El Salvador. The former guerrilla front and now the
political party FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la
Liberación Nacional) were shaken during the year by internal
contradictions between "innovators" and "orthodox". The new
leader Facundo Guardado sought support from the middle class
and entrepreneurs and was accused of betraying the party's
ideology and of being an opportunist. The party leadership
defended an open debate ahead of the forthcoming elections
in 1999. After a lengthy and infected debate, Guardado was
finally appointed FMLN presidential candidate in the 1999
election with María Marta Valladares, known as Commander
Nidia Díaz during the Civil War, as vice presidential
At the ruling party ARENA's (Alianza Republicana
Nacionalista) congress in March, 38-year-old economist
Francisco Flores was named presidential candidate for the
Countryaah, French France Telecom won the bidding during the year
when the Salvadoran telecom company CTE-ANTEL was
privatized. The French bought 51% of the company in
competition with i.a. Swedish Telia.
The violent forest and grass fires that ravaged Central
America also hit El Salvador and reached its peak in
May-June. The fires occurred as a result of the most severe
drought in 70 years in combination with the weather
phenomenon of El Niño.
In June, four police officers convicted of 1980 murders
were released on four American women, including three nuns.
Police later testified again and said they had acted on
orders from senior commanders. The testimonies were
reinforced by earlier secret documents from the US
Department of Foreign Affairs that have now been released.
Like neighboring countries, El Salvador was hit hard by
Hurricane Mitch's progress during October – November. At
least 200 people were killed and 30,000 lost their homes.
The worst was the country's eastern parts of San Miguel.