The executive council of the ruling conservative ARENA party in El Salvador has narrowed the list of its possible candidates for the 2009 presidential elections to three names. All three, until recently, were members of president Tony Saca's administration. The three finalists are Ana Vilma de Escobar, the current Vice President, Luis Mario Rodríguez, former Legal Affairs Secretary to the president, and Rodrigo Ávila, former head of the National Police. The final selection of a nominee to run under the ARENA banner will be made on March 15 by a show of raised hands at a meeting of ARENA party officials.
The final group of candidates were picked after a process which included appearances by a larger group of ARENA hopefuls in all the departments in the country followed by a televised debate. The online news site ContraPunto describes police director Avila as the favored candidate of ARENA party leadership, but vice president Ana Vilma de Escobar is preferred by powerful business interests in the country. (It's unclear who favors Rodriguez).
A recent poll in La Prensa Grafica, however, shows FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes defeating any of these three ARENA candidates in a head-to-head matchup.