Pres­i­dent of El Salvador who led coun­try af­ter its 12-year civil war

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - News | Obituaries - By Emily Langer

Ar­mando Calderon Sol, who served as pres­i­dent of El Salvador in the 1990s and led his coun­try out of the may­hem of its 12year civil war, died Mon­day at a hospi­tal in Hous­ton. He was 69.

Milena Calderon de Escalon, the for­mer pres­i­dent’s sis­ter and a leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly mem­ber who be­longs to his right-wing party, the Na­tion­al­ist Re­pub­li­can Al­liance, con­firmed his death to The As­so­ci­ated Press. Mr. Calderon Sol was re­ported to have had cancer.

Mr. Calderon Sol was trained as a lawyer and served as mayor of the cap­i­tal city, San Salvador, be­fore win­ning a five-year term as pres­i­dent in 1994.

The long civil war, pit­ting Marx­ist rebels against a right­ist govern­ment and re­pres­sive mil­i­tary, took 70,000 lives and had ended only two years ear­lier.

The United States spent $5 bil­lion to but­tress the Sal­vado­ran govern­ment in the con­flict, which, like the one in Nicaragua, brought the ide­o­log­i­cal bat­tles of the Cold War to Cen­tral Amer­ica.

When Mr. Calderon Sol took of­fice, many op­po­nents and some ob­servers doubted whether he would en­force the terms of a U.N.-bro­kered peace treaty for El Salvador, which called for the re­moval of mil­i­tary of­fi­cers who had par­tic­i­pated in hu­man rights abuses, the trans­fer of land to for­mer rebels, the for­ma­tion of a civil­ian po­lice force and a re­formed ju­di­ciary.

Sus­pi­cions about Mr. Calderon Sol stemmed from his long-stand­ing lead­er­ship roles in the Na­tion­al­ist Re­pub­li­can Al­liance.

More widely known as Arena, the party had been founded in 1981 by Roberto d’Aubuis­son, a cashiered army of­fi­cer who was widely re­garded as the fa­ther of El Salvador’s right-wing death squads. Mr. Calderon Sol had served, among other roles, as sec­re­tary to Mr. d’Aubuis­son, who re­port­edly called him “Ar­man­dito.”

Wil­liam LeoGrande, a pro­fes­sor of govern­ment at Amer­i­can Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., de­scribed Arena as “the po­lit­i­cal ex­pres­sion of the death-squad ap­pa­ra­tus” that had been formed to elim­i­nate left­ists and other po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries.

Forces led by Mr. d’Aubuis­son were linked to thou­sands of mur­ders, among them the as­sas­si­na­tion of Catholic Arch­bishop Os­car Romero in 1980.

Mr. Calderon Sol stren­u­ously dis­puted al­le­ga­tions that he had par­tic­i­pated in any vi­o­lence, although U.S. in­tel­li­gence re­ports said he had opened his home to death squad or­ga­niz­ers plan­ning their ac­tiv­i­ties.

As pres­i­dent, how­ever, Mr. Calderon Sol ap­peared to push his party away from rad­i­cal­ism.

“We have left be­hind the lan­guage of con­fronta­tion, of clashes,” he told The Wash­ing­ton Post in 1994. “We are faith­ful to our past in the de­fense of free en­ter­prise, a mar­ket econ­omy, pri­vate prop­erty and in­di­vid­ual lib­er­ties. But we use a dif­fer­ent rhetoric, softer, more pro­found, eas­ier for other groups to un­der­stand. … We have to reach peo­ple who did not like our rhetoric, with a po­si­tion of tol­er­ance.”

Mr. LeoGrande, au­thor of the book “Our Own Back­yard: The United States in Cen­tral Amer­ica, 1977-1992,"cred­ited Mr. Calderon Sol with fol­low­ing the peace agree­ment “as it was writ­ten.”

“Some peo­ple wor­ried that … as pres­i­dent he might give a green light to in­creas­ing the po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence and might back away from the agree­ment,” Mr. LeoGrande said. “But he didn’t. And that was an im­por­tant step in mov­ing El Salvador from a bru­tal civil con­flict to a func­tion­ing democ­racy. Not that they don’t still have problems, but their demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions do work.”

Mr. LeoGrande said Mr. Calderon Sol failed to im­ple­ment eco­nomic poli­cies that might have re­solved un­der­ly­ing causes of the civil war. But he cred­ited him with free­ing Sal­vado­ran pol­i­tics from the mil­i­tary and es­tab­lish­ing the frame­work for free elec­tions — ma­jor mile­stones in a coun­try where the mil­i­tary had long had an over­rid­ing in­flu­ence on govern­ment.

Mr. Calderon Sol was “some­body who started out be­liev­ing that the so­lu­tion to El Salvador’s con­flict was to kill all the left­ists,” Mr. LeoGrande re­marked, “and ended up as a pres­i­dent who im­ple­mented a peace agree­ment with them.”

Term lim­its re­stricted Mr. Calderon Sol to one term in of­fice.

Ar­mando Calderon Sol in 1998.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.