Roberto D'Aubuisson

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Roberto D'Aubuisson
Roberto D’Aubuisson.jpg
Major Roberto D'Aubuisson
Born Roberto D'Aubuisson Arrieta
(1943-08-23)August 23, 1943
Died February 20, 1992(1992-02-20) (aged 48)
Nationality Salvadoran
Other names Chele
Blowtorch Bob
Occupation soldier, politician
Known for death-squad leader, ordered the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero

Roberto D'Aubuisson Arrieta (August 23, 1943 – February 20, 1992) was a Salvadoran solider, extreme right-wing politician and death-squad leader. In 1981, he co-founded and became the first leader of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and served as President of El Salvador's Constituent Assembly from 1982 to 1983.[1][2][3] He was a candidate for President in 1984, losing in the second round to José Napoleón Duarte. After ARENA's loss in the 1985 legislative elections, he stepped down in favor of Alfredo Cristiani and was awarded the honorary post of party president for life.[4] He was named by the UN-created Truth Commission for El Salvador as having ordered the assassination of Archbishop Romero.[5]

Early life[edit]

D'Aubuisson was born in Santa Tecla, La Libertad Department, El Salvador, graduating from the national military academy in 1963. In 1972, he was trained in communications at the School of the Americas, a United States Department of Defense Institute that provides military training to government personnel in US-allied Latin American nations. After completing his studies at the Institute, he subsequently became a member of the Salvadoran military intelligence.[6]

Death squads[edit]

On May 7, 1980, six weeks after Romero's assassination, D'Aubuisson and a group of civilians and soldiers were arrested on a farm. The raiders found weapons and documents identifying D'Aubuisson and the civilians as death squad organizers and financiers, and of planning a coup d'état to depose the Revolutionary Government Junta (1979–1982) (JRG) governing El Salvador. Their arrests provoked terrorist threats and institutional pressures, leading to D'Aubuisson's return from Guatemalan exile. Thereafter, he regularly denounced the JRG and specific enemies on television, and many have accused him of culpability in the subsequent deaths of some of those he publicly denounced.[7]

His opposition to the JRG gave him international infamy. In August 1981, The Washington Post reported that D'Aubuisson "openly talked of the need to kill 200,000 to 300,000 people to restore peace to El Salvador". Shortly afterwards, on September 30th, he founded ARENA (Nationalist Republican Alliance), a rightist political party. D'Aubuisson accumulated much political capital among Salvadorans for his anti-leftist stridency and for his reputation as an effective counter-insurgency strategist. He often accused the JRG of being a Marxist threat to El Salvador.[8]

1982 legislative election[edit]

Despite alleged electoral fraud and political violence, the March 28, 1982 Salvadoran legislative election of a Constituent Assembly was an ARENA victory, gaining them 19 of 60 seats, and their allies 17 seats. D'Aubuisson's people were thus the majority, who then elected Álvaro Magaña as interim-president of El Salvador. D'Aubuisson became President of the Constituent Assembly. The JRG's government ended in May.[9][10][11]

Presidential campaign[edit]

On March 25, 1984, D'Aubuisson campaigned for the Salvadoran presidency. On May 2, 1984, he lost the presidency to José Napoleón Duarte of the Christian Democratic Party, receiving 46.4 per cent to Duarte's 53.6 percent of the electorate. D'Aubuisson claimed fraud and U.S. interference on behalf of Duarte, who was later confirmed to have been a CIA asset.


In 1992, D'Aubuisson died at 47 of esophageal cancer.

Commission reports[edit]

After the Salvadoran Civil War, the United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated that D'Aubuisson "gave the order to assassinate the Archbishop" to military officers who also tried to kill Judge Atilio Ramírez Amaya "to deter investigation of the case".[12][13][14] Views of him amongst contemporary Salvadorans are mixed and often drawn across party lines; ARENA supporters revere him for his right-wing beliefs and steadfast opposition to Communism, while FMLN supporters vilify him for his alleged human rights atrocities and probable involvement in Archbishop Romero's assassination. On January 20, 2007, President Antonio Saca of the ARENA party celebrated the anniversary of D'Aubuisson's death, promising "to continue the ARENA party, based upon his ideologic legacy." Amid oppositional debate, ARENA tried to name D'Aubuisson a "meritorious son of El Salvador", a national honor, but failed against protesting Church leaders and human rights workers.[15] He was known as "Chele" (light-skinned face), and was alleged to be a leader of anti-communist death squads that were alleged to have tortured and killed thousands of civilians before and during the Salvadoran Civil War. To political prisoners, he was known as "Blowtorch Bob", due to his frequent use of a blowtorch in interrogation sessions.[12][16][17]

In 1986, ex-US ambassador Robert White reported to the United States Congress that "there was sufficient evidence" to convict D'Aubuisson of planning and ordering Archbishop Romero's assassination, describing D'Aubuisson as a pathological killer, as early as his 1984 Salvadoran presidential run.[7] In April 2010, Alvaro Saravia, an ex-Captain who has admitted taking part in Romero's murder, testified in an interview with the Salvadoran newspaper El Faro that D'Aubuisson had given the order to proceed with the killing of the Archbishop.[18]

Death of son[edit]

In February 2007, D'Aubuisson's son Eduardo, along with two ARENA politicians and their driver, were killed in Guatemala. Investigators looking into the murders suggested that the murders may have been connected to drug trafficking groups.[15][19] In March 2015, D’Aubuisson’s surviving son, Roberto D’Aubuisson, Jr., was elected mayor of Santa Tecla, a neighboring municipality of the capital San Salvador.[20]

In popular culture[edit]

Tony Plana was cast as Major Maximiliano ′Max′ Casanova in the movie Salvador of Oliver Stone, who is a depiction of Major Roberto D´Aubisson.[21]


  1. ^ Horvitz, Leslie Alan; Catherwood, Christopher. Encyclopedia of War Crimes and Genocide. Infobase Publishing. p. 119. ISBN 9781438110295. Retrieved 19 October 2016. 
  2. ^ Ameringer, Charles D. Political Parties of the Americas, 1980s to 1990s: Canada, Latin America, and the West Indies. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 293. ISBN 9780313274183. Retrieved 19 October 2016. 
  3. ^ "EL SALVADOR ELECTS NEW LEADER OF ASSEMBLY". The New York Times. AP. 25 December 1983. Retrieved 19 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "Salvador Rightist D'Aubuisson Quits Party Post". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 1 October 1985. Retrieved 19 October 2016. 
  5. ^ Brockett, Charles D. Political Movements and Violence in Central America. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521600552. Retrieved 19 October 2016. 
  6. ^ Wayne Partridge. "The School of the Americas: leadership or terrorist training?: jailed Ky. nun to be among protesters at annual rally Sunday", Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), 20 November 1999, 1A: "But the school can hardly be blamed for the misdeeds of its graduates, supporters say. D'Aubuisson, for example, attended only a six-week radio maintenance and repair course at the school."
  7. ^ a b Rod Nordland. "How 2 rose to vie for El Salvador's presidency," Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 March 1984, A1.
  8. ^ Loren Jenkins, "El Salvador," The Washington Post, 16 August 1981, Washington Post Magazine, p. 10.
  9. ^ Timeline: El Salvador: A chronology of key events, BBC News, 15 February 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  10. ^ Latin American election statistics: El Salvador elections and events, 1981-83, Social Sciences Humanities Library, University of California at San Diego. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  11. ^ An interview with Edward S. Herman: "Freedom is not on the march," International Socialist Review, 41, May–June 2005. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  12. ^ a b Shawn Foster. "Window to honor slain church workers: window will stand in memory of assassinations," The Salt Lake Tribune (UT), 22 April 1995, Religion section, D1.
  13. ^ el_salvador/tc_es_03151993_casesD1_2.html "Chapter IV, Cases and patterns of violence: Part D., Death squad assassinations: Section 1, Illustrative case: Oscar Romero," From madness to hope: the 12-year war in El Salvador, Truth Commissions Digital Collection: Reports: El Salvador. Provided by United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  14. ^ "El Salvador, 11.481a: Irregularities in the investigation," Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  15. ^ a b Marc Lacey. "4 Salvadorans killed in way that evokes ’80s conflict," The New York Times, 21 February 2007. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  16. ^ Editorial. "No hero for El Salvador ...," The Salt Lake Tribune (UT), 24 February 1992, A10.
  17. ^ Marianne Armshaw. "Trial of Salvadoran generals opens in Florida" National Catholic Reporter, 20 October 2000. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  18. ^ Anne-Marie O'Connor. "Participant in 1980 assassination of Romero in El Salvador provides new details" Washington Post, 6 April 2010. [1]
  19. ^ Rosenberg, Mica. "A murder spree in Central America," Time, 5 March 2007.
  20. ^ Son of Death Squad Leader Elected to Salvadoran Municipality, Telesur, 4 March 2015.
  21. ^ Salvador: Oliver Stone, lose the fast and loose approach The Guardian, 9 April 2009.

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