Reform-minded legislators denounce ARENA leadership

Just as ARENA is preparing its roster of candidates for the 2018 mayoral and national assembly elections, two reform-minded legislators have noisily announced their decision to withdraw as candidates for reelection.   John Wright Sol and Juan Valiente are deputies for ARENA in El Salvador's National Assembly, and this week they announced that because of disagreements with party leadership would not seek re-election next year.

The triggering event for the two legislators was the party's apparent refusal to allow their choices for deputy alternate (diputado suplente) to appear on the ballot for party nominees in the upcoming legislative elections.

The legislators decried the bullying of party leadership and declared that the party's declarations of renewal and reform were just a farce.   The party continues to be run by a traditional leadership group for whom ideological purity is paramount.   As reported in RevistaFactum:
Wright, Valiente and ex-directors of the JRN [ARENA's youth movement] have claimed in chorus that ARENA's rhetoric about a renewal is false. "We are not worried about getting a seat in the legislature, what concerns us is our country, and the truth is that this same concern does not allow us to be part of a deception, and the renewal of which the party has spoken has been a deception for all Salvadorans," Wright said yesterday.  
And Juan Valiente seconded it: "The country is in crisis and ARENA seems obsessed with destroying renewal and youth, instead of embracing them. We will not allow them to continue using our names as decorations for the renewal of a party anchored in the practices of the past. "
The reform-minded legislators have also been critical of members of the legislature for receiving private medical insurance and for providing patronage jobs to party members.   (Practices of all El Salvador's political parties).   They have also been criticized by party leadership for suggesting there could be discussions of liberalizing the country's draconian abortion laws or for permitting gay marriage.
Juan Valiente (center) and Johnny Wright Sol (right) on Salvadoran TV

The public spat between Wright and Valiente and ARENA overshadowed the announcements of the presidential ambitions of Carlos Calleja and Javier Simán this week.

This split between the old guard and younger, reform minded party members is seen in the FMLN as well.   Perhaps in the left-wing party this is best exemplified in the uneasy relationship between party leadership and the country's most popular politician, Nayib Bukele, mayor of San Salvador.

So far, the old guard continues to clench the reins of power in both of the major parties, to the probable detriment of their party and the country.