From 1984 to 1989, Jose Napoleon Duarte served as President of El Salvador. He was a prominent political figure before becoming president, having served as mayor of San Salvador in the late 1960s. A conscientious guy who sincerely cared about the well-being of his constituents, he was instrumental in creating new schools and providing basic services to the community during his stint as mayor. Following his successful tenure as mayor, he stood for the president for the first time in the early 1970s. He was popular and well-respected by the populace, and therefore his victory appeared to be a foregone conclusion. The current military government, on the other hand, did not want him to win and hence halted the elections. Duarte added a group of left-wing military officers in an attempted coup d’état, for which he was jailed and tortured. Additionally, he was driven into exile in Venezuela for some years. However, ever the resilient man, he returned to his homeland, determined to effect change. In 1984, he ran for president again and defeated ARENA leader Roberto D’Aubuisson. As president, he implemented measures to quell the civil conflict and worked to reduce the country’s poverty level.
Childhood & Adolescence
Jose Napoleon Duarte was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador, on 23 November 1925. Jose Jesus Duarte, a tailor, was his father, and Amelia was his mother. His father and mother were not legally married and had several additional children.
His father aspired to be a politician but was unsuccessful in his endeavors. Indeed, his father’s political ambitions nearly bankrupted him and resulted in his detention.
He attended the Liceo Salvadoreo and participated in student protests against then-President General Maximiliano Hernández Martnez during his senior high school year (1944). He crossed the border into Guatemala the following year to join the opposition in exile. His political activities alarmed his parents, who were fearful for his well-being.
His parents decided to send him to the United States of America to further his education. As a result, he was sent to study civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. As a student, he formed a liberal political outlook, and his time in the United States aided in the refinement of his sociopolitical views.
Throughout his undergraduate years, he worked diligently, supporting himself by doing dishes and laundry. In 1948, he graduated and returned to San Salvador.
Jose Duarte’s Career
Jose Napoleon Duarte, now married, began working at his father-in-construction law company in San Salvador. Simultaneously, he accepted a teaching position. He was pleased with his jobs for the next several years and showed no interest in politics.
His early interest in politics was reignited in 1960 when a coup led by leftists deposed Col. José Maria Lemus, who had been in office since 1956.
Jose Napoleon Duarte and other like-minded Salvadorans founded the centrist Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano; PDC) in opposition to the ruling National Conciliation Party (Partido de Conciliación Nacional; PCN).
He was appointed the first Secretary-General of the party. The party grew swiftly over the next few years and became extremely popular among the educated urban population. Duarte comfortably won the election as mayor of San Salvador in 1964 as a principled and dynamic politician.
He established himself as a capable mayor who sincerely cared about his constituents and was duly re-elected in 1966 and 1968. His successful tenure as mayor inspired him to reach for the presidency. As a result, he resigned as mayor in 1970 in order to compete for President.
He ran for President in February 1972 as a member of a political party named the United National Opposition (UNO). Due to his widespread popularity, it was widely assumed that he would win the election. The existing military government, however, interrupted the election and declared Arturo Armando Molina the winner, despite the fact that Duarte was said to have received a majority of votes.
The election was deemed fraudulent, and he launched a coup d’état in March 1972 with the assistance of several left-wing military officers. However, they failed, and he was captured and tortured. He was even sentenced to death for high treason, but Molina was compelled to grant him exile by international forces.
Duarte sought refuge in Venezuela, where he was employed as an engineering advisor. Additionally, he was appointed to positions within the international Christian Democratic movement.
In 1974, he sought to return to his motherland but was detained and deported to Venezuela. However, the situation in El Salvador changed dramatically when a Revolutionary Government Junta (JRG) took control of the government, igniting a full-fledged civil war.
Duarte returned to El Salvador in 1980 and became politically engaged, joining the Junta.
In 1984, he ran for President on the PDC ticket and won. On 1 June 1984, he was inaugurated as President of El Salvador.
As President, he attempted, but failed, to resolve the civil conflict through “conversation without armaments.” He also attempted to enact a number of progressive measures aimed at reducing poverty and facilitating the nation’s socio-economic development.
He harbored various utopian ideas for his country and worked tirelessly to make them a reality, but the country’s volatile political climate stopped him from accomplishing any of his goals. He democratically ceded power to Alfredo Cristiani in June 1989, after he became unable to perform his duties owing to declining health.
His Significant Works
He founded Adult Evening Schools during his stint as mayor to teach technical skills to adult employees.
As president, he made a concerted effort to bring the civil conflict to an end by establishing a “non-violent conversation” with the rebel insurgents.
Personal History and Legacies
He had been in love with Maria Inés Durán, a girl from his neighborhood since he was a child. He married her upon his return from the United States following the conclusion of his studies. The couple has six children.
In June 1988, Jose Napoleon Duarte was diagnosed with severe stomach cancer and underwent treatment in the United States.
He died on 23 February 1990, when he was 64 years old.
Estimated Net worth