The Nationalist Republican Alliance, ARENA, is a Salvadoran conservative right-wing political party. Since its creation and until 2021, ARENA was one of the predominant political forces in El Salvador.
ARENA, or Alianza Republicana Nacionalista in Spanish, was founded in 1981 by Roberto D’Aubuisson, a career Salvadoran soldier. D’Aubuisson is credited with creating the Salvadoran death squads of the ’80s and has been named one of the principals who ordered the assassination of Monsenior Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdamez.
According to their statutes, the right-wing political ARENA believes in a democratic and representative system of government that emphasizes individual rights, the family as the nucleus of society, and respect for private property.
ARENA and the Upcoming 2024 Elections
Going into the 2024 elections, the right-wing political party faces a tough challenge, especially after the prominent defeat the party received in the 2021 legislative and municipal elections.
ARENA’S unpopularity has grown so much that the latest survey by the Francisca Gavidia University showed that only a tiny percentage would consider voting for their candidates.
According to the survey, only 4.3% would consider voting for their presidential candidate. The survey also showed that ARENA would be reduced to only one deputy in the 2024 Legislative Assembly. ARENA won 37 seats in 2018 and 14 in 2021.
ARENA’s Collapse in the 2021 Elections
Since its formation, the right-wing political party has always faced political challenges. Nevertheless, it has regularly managed to come ahead and have an influential presence in Salvadoran politics.
In 2021, everything changed. The 2021 municipal and legislative election gave the right-wing political party the worst political defeat since its foundation.
In the Legislative Assembly, ARENA lost 23 of the 37 seats it had after the 2018 elections. Also, ARENA lost 105 of the 140 municipalities it governed; this included losing three of the most prestigious municipalities in the country, San Salvador, Santa Ana, and Santa Tecla.
Corruption by high-ranking ARENA officials is one of the main reasons the political party has low credibility with Salvadoran voters in 2023. An example of corruption by ARENA members is their four presidents.
Salvadoran ex-presidents belonging to ARENA.
Since the 1991 peace accords that ended the Salvadoran civil war, ARENA has been in control of the executive branch of government four times. Four of the last seven Salvadoran presidents were part of the ARENA political party.
Ex-president Elias Antonio “Tony” Saca. (2004 to 2009)
Elías Antonio Saca was president of El Salvador from June 2004 to June 2009; right now, Saca is serving a 10-year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering.
Tony Saca’s presidency is known for the vast amounts of money from public funds that disappeared. It is estimated that more than 200 million dollars of state funds vanished during this presidency.
The former president was charged on October 21, 2013, with corruption and money laundering. In March 2016, the Supreme Court of El Salvador ordered Tony Saca to be tried for unlawful enrichment. Then, on September 12, 2018, a Salvadoran court found him guilty and sentenced him to 10 years in jail.
Ex-president Francisco Flores. (1999 to 2004)
Francisco “Paco” Flores was a Salvadoran politician who served as President of El Salvador from June 1999 to June 2004. Flores, throughout his political career, was affiliated with the Nationalist Republican Alliance, ARENA.
During his tenure as president, Flores oversaw the replacement of the Salvadoran colon with the US dollar, as El Salvador’s official currency.
Flores has the distinction of being the first former Salvadoran president to be accused and tried on corruption charges.
In 2014, former President Francisco Flores was accused of pocketing over 10 million dollars donated by the country of Taiwan. This money was intended for survivors of the 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador.
The money intended for the survivors of the earthquake never arrived. Instead, the money ended up in the hand of ex-president Flores who publicly declared that he gave the funds to the right-wing political party ARENA. Francisco Flores passed away before his trial was completed.
Ex-president Armando Calderon Sol. (1994 to 1999)
Calderón Sol was President of El Salvador from June 1994 to June 1999. He was the first President elected in El Salvador after twelve years of civil war. The former President was a lawyer, businessman, and one of the founders of the ARENA party, in 1981.
Ex-president Alfredo Cristiani. (1989 to 1994)
Cristiani was President of El Salvador from 1989 to 1994. Among his most important achievements was ending the bloody Salvadoran civil war.
Alfredo Cristiani is also known for the privatization of Salvadoran banks, something that many Salvadoran see as corruption.
During the privatization process, the ex-president’s family bought a considerable amount of shares in one of El Salvador’s largest banks, Banco Cuscatlán. This bank was eventually privatized, which made Cristiani’s family a lot of money.
In 2023, the right-wing political party is still affected by what their ex-presidents did.
Now, it is necessary to point out that Calderon Sol and Cristiani have never been officially charged with any crimes. Their presidencies are mentioned in acts of corruption, but they have never been prosecuted.
On the other hand, ex-presidents Tony Saca and Paco Flores were officially charged with corruption and brought to trial. Tony Saca was found guilty and sentenced, while Paco Flores died before his trial concluded.
Republican Nationalist Alliance ARENA.
There is no doubt that the right-wing political party has had a prominent influence on Salvadoran politics, both in the Legislative Assembly and the executive branch.
ARENA has many followers, especially companies and people considered high-class or wealthy. For many, ARENA will always be a prominent force in politics in El Salvador; only time will tell if this trend will continue.
After the 2021 elections, the future of the right-wing political party is uncertain. ARENA has until the 2024 elections to make changes and see if those changes are enough.