Armando Calderon Sol, who led El Salvador after war, dies at 69

NEW YORK — Armando Calderón Sol, the first president elected in El Salvador after 12 years of civil war, died on Monday in Houston. He was 69.

His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by his sister, Milena Calderón de Escalón, a member of the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly. He learned last year that he had cancer.

Mr. Calderón Sol, a wealthy lawyer, was elected in 1994 as a compromise candidate acceptable to both the moderate and hard-right factions of his National Republican Alliance party, known by its Spanish acronym, ARENA.


He was limited to one five-year term, during which he began the privatization of government-owned utilities, lowered trade barriers, and sought to integrate former guerrillas into civilian society.

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More than 75,000 Salvadorans, most of them civilians, died in fighting that was touched off in 1979 by a right-wing backlash against the overthrow of a military dictator by reformist officers.

ARENA was founded in 1981 by Roberto d’Aubuisson, whose calls for the extermination of communists by death squads were embraced by the country’s oligarchy.

But d’Aubuisson’s presidential ambitions were blocked by US officials, who feared that his reputation for violence would jeopardize support of the government by Congress. During the 1980s, Congress would allocate some $4 billion to defeat the rebels.

In 1992, after seeking to undercut the leftist guerrillas’ appeal by granting limited democratic reforms, the rightist Salvadoran government agreed to a comprehensive peace treaty, ending the revolt that had transformed this tiny Central American nation into a war-torn surrogate for the Cold War between the East and West.


Under the treaty, the government promised to purge the army of abusive officers, create a civilian national police force, grant political freedom to guerrillas who disarmed, and apportion land to peasants where rebels remained in control.

A San Salvador native, Mr. Calderón Sol graduated with a degree in jurisprudence and social sciences from the Universidad Nacional de El Salvador.

He served as a representative in the Legislative Assembly from 1985 to 1988, when he was elected mayor of San Salvador on an anticorruption platform. He was the first mayor of the nation’s capital in 24 years to come from a party other than the Christian Democrats.

In peace talks, Mr. Calderón Sol sought pardons for two military officers convicted of murdering six Jesuit priests in 1989. But as ARENA’s leader, he sought to present the party as more moderate than it had been when he helped found it.