (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista) congress in March, 38-year-old economist Francisco Flores was named presidential candidate for the 1999 election.
According to Countryaah, the capital of El Salvador is San Salvador. French France Telecom won the bidding during the year when the Salvadoran telecom company CTE-ANTEL was privatized. The French bought 51% of the company in competition with i.e. Swedish Telia.
The violent forest and grass fires that ravaged Central America also hit El Salvador and reached its peak in May-June. The fires occurred as a result of the most severe drought in 70 years in combination with the weather phenomenon of El Niño.
In June, four police officers convicted of 1980 murders were released on four American women, including three nuns. Police later testified again and said they had acted on orders from senior commanders. The testimonies were reinforced by earlier secret documents from the US Department of Foreign Affairs that have now been released.
Like neighboring countries, El Salvador was hit hard by Hurricane Mitch’s progress during October – November. At least 200 people were killed and 30,000 lost their homes. The worst was the country’s eastern parts of San Miguel.
Peace agreement and democratization
The negotiations were led by UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. As Latin Americans (Peruvians), he gave them full priority and a comprehensive agreement was signed on New Year’s Eve 1991 in New York, the day before he left.
Settle with the past
El Salvador’s peace treaty is one of the first to combine classic elements such as ceasefire and disarmament with political and institutional reforms aimed at the causes of the war, including a so-called truth commission to investigate “gross acts of violence” to surrender these cases to “the judiciary’s exemplary treatment.” This is how a judicial settlement would help to build democracy. In addition, all elements were linked together in a rolling schedule to gradually build up the necessary trust on both sides. Finally, everything was to be monitored by a UN mission called ONUSAL.
The parties’ military forces were concentrated in agreed zones of the country. According to the agreements, the government army was to be halved and transformed, the separate combat units the US had supported the construction of should be disbanded. The FMLN was to be wounded as a guerrilla army and transformed into a political party. All irregular forces (including the ORD) should be banned and the old, semi-federal police forces disbanded. A new National Civilian Police (PNC) was to be established from the ranks of demobilized combatants. An so-called ad hoc commission was commissioned to review the rolls of the entire officer corps and dismiss anyone who had been guilty of serious misconduct.
Five days before the Truth Commission published its report in March 1993, ARENA ‘s majority in the National Assembly trumped up a comprehensive amnesty law that also included those responsible for the worst massacres of the war. With the exception of the officers who were dismissed by President Alfredo Cristiani on the recommendation of the ad hoc commission, the war settlement ceased. The law was appealed, but the appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court. Only in 2016, when most of the justice system was replaced by natural resignation, did the Supreme Court decide, in line with a 2012 ruling in the Inter-American Court, that the El Salvador Amnesty could not include crimes against humanity.
Despite blocking the reform of the judiciary that the Supreme Court stood for many years after the war, the country experienced a marked improvement in the political climate. The National Assembly was able to carry out reforms that ensured the establishment of a new police and human rights representative. With the legalization of FMLN’s radio stations and general liberalization, the country also gained a much broader and freer media landscape. During the 1990s, the economy also grew well with annual rates of five to six percent.
FMLN growth and ARENA dominance
The election of president and national assembly in February 1994 – called the “election of the century” since the two elections that run at five and three year intervals respectively when collapsed – was met with great excitement. The FMLN made a relatively good choice and received more than a quarter of the seats in the National Assembly. In the presidential election, the FMLN entered into an alliance with, among others, the Social Democrats in the MNR and the wing of the Christian Democrats who had gone against Duarte and into the FDR in 1982. However, Alliance candidate Rubén Zamora lost in the second round to ARENA’s Armando Calderón Sol.
The following year, the FMLN was split into two wings as the more reform-oriented sections of the guerrilla alliance emerged and formed a new Social Democratic Party, Partido Demócrata (PD). Here Joaquín Villalobos was the leader in the settlement with the old cadres of FPL, who in turn retained the organizational apparatus. As is so often the case in Central America with its strong clientelist party ties, PD failed to compete against the two major elections that followed and remained a small party with the Christian Democrats and the old military party PCN.
Increasing dissatisfaction with ARENA and Calderón’s neoliberal economic reforms ahead of the 1997 parliamentary elections thus led to progress primarily for the FMLN. Among other things, the party won the mayor’s appointment in the capital, San Salvador. However, the election success resulted in renewed controversy over the party’s direction between the “innovators” and the Orthodox. When the Orthodox candidate Facundo Guardado became presidential candidate, ARENA was able to recapture a slight victory (52 versus 29 percent) in 1999 with Francisco Guillermo Flores Pérez as candidate.