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History, El Salvador after the Civil War

FMLN, leftist parties, legislative elections, philosophy professor, Panama Canal

Recovery from the ravages of the war began slowly, but after 1992 the Salvadoran economy improved significantly. The new civilian police force was deployed in all departments by mid-1994 and reached its full strength early in 1996. The first postwar elections took place in March 1994. The FMLN, which became a legal political party in December 1992, joined with other leftist parties in a coalition supporting Ruben Zamora for president. ARENA’s candidate, Armando Calderon Sol, benefited from Cristiani’s successful peace negotiations and improvement in the economy, and in a runoff in April 1994 defeated Zamora with 68 percent of the vote. The FMLN established itself as the leader among the leftist opposition parties. In elections in March 1997, the FMLN gained significant political influence, winning 27 seats in the Legislative Assembly, just one fewer than ARENA. FMLN candidates also won mayoral races in many Salvadoran cities, including the capital, San Salvador.

The government, in collaboration with international organizations, has resettled many of those displaced by the war and also provided land, jobs, and credit for many former members of the military and the guerrilla forces. These efforts have gone more slowly than planned, however, and many difficulties remain. Despite reform efforts, poor land distribution continues to be a serious problem. Poverty is widespread in the cities and rural areas, and both poverty and lagging food production cause continued malnutrition. Despite improvements in El Salvador’s export economy and balance of payments, most of the serious social and economic problems that existed before the civil war remain.

In late 1997 business leaders in El Salvador and Honduras agreed to a proposal to construct a highway that would be an alternative to the Panama Canal. It would connect a Honduran port on the Caribbean Sea with a Salvadoran port on the Pacific Ocean. The Panama Canal has begun to experience problems with congestion, and these problems are expected to grow. Presidents of both countries have agreed to support the project.

In March 1999 ARENA candidate Francisco Flores, a former speaker in the Legislative Assembly and a former philosophy professor, was elected president. ARENA lost to the FMLN for the first time in the 2000 legislative elections, with the FMLN winning 31 seats to ARENA’s 29. ARENA was able to maintain control of the legislature with the help of its ally, the Party of National Conciliation (PCN), which came in third place.

A major earthquake struck the coast of El Salvador in January 2001, killing more than 800 people and devastating tens of thousands of homes. Thousands of aftershocks rattled El Salvador after the initial quake, including a large tremor in February that killed several hundred more people.

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