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Politics of El Salvador

Government El Salvador is a democratic republic governed by a president and an 84-member unicameral Legislative Assembly. The president is elected by universal suffrage and serves for a 5-year term by absolute majority vote. A second round runoff is required in the event that no candidate receives more than 50% of the first round vote. Members of the assembly, also elected by universal suffrage, serve for 3-year terms. The country has an independent judiciary and Supreme Court.

The most recent presidential election, in March 1999, was free and fair, but voter turnout was low (39%). ARENA presidential candidate Francisco Guillermo Flores Perez faced Facundo Guardado of the CC party and won with 52% of the votes. Since Flores received just over 50% of the votes, a runoff was not required. Francisco Guillermo Flores Perez of the ARENA party began his 5-year term as president in June 1999, and cannot succeed himself. In the March 2000 legislative races, FMLN won 31 seats in the Legislative Assembly, the ARENA won 29, the National Conciliation Party (PCN) 14, the PDC five, and the Coalition Democratic United Center (CDU) and National Action Party (PAN) winning 3 and 2 seats, respectively.

Although the FMLN is now the majority seat holder in the Legislative Assembly in El Salvador, ARENA's 31 seats and the PCN's 14 seats guarantee the rightwing block a bare majority (43 out of 84) in the Legislative Assembly. A post-electoral controversy over the Fifth District in La Libertad, which the PDC claimed to have won, was ultimately decided in favor of the PCN. The FMLN retained the capital city of San Salvador as incumbent Hector Silva was re-elected. Unfortunately voter turnout was low. Only 35% of eligible voters cast ballots.

Political Parties
ARENA is El Salvador's leading political party. It was created in 1982 by Roberto D'Aubuisson and other ultra-rightists, including some members of the military. His electoral fortunes were diminished by credible reports that he was involved in organized political violence. Following the 1984 presidential election, ARENA began reaching out to more moderate individuals and groups, particularly in the private sector. By 1989, ARENA had attracted the support of business groups, and Alfredo Cristiani won the presidency. Despite sincere efforts at reform, Duarte's PDC administration had failed to either end the insurgency or improve the economy. Allegations of corruption, poor relations with the private sector, and historically low prices for the nation's main agricultural exports also contributed to ARENA victories in the 1988 legislative and 1989 presidential elections. The 1989-94 Cristiani administration's successes in achieving a peace agreement to end the civil war and in improving the nation's economy helped ARENA, led by standard-bearer Calderon Sol, keep both the presidency and a working majority in the Legislative Assembly in the 1994 elections. ARENA's legislative position was weakened in the 1997 elections, but it recovered its strength, helped by divisions in the opposition, in time for another victory in the 1999 presidential race that brought President Flores to office.

In the March 2000 legislative and municipal elections, ARENA won 29 seats in the Legislative Assembly and 127 mayoral races. In December 1992, the FMLN became a political party, composed of the political factions of the wartime guerrilla movement, and maintained a united front during the 1994 electoral campaign. The FMLN also came in second in the legislative assembly races. Internal political differences, however, among the FMLN's constituent parties led to the breakaway of two of the FMLN's original five factions after the 1994 elections. Despite the defections, the FMLN was able to consolidate its remaining factions and present itself as a viable option to ARENA in the 1997 elections. Divisions between "orthodox" and "reformist" wings of the FMLN crippled the party in the 1999 elections. In the March 2000 legislative and municipal elections, FMLN received 31 seats on the Legislative Assembly, which is three more than rival party ARENA. FMLN also won 77 mayorships and won 10 municipalities in coalition with other parties. The right wing of the National Conciliation Party (PCN), which ruled the country in alliance with the military from the 1960s until 1979, maintains a small electoral base, and gained 10 seats in the March 2000 legislative election. Several smaller parties have in recent years fought for space in the political center with limited success. The PDC, which won more municipal elections in 1994 than did the FMLN, is now down to five seats in the Legislative Assembly and is no longer a significant electoral force.

Compliance With the Peace Accords
While most aspects of the accords have been largely implemented, important components such as judicial reform remain incomplete. The peace process set up under the Chapultepec Accords was monitored by the United Nations from 1991 until June 1997 when it closed its special monitoring mission in El Salvador.

Human Rights
During the 12-year civil war, human rights violations by both left- and right-wing forces were rampant. The accords established a Truth Commission under UN auspices to investigate the most serious cases. The commission reported its findings in 1993. It recommended that those identified as human rights violators be removed from all government and military posts, as well as recommending judicial reforms. Thereafter, the Legislative Assembly granted amnesty for political crimes committed during the war. Among those freed as a result were the ESAF officers convicted in the November 1989 Jesuit murders and the FMLN ex-combatants held for the 1991 murders of two U.S. servicemen. The peace accords also required the establishment of the Ad Hoc Commission to evaluate the human rights record of the ESAF officer corps.

In 1993, the last of the 103 officers identified by this commission as responsible for human rights violations were retired, and the UN observer mission declared the government in compliance with the Ad Hoc Commission recommendations. Also in 1993, the Government of El Salvador and the UN established the Joint Group to investigate whether illegal, armed, politically motivated groups continued to exist after the signing of the peace accords. The group reported its findings in 1994 stating that death squads were no longer active but that violence was still being used to obtain political ends. The group recommended a special National Civilian Police (PNC) unit be created to investigate political and organized crime and that further reforms be made in the judicial system. Not all the group's recommendations were implemented. The peace accords provided for the establishment of a Human Rights Ombudsman's Office.

Military Reform
In accordance with the peace agreements, the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances. Demobilization of Salvadoran military forces generally proceeded on schedule throughout the process. The Treasury Police and National Guard were abolished, and military intelligence functions were transferred to civilian control. By 1993--9 months ahead of schedule--the military had cut personnel from a wartime high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF strength stood at less than 15,000, including uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, consisting of personnel in the army, navy, and air force. A purge of military officers accused of human rights abuses and corruption was completed in 1993 in compliance with the Ad Hoc Commission's recommendations.

National Civilian Police
The new civilian police force, created to replace the discredited public security forces, deployed its first officers in March 1993, and was present throughout the country by the end of 1994. As of 1999, the PNC had over 18,000 officers. The United States, through the Department of Justice's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), has led international support for the PNC and the National Public Security Academy (ANSP), providing more than $30 million in nonlethal equipment and training since 1992. The Justice Department's ICITAP program plans to spend $1.5 million on assistance to the PNC in 2000. The ICITAP mission is to help the ANSP and the PNC to develop more experience in police techniques and procedures and assist with the development of an efficient operation and administration.

The PNC faces many challenges in building a completely new police force. With common crime rising dramatically since the end of the war, over 500 PNC officers had been killed in the line of duty by late 1998. PNC officers also have arrested a number of their own in connection with various high-profile crimes, and a "purification" process to weed out unfit personnel from throughout for force was undertaken late in 2000. U.S. assistance--about $1.2 million--is critical in helping start innovative community policing programs that attack the gang problem head-on, training criminal investigators and improving the training of police supervisors.

Judiciary
Both the Truth Commission and the Joint Group identified weaknesses in the judiciary and recommended solutions, the most dramatic being the replacement of all the magistrates on the Supreme Court. This recommendation was fulfilled in 1994 when an entirely new court was elected. The process of replacing incompetent judges in the lower courts, and of strengthening the attorney general's and public defender's offices, has moved more slowly. The government continues to work in all of these areas with the help of international donors, including the United States. Action on peace-accord driven constitutional reforms designed to improve the administration of justice was largely completed in 1996 with legislative approval of several amendments and the revision of the Criminal Procedure Code--with broad political consensus.

Land Transfers
More than 35,000 eligible beneficiaries from among the former guerrillas and soldiers who fought the war received land under the Peace Accord-mandated land transfer program which ended in January 1997. The majority of them also have received agricultural credits. The international community, the Salvadoran Government, the former rebels, and the various financial institutions involved in the process continue to work closely together to deal with follow-on issues resulting from the program.

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of El Salvador
conventional short form: El Salvador
local long form: Republica de El Salvador
local short form: El Salvador

Data code: ES

Government type: republic

Capital: San Salvador

Administrative divisions: 14 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Ahuachapan, Cabanas, Chalatenango, Cuscatlan, La Libertad, La Paz, La Union, Morazan, San Miguel, San Salvador, Santa Ana, San Vicente, Sonsonate, Usulutan

Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

Constitution: 23 December 1983

Legal system: based on civil and Roman law, with traces of common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
note: Legislative Assembly passed landmark judicial reforms in 1996

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Francisco FLORES Perez (since 1 June 1999); Vice President Carlos QUINTANILLA Schmidt (since 1 June 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Francisco FLORES Perez (since 1 June 1999); Vice President Carlos QUINTANILLA Schmidt (since 1 June 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for five-year terms; election last held 7 March 1999 (next to be held NA March 2004)
election results: Francisco FLORES Perez elected president; percent of vote - Francisco FLORES (ARENA) 52%, Facundo GUARDADO (FMLN) 29%, Ruben ZAMORA (CDU) 7.5%, other (no individual above 3%) 11.5%

Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (84 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve three-year terms)
elections: last held 16 March 1997 (next to be held 12 March 2000)
election results: percent of vote by party - ARENA 35.4%, FMLN 34.3%, PCN 8.1%, PDC 7.9%, CD 3.8%, PRSC 3.4%, PLD 3.2%, MU 2.1%, PD 1.0%, other 0.8%; seats by party - ARENA 28, FMLN 27, PCN 9, PDC 8, PRSC 3, CD 2, PLD 2, MU 1, PD 1, independent 3

Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Corte Suprema), judges are selected by the Legislative Assembly

Political parties and leaders: Christian Democratic Party or PDC [Rene AGUILUZ, secretary general]; Democratic Convergence or CD [Ruben ZAMORA, secretary general]; Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front or FMLN [Jose Fabio CASTILLO]; Liberal Democratic Party or PLD [Kirio Waldo SALGADO, president]; National Conciliation Party or PCN [Ciro CRUZ Zepeda, secretary general]; National Republican Alliance or ARENA [Walter ARAUJO]; Popular Labor Party or PPL [Ernesto VILANOVA, secretary general]; Social Christian Union or USC [Abraham RODRIGUEZ, president]; Social Democratic Party or PD [Jorge MELENDEZ and Juan MEDRANO]; United Democratic Center or CDU [Ruben ZAMORA], bloc includes CD and PD formed by merger of Christian Social Renewal Party or PRSC, National Solidarity Movement or MSN, and the Unity Movement or MU

Political pressure groups and leaders:
labor organizations: Association of Agricultural Producers or APROAS; Electrical Industry Union of El Salvador or SIES; Federation of the Construction Industry, Similar Transport and other activities, or FESINCONTRANS; National Confederation of Salvadoran Workers or CNTS; National Union of Salvadoran Workers or UNTS; Port Industry Union of El Salvador or SIPES; Salvadoran Workers Central or CTS; Workers Union of Electrical Corporation or STCEL
business organizations: National Association of Small Enterprise or ANEP; Salvadoran Assembly Industry Association or ASIC; Salvadoran Industrial Association or ASI

International organization participation: BCIE, CACM, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), MINURSO, NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and blue with the national coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms features a round emblem encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN LA AMERICA CENTRAL; similar to the flag of Nicaragua, which has a different coat of arms centered in the white band - it features a triangle encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE NICARAGUA on top and AMERICA CENTRAL on the bottom; also similar to the flag of Honduras, which has five blue stars arranged in an X pattern centered in the white band

See also : El Salvador



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