- Francisco Flores Pérez
Francisco Guillermo Flores Pérez (born
October 17, 1959) was the president of El Salvadorfrom 1999 until 2004 and a member of the Nationalist Republican Alliance(ARENA). He majored in political science at Amherst Collegein Massachusetts, United States, and received a Master's in philosophy at World University. Flores then continued his education at Harvard Universityand at Oxford Universityin Great Britain. He entered politics after the assassination of his father-in-law, who was chief of staff to Alfredo Cristiani.
He started his political career in ARENA as a vice-minister for planning. Later he served as a vice-minister of the Presidency, with functions as adviser of the head of state, and directed the plan of governmental action in accordance with the peace accords of January 1992 that ended fighting with the
Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front(FMLN) guerilla group.
March 29, 1998, ARENA announced Flores as their candidate to the presidential elections of the following year. At the age of 39 (the youngest chief executive of the continent at that time), Flores became the third consecutive president from ARENA by winning an outright majority on the elections in March 1999, and took office on July 1, 1999.He served his five-year term, and was succeeded by another of member of his party, Antonio Saca, in July 2004.
Accomplishments during his tenure
The government of Francisco Flores was characterized by its close alignment with United States policies.
El Salvadorwas one of the steadiest allies of the U.S. government in the region. Three undertakings during his term best exemplify Flores's commitment to close US-Salvadoran relations: First, Flores authorized the deployment of Salvadoran troops to Iraq in support of U.S. forces. Second, during his term a successful free-trade agreement was negotiated between the United States and the Central American region, with the late addition of the Dominican Republicto the roster of participating nations; this agreement was ratified recently by most of the region's countries as well as the U.S. Congress. Finally, Flores was the architect of the Salvadoran economy's migration from its historical currency, the colón, to the U.S. dollar. Dollarizationwas an extremely controversial measure, both lauded and panned by local and foreign opinion. From the standpoint of the country's business establishment, dollarization brought about great benefits, such as reduced interest rates (which came about by eliminating currency-exchange risk among other factors), easier trade with other commercial partners, and an easier integration onto the global economy.
The tenure of Francisco Flores was not without its critics. His actions to further align El Salvador with the United States has been widely criticized by his political opponents. In the same manner, he was faulted for an autocratic style of governance, which admitted very little compromise or consultation with the opposition. The lack of flexibility exemplified by his government resulted in a number of crippling strikes, most notably one led by the medical professionals in an attempt to forestall a threatened privatization of the country's public health facilities.
Critics of his dollarization efforts accuse him of doing so without popular consensus, except exclusively with bankers. Even though the replacement of colones with dollars proved to reduce interest rates, it also caused a huge long-term inflation as prices were rounded upwards.
He also had to deal with reconstruction efforts after two powerful earthquakes struck the country on
January 13 2001. Delivery of international aid was inefficient and was criticized by reporters, especially Mauricio Funesfrom the local channel TV12, an affiliate of Mexican company TV Azteca. Unproven allegations have been made that Francisco Flores called Mexican president Vicente Foxto ask TV Aztecato shut down reporters of its affiliate in El Salvador, in a clear attack on freedom of speech.
Some of his opponents also contend that escalating violence and increasing poverty occurred during his term, but statistics from the World Bank show that poverty did, in fact, decrease during the Flores administrationFact|date=July 2008.
Another occurrence was the Summit of the Americas where Francisco Flores called
Fidel Castroa "dictator". Castro answered back, "what do you know about politics, you are just a puppet of Yankee empire." Flores accused him of being responsible for the countless deaths that have occurred in El Salvador.Fact|date=July 2008
Candidacy for the Organization of American States
Even before he left office, Francisco Flores had expressed his interest in running for the office of Secretary General of the
Organization of American States, a post which was won in late 2004 by Miguel Ángel Rodríguezan ex-president from Costa Rica. Rodríguez later had to resign from this post when he was indicted in his country for alleged acts of corruption during his tenure as president, a situation which called for an extraordinary election for his successor. Francisco Flores once again expressed his intentions of seeking the post, but after much campaigning, had to withdraw due to lack of support from other member states (even though he counted the United States as his chief backer). This situation could be explained because some of his policies were seen as being to closely aligned to US interests at a time when most Latin American governments were highly critical of the positions adopted by the United States. He was the first US-backed candidate not elected to this post since the establishment of the organization.
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