National Republican Alliance (ARENA)

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National Republican Alliance (ARENA)

National Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacional—ARENA) is a conservative political party in El Salvador. Founded in September 1981, chiefly by former army officer Major Roberto d'Aubuisson, who was reputed to have links to right-wing death squads, ARENA champions private property and opposes land reform. Although founded to preserve the power of the ruling obligarchy, it has proved popular with a wide spectrum of the Salvadoran people. The first test of ARENA's popular appeal was the March 1982 election of members of a constituent assembly. Although its chief opponent, the Christian Democratic Party, won more seats in the assembly, ARENA, which was second in the balloting, was able to create a majority by forming coalitions with other conservative parties. D'Aubuisson was elected speaker of the assembly and prevented from becoming provisional president only by pressure from the United States, which feared his extremist views.

D'Aubuisson resigned as speaker in December 1983 to become ARENA's candidate in the March 1984 presidential election. In the first round of the multiparty election, Christian Democrat José Napoleón Duarte and d'Aubuisson came in first and second; Duarte won the May runoff by 54 percent to 46 percent. In 1988 d'Aubuisson stepped down as party head and was replaced by Alfredo Cristiani, a wealthy coffee grower and industrialist. D'Aubuisson, however, continued to be regarded as the spiritual leader of ARENA until his death in 1992.

Profiting from public dissatisfaction with the handling of the civil war against leftist rebels and the country's economic collapse, ARENA gained exactly half the seats in the sixty-member national assembly elected in March 1988 and was able to dominate the assembly with the aid of its conservative allies. Cristiani ran as the party's candidate for president in March 1989 and won on the first ballot with 53.9 percent of the vote. The ARENA government appeared to have a close working relationship with the military.

The prestige of Cristiani was increased by the success of peace talks with the leftist rebels in December 1991 and the termination of the civil war. In the presidential elections of March 1994, ARENA ran San Salvador mayor Ernesto Calderón Sol, who won almost 50 percent on the first ballot and easily won election in the runoff. The party continued to dominate the national assembly. Despite competition from the FMLN, ARENA won the 1999 and 2004 presidential elections. In 2006, ARENA won 39.4 percent of the popular vote in the legislative elections.

See alsoCristiani, Alfredo; d'Aubuisson, Roberto.


Enrique Baloyra, El Salvador in Transition (1982).

Thomas P. Anderson, Politics in Central America, rev. ed. (1988), pp. 112-123.

Additional Bibliography

Lungo Uclés, Mario. El Salvador in the Eighties: Counter-insurgency and Revolution. Edited by Arthur Schmidt. Translated by Amelia F. Shogan. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.

Villalobos, Joaquín. "Sin vencedores ni vencidos": Pacificación y reconciliación en El Salvador. San Salvador, El Salvador: INELSA, 2000.

Wood, Elisabeth Jean. Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

                                     Thomas P. Anderson

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National Republican Alliance (ARENA)

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National Republican Alliance (ARENA)