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Cristiani, Alfredo (1947–)

Cristiani, Alfredo (1947–)

Alfredo Cristiani was president of El Salvador from 1989 to 1994. Born on November 22, 1947, the scion of a family of coffee planters, he graduated from Georgetown University and was elected president during El Salvador's civil war (1979–1992). Before his nomination as candidate for the presidency, he was a businessman with little political experience. Although his party, the National Republican Alliance (ARENA), was founded by Roberto d'Abuisson, a cashiered army officer with alleged links to death squads, and represented the most conservative elements in Salvadoran society, Cristiani conveyed a moderate image. With his election ARENA won the presidency for the first time.

In November 1989 Cristiani had to face the first major crisis of his presidency, a guerrilla offensive that reached San Salvador. During the struggle for the capital, six well-known Jesuit priests were brutally murdered. The prosecution of the crime was seen as a test of the commitment of his administration to control the excess of the army. Two army officers were eventually convicted of the crime, but disagreements remained as to whether the investigation had uncovered the full extent of army involvement. Although the case was officially closed in 1993, in 2000 the university where the priests had worked pressed charges against Cristiani for his involvement in the incident.

The main priority of the Cristiani administration was to bring the civil war to a negotiated end. The negotiations between the government and the guerrillas, sponsored by the United Nations, culminated with a cease-fire agreement signed 16 January 1992 by Cristiani and the leaders of the guerrilla forces in Mexico City. His administration advocated free-market economic policies. Despite criticisms of the way in which his administration implemented the peace accords, when Cristiani's term ended in 1994, opinion polls ranked him as the most popular politician in El Salvador, thanks in part to the pacification of the country and a healthy rate of economic growth. After withdrawing from political life, he opened a brokerage firm. In 1996 a rebel group known as the Popular Revolutionary Life made an unsuccessful assassination attempt by planting a bomb outside his office.

See alsoEl Salvador, Political Parties: National Republican Alliance (ARENA) .


As of 2007 there is no full biography. A profile was published in the New York Times, 21 March 1989. An excellent source for this period of Salvadoran history is the documents section of the journal Estudios Centroamericanos.

Didion, Joan. Salvador. London: Granta Books, 2006.

From Duarte to Cristiani: Where Is El Salvador Headed? Hearing before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, 101st Congress, First Session, Thursday, July 13, 1989. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1989.

González, Luis Armando. "Perspectivas del nuevo gobierno: El legado de Cristiani y Calderón Sol." Estudios Centroamericanos 54 (May-June 1999): 607-608.

                                           HÉctor Lindo-Fuentes

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