Jose Napoleon Duarte, the first civilian president in 49 years, is a classic Latin American populist -- outgoing, self-assured, simpatico, an excellent public speaker who knows how to use his charisma.
A tailor's son, the stocky 55-year-old is a Notre Dame graduate in civil engineering who went on to found El Salvador's Christian Democratic Party. He was elected mayor of the capital, San Salvador, three times, the first in 1964.
Duarte's popularity and reformist zeal worried the military but he was allowed to contest the 1972 presidential elections, winning on a ticket with social democrat Guillermo Ungo -- who now seeks to overthrow him. But the military halted the vote count and declared its own candidate the winner.
When a military faction rebeled against the fraud, Duarte went on the radio, called the people into the streets and saw about 100 killed as the security forces moved in. Duarte was seized, reportedly tortured and driven into exile in Venezuela.
Allowed to return in 1979, tens of thousands of people lined the streets to greet the man who had become a symbol of rebellion.
Duarte is gambling his political career on having accepted the presidency from the widely feared and disliked armed forces. Visible Strongmen
The visible strongmen of the Salvadoran Army are Cols. Jose Guillermo Garcia and Jaime Gutierrez, the defense minister and armed forces chief respectively. As schisms and sackings have roiled the Cabinet since 1979, Garcia has remained the one unmoving force and Gutierrez has moved up the chain of command as his protege.
The young officers who seized power 18 months ago considered it vital that Garcia, 46, support them, but those who later quit usually denounced him as a tool of the oligarchy as they departed. He currently declares full support for reform, denies personal ambition and vows to thwart any coup from the right.
Gutierrez, with Garcia's support, won a power struggle last year with the more leftist colonel of the junta, Adolfo Majano. Gutierrez recently made room at the top for a civilian president but maintains power as vice president of the junta. Majano is under arrest.