Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

El Salvador: Current relationship between the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, FMLN) and the Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, ARENA) parties, and whether state authorities are able to protect FMLN members

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 6 February 2003
Citation / Document Symbol SLV41201.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, El Salvador: Current relationship between the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, FMLN) and the Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, ARENA) parties, and whether state authorities are able to protect FMLN members, 6 February 2003, SLV41201.E, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

El Salvador's political parties are currently campaigning for municipal and congressional elections due in March 2003 (La Prensa Gráfica 4 Feb. 2003; 4 Feb. 2003). The elections were officially announced on 15 November 2002, with the date for the vote being set for 16 March 2003 (ibid. 16 Nov. 2002).

Reports of an official position by a political party towards another, for either the Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, ARENA) or the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, FMLN), could not be found among the sources consulted. However, available reports range from describing a friendly rivalry between two opposing candidates to violent confrontations among supporters.

Among the former, La Prensa Gráfica reports on the congressional candidacy in Soyapango of Guillermo Rivera and Wilfredo Iraheta, mutual friends and former teammates of the national soccer team who are also running for deputies of the FMLN and ARENA, respectively (24 Jan. 2003).

The earliest report available of a confrontation involving supporters of the FMLN or ARENA during the campaign refers to an incident in the city of Santa Ana, where municipal employees attempting to remove ARENA posters from lampposts were reportedly threatened by ARENA activists ( Faro 18 Jan. 2003). The mayor, reportedly seeking re-election as an FMLN-CDU coalition candidate, was accused of partisanship for ordering the removal of propaganda posters from lampposts, although he indicated that such posting of propaganda was illegal (ibid.).

On 21 January 2003 La Prensa Gráfica reported on a violent confrontation between FMLN and ARENA activists at the port city of La Libertad: shots were fired into the air, and one ARENA supporter was wounded. According to the report, this incident was one of a number of confrontations between partisans that had taken place over the weekend of 17-19 January 2003: on Sunday, a female supporter of ARENA in Santiago Nonualco was hit by a stone thrown by a rival party supporter, while in Atiquizaya a male supporter of the FMLN was also hit by a stone thrown by rival party supporters (ibid.). The latter incident occurred when an FMLN caravan passed near an ARENA rally (ibid.; El 23 Jan. 2003). The FMLN supporter – Alvaro Edgardo Centeno, a nephew of an FMLN deputy – died from the injury, becoming the first person to die as a result of the 2003 electoral campaign (El Faro 3-9 Feb. 2003; La Prensa Gráfica 22 Jan. 2003). Police arrested one person in connection with this incident, while ARENA publicly condemned the incident and distanced itself from the perpetrators (ibid.). The arrested suspect was later released due to insufficient evidence (El Faro 3-9 Feb. 2003).

Soon after Centeno's death, the National Civilian Police (Policía Nacional Civil, PNC) announced that, because of the recent occurrence of violent incidents between party supporters, it would double its presence at rallies, caravans and other political activities of political parties (El 23 Jan. 2003). This measure was intended to reinforce the security plan already in place, which had been agreed upon by the PNC and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Supremo Electoral, TSE) before the 2003 electoral campaign began, and which included police protection at political activities (ibid.).

The Salvadorean journal El Faro reports that El Salvador's political parties had signed a "non-aggression agreement" (acuerdo de no agresión) on the weekend of 26 January 2003 (27 Jan. 2003). The agreement committed the parties to taking preventive measures and improving internal coordination to avoid confrontations between their followers (ibid.). The agreement was subscribed and published six days after the last reported incident of partisan violence, in which Alvaro Edgardo Centeno died (ibid.). According to the report, partisan violence during the campaign began on 18 January 2003, when ARENA and FMLN members in caravans grabbed each other's party flags in the San Ignacio area of Chalatenango department (ibid.). After a weekend that left three injured and one dead, the TSE reprimanded the political parties for the "messages of violence" (mensajes de violencia) which were coming from their grassroots groups (bases), and had them sign the agreement, although at least one analyst publicly stated that the TSE should resort to financial and criminal penalties to prevent further violence by party supporters (ibid.).

Two other violent incidents involving FMLN or ARENA politicians were reported soon after the above-mentioned non-aggression agreement between parties was reached: in one case, a municipal councillor of the FMLN for Ayutuxtepeque was arrested and charged with attempted homicide after reportedly assaulting, on 27 January 2003, a militant of the Popular Action (Acción Popular, AP) outside city hall (La Prensa Gráfica 28 Jan. 2003; ibid. 29 Jan. 2003). However, the victim – Ricardo Kenny Bolaños, who is also the president of the Municipal Electoral Board (Junta Electoral Municipal, JEM) of Ayutuxtepeque – reportedly attributed the assault to a long-standing animosity held against him for the legal help he had provided to the former mayor of the municipality, an FMLN member elected in 2000 who was later removed by an "orthodox faction" (línea ortodoxa) of city councillors of his own party (ibid.; ibid. 28 Jan. 2003). The other case involved Eugenio Vides Pérez, an ARENA councillor and candidate for the Cuscatlan municipality of Monte San Juan who was found murdered on 29 January 2003 in a rural area, after last being seen on 24 January 2003 (ibid. 30 Jan. 2003). No perpetrators or motive for the crime had been established, although police reportedly had dismissed robbery as a motive because nothing appeared to have been stolen from the victim (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


El Faro [San Salvador]. 27 January 2003. Daniel Valencia. "Violencia y muerte empañan campaña electoral." [Accessed 4 Feb. 2003]

La Prensa Gráfica [San Salvador]. 4 February 2003. "Diputados y Alcaldes – Elecciones 2003." [Accessed 4 Feb. 2003]

_____. 30 January 2003. Cecilia Ortiz. "Candidato ARENA murió por balazos." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2003]

_____. 29 January 2003. Amadeo Cabrera. "Concejal del FMLN, acusado de intento de homicidio." [Accessed 4 Feb. 2003]

_____. 28 January 2003. Amadeo Cabrera. "Concejal de Ayutuxtepeque es detenido por agresión." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2003]

_____. 24 January 2003. Iván Ochoa. "FMLN y ARENA, con los tacos bien puestos." [Accessed 4 Feb. 2003]

_____. 21 January 2003. Amadeo Cabrera. "Violencia en la campaña electoral." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2003]

El Diario de Hoy [San Salvador]. 4 February 2003. "Elecciones 2003." [Accessed 4 Feb. 2003]

_____. 23 January 2003. Jaime García. "Más seguridad a los activistas." [Accessed 4 Feb. 2003]

_____. 18 January 2003. Wenceslao Martínez H. "Pinta y pega genera disputa." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2003]

_____. 16 November 2002. Ana Giralt and Luis Laínez. "Convocan elecciones para el próximo año." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2003]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld