El Salvador

Introduction El Salvador achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and from the Central American Federation in 1839. A 12-year civil war, which cost about 75,000 lives, was brought to a close in 1992 when the government and leftist rebels signed a treaty that provided for military and political reforms.

In the early sixteenth century, the Spanish conquistadores ventured into ports to extend their dominion to the area that would be known as El Salvador. They were firmly resisted by the Pipil and their remaining Mayan-speaking neighbors. Pedro de Alvarado, a lieutenant of Hernan Cortés, led the first effort by Spanish forces in June 1524.

The people defeated the Spaniards and forced them to withdraw to Guatemala. Two subsequent expeditions were required --the first in 1525, followed by a smaller group in 1528-- to bring the Pipil under Spanish control.[citation needed]

Towards the end of 1810, a combination of external and internal factors allowed Central American élites to attempt to gain independence from the Spanish crown. The internal factors were mainly the interest the élites had in controlling the territories they owned without involvement from Spanish authorities. The external factors were the success of the French and American revolutions in the eighteenth century and the weakening of the military power of the Spanish crown because of its wars against Napoleonic France. The independence movement was consolidated on November 5, 1811, when the Salvadoran priest, Jose Matias Delgado, sounded the bells of the Iglesia La Merced in San Salvador, making a call for the insurrection. After many years of internal fights, the Acta de Independencia (Act of Independence) of Central America was signed in Guatemala on September 15, 1821.

In 1823, the United Provinces of Central America was formed by the five Central American states under General Manuel José Arce. When this federation was dissolved in 1838, El Salvador became an independent republic. El Salvador's early history as an independent state was marked by frequent revolutions.

From 1872 to 1898, El Salvador was a prime mover in attempts to reestablish an isthmian federation. The governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua formed the Greater Republic of Central America via the Pact of Amapala in 1895. Although Guatemala and Costa Rica considered joining the Greater Republic (which was rechristened the United States of Central America when its constitution went into effect in 1898), neither country joined. This union, which had planned to establish its capital city at Amapala on the Golfo de Fonseca, did not survive a seizure of power in El Salvador in 1898.

The enormous profits that coffee yielded as a monoculture export served as an impetus for the process whereby land became concentrated in the hands of an oligarchy of few families. A succession of presidents from the ranks of the Salvadoran oligarchy, nominally both conservative and liberal, throughout the last half of the nineteenth century generally agreed on the promotion of coffee as the predominant cash crop, on the development of infrastructure (railroads and port facilities) primarily in support of the coffee trade, on the elimination of communal landholdings to facilitate further coffee production, on the passage of anti-vagrancy laws to ensure that displaced campesinos and other rural residents provided sufficient labour for the coffee fincas (plantations), and on the suppression of rural discontent. In 1912, the national guard was created as a rural police force.

The coffee industry grew inexorably in El Salvador. As a result the élite provided the bulk of the government's financial support through import duties on goods imported with the foreign currencies that coffee sales earned. This support, coupled with the humbler and more mundane mechanisms of corruption, ensured the coffee growers of overwhelming influence within the government.

El Salvador's early history as an independent state was marked by frequent revolutions; not until the period 1900-30 was relative stability achieved. The economic élite, based on agriculture and some mining, ruled the country in conjunction with the military.

The economy, based on coffee-growing after the mid-19th century, as the world market for indigo withered away, prospered or suffered as the world coffee price fluctuated. From 1931--the year of the coup in which Gen. Maximiliano Hernández Martínez came to power until he was deposed in 1944 there was brutal suppression of rural resistance. The most notable event was the 1932 Salvadoran peasant uprising, commonly referred to as La Matanza (the massacre), headed by Farabundo Martí and the retaliation led by Martínez's government, in which approximately 30,000 indigenous people and political opponents were murdered, imprisoned or exiled. Until 1980, all but one Salvadoran temporary president was an army officer. Periodic presidential elections were seldom free or fair and an oligarchy in alliance with military forces ruled the nation. As in many Latin American countries, this inequality led to peasant opposition to the oligarchy. The result was the Salvadoran Civil War (1979-1991), largely a peasant revolution. Atrocities of the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA, or Nationalist Republican Alliance) government, such as the El Mozote massacre, and the murder of Catholic missionaries and other religious aid workers, such as Jean Donovan, by death squads linked to the government caused international outrage. In 1984 international observers saw centrist Napoleon Duarte elected president in popular elections which were violently boycotted by members of the opposition. Despite the peace-making efforts of the democratic government, the peasant revolution continued until the peace accords were signed in January 1991. The different factions of the guerrillas formed the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional party (FMLN) in order to seek office through democratic elections. Since then, the FMLN has gradually gained representation, particularly in the Legislative Assembly and local governments. Meanwhile, the conservative Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA) party has won every presidential election and remained the most favored political force.

In 1998, El Salvador became one of three Latin-American countries where abortion is illegal with no exceptions, along with Chile and Nicaragua.

Geography Location: Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and Honduras
Geographic coordinates: 13 50 N, 88 55 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 21,040 sq km
land: 20,720 sq km
water: 320 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Massachusetts
Land boundaries: total: 545 km
border countries: Guatemala 203 km, Honduras 342 km
Coastline: 307 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands
Terrain: mostly mountains with narrow coastal belt and central plateau
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro El Pital 2,730 m
Natural resources: hydropower, geothermal power, petroleum, arable land
Land use: arable land: 31.37%
permanent crops: 11.88%
other: 56.75% (2005)
Irrigated land: 450 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 25.2 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.28 cu km/yr (25%/16%/59%)
per capita: 186 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: known as the Land of Volcanoes; frequent and sometimes destructive earthquakes and volcanic activity; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution; contamination of soils from disposal of toxic wastes
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: smallest Central American country and only one without a coastline on Caribbean Sea
Politics The political framework of El Salvador takes place in a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of El Salvador, currently Antonio Saca, is both head of state and head of government, and of a multiform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Legislative Assembly. The Judiciary branch is independent of the executive and the legislature.
People Population: 6,948,073 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 36.1% (male 1,281,889/female 1,228,478)
15-64 years: 58.7% (male 1,942,674/female 2,134,154)
65 years and over: 5.2% (male 158,276/female 202,602) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 22 years
male: 20.9 years
female: 23.2 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.699% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 26.13 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 5.6 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.54 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.043 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.781 male(s)/female
total population: 0.949 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 22.88 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 25.76 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.86 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.78 years
male: 68.18 years
female: 75.57 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.08 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.7% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 29,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 2,200 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Salvadoran(s)
adjective: Salvadoran
Ethnic groups: mestizo 90%, white 9%, Amerindian 1%
Religions: Roman Catholic 83%, other 17%
note: there is extensive activity by Protestant groups throughout the country; by the end of 1992, there were an estimated 1 million Protestant evangelicals in El Salvador
Languages: Spanish, Nahua (among some Amerindians)
Literacy: definition: age 10 and over can read and write
total population: 80.2%
male: 82.8%
female: 77.7% (2003 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of El Salvador
conventional short form: El Salvador
local long form: Republica de El Salvador
local short form: El Salvador
Government type: republic
Capital: name: San Salvador
geographic coordinates: 13 42 N, 89 12 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 14 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Ahuachapan, Cabanas, Chalatenango, Cuscatlan, La Libertad, La Paz, La Union, Morazan, San Miguel, San Salvador, San Vicente, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, Usulutan
Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
Constitution: 20 December 1983
Legal system: based on civil and Roman law with traces of common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Elias Antonio SACA Gonzalez (since 1 June 2004); Vice President Ana Vilma Albanez DE ESCOBAR (since 1 June 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Elias Antonio SACA Gonzalez (since 1 June 2004); Vice President Ana Vilma Albanez DE ESCOBAR (since 1 June 2004)
cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a single five-year term; election last held 21 March 2004 (next to be held in March 2009)
election results: Elias Antonio SACA Gonzalez elected president; percent of vote - Elias Antonio SACA Gonzalez 57.7%, Schafik HANDAL 35.6%, Hector SILVA 3.9%, other 2.8%
Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (84 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve three-year terms)
elections: last held 12 March 2006 (next to be held in March 2009)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - ARENA 34, FMLN 32, PCN 10, PDC 6, CD 2
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (15 judges are selected by the Legislative Assembly; the 15 judges are assigned to four Supreme Court chambers - constitutional, civil, penal, and administrative conflict)
Political parties and leaders: Christian Democratic Party or PDC [Rodolfo PARKER]; Democratic Convergence or CD [Ruben ZAMORA] (formerly United Democratic Center or CDU); Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front or FMLN [Medardo GONZALEZ]; National Conciliation Party or PCN [Ciro CRUZ ZEPEDA]; National Republican Alliance or ARENA [Elias Antonio SACA Gonzalez]; Popular Social Christian Party or PPSC [Rene AGUILUZ]; Revolutionary Democratic Front or FDR [Julio Cesar HERNANDEZ Carcamo]
Political pressure groups and leaders: labor organizations - Electrical Industry Union of El Salvador or SIES; Federation of the Construction Industry, Similar Transport and other activities, or FESINCONTRANS; National Confederation of Salvadoran Workers or CNTS; National Union of Salvadoran Workers or UNTS; Port Industry Union of El Salvador or SIPES; Salvadoran Union of Ex-Petrolleros and Peasant Workers or USEPOC; Salvadoran Workers Central or CTS; Workers Union of Electrical Corporation or STCEL; business organizations - National Association of Small Enterprise or ANEP; Salvadoran Assembly Industry Association or ASIC; Salvadoran Industrial Association or ASI
International organization participation: BCIE, CACM, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MINURSO, NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Rene Antonio LEON Rodriguez
chancery: 1400 16th Street, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 265-9671
FAX: [1] (202) 234-3763
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Elizabeth (New Jersey), Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (2), Nogales (Arizona), Santa Ana (California), San Francisco, Washington (DC), Woodbridge (Virginia), Woodstock (Georgia)
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Charles L. GLAZER
embassy: Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, San Salvador
mailing address: Unit 3116, APO AA 34023
telephone: [503] 2278-4444
FAX: [503] 2278-6011
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and blue with the national coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms features a round emblem encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN LA AMERICA CENTRAL; similar to the flag of Nicaragua, which has a different coat of arms centered in the white band - it features a triangle encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE NICARAGUA on top and AMERICA CENTRAL on the bottom; also similar to the flag of Honduras, which has five blue stars arranged in an X pattern centered in the white band

The Roman Catholic Church plays an important role in the Salvadoran culture. Important foreign personalities in El Salvador were the Jesuit priests and professors Ignacio Ellacuria, Ignacio Martín-Baró, and Segundo Montes, who were murdered in 1989 by the Salvadoran Army during the heat of the civil war. Painting, ceramics and textile goods are the main manual artistic expressions. Writers Francisco Gavidia (1863–1955), Salarrué (Salvador Salazar Arrué) (1899-1975), Claudia Lars, Alfredo Espino, Pedro Geoffroy Rivas, Manlio Argueta, José Roberto Cea, and poet Roque Dalton are among the most important writers to stem from El Salvador. Notable 20th century personages include the late filmmaker Baltasar Polio, artist Fernando Llort, and caricaturist Toño Salazar. Amongst the more renowned representatives of the graphic arts are the painters Noe Canjura, Carlos Cañas, Julia Díaz, Camilo Minero, Ricardo Carbonell, Roberto Huezo, Miguel Angel Cerna (the painter and writer better known as MACLo), Esael Araujo, and many others.

The wife of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author of the children's book, The Little Prince) was a Salvadoran aristocrat, Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry.

The local Spanish vernacular is called Caliche.

Economy Economy - overview: The smallest country in Central America, El Salvador has the third largest economy, but growth has been modest in recent years. Robust growth in non-traditional exports have offset declines in the maquila exports, while remittances and external aid offset the trade deficit from high oil prices and strong import demand for consumer and intermediate goods. El Salvador leads the region in remittances per capita with inflows equivalent to nearly all export income. Implementation in 2006 of the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which El Salvador was the first to ratify, has strengthened an already positive export trend. With the adoption of the US dollar as its currency in 2001, El Salvador lost control over monetary policy and must concentrate on maintaining a disciplined fiscal policy. The current government has pursued economic diversification, with some success in promoting textile production, international port services, and tourism through tax incentives. It is committed to opening the economy to trade and investment, and has embarked on a wave of privatizations extending to telecom, electricity distribution, banking, and pension funds. In late 2006, the government and the Millennium Challenge Corporation signed a five-year, $461 million compact to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty in the country's northern region through investments in education, public services, enterprise development, and transportation infrastructure.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $35.97 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $20.23 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4.7% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $5,200 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 10.2%
industry: 29.3%
services: 60.5% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 2.87 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 19%
industry: 23%
services: 58% (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate: 6.6% official rate; but the economy has much underemployment (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 30.7% (2006 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 0.7%
highest 10%: 38.8% (2002)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 52.4 (2002)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 4.9% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 17% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $3.464 billion
expenditures: $3.605 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 37.9% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: coffee, sugar, corn, rice, beans, oilseed, cotton, sorghum; beef, dairy products; shrimp
Industries: food processing, beverages, petroleum, chemicals, fertilizer, textiles, furniture, light metals
Industrial production growth rate: 2% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 5.316 billion kWh (2006)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 44%
hydro: 30.9%
nuclear: 0%
other: 25.1% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 5.319 billion kWh (2006)
Electricity - exports: 111.1 million kWh (2007)
Electricity - imports: 38.6 million kWh (2007)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - consumption: 43,200 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 4,963 bbl/day (2006)
Oil - imports: 45,210 bbl/day (2006)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$929 million (2007 est.)
Exports: $3.98 billion (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: offshore assembly exports, coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals, electricity
Exports - partners: US 49.5%, Guatemala 14.4%, Honduras 8.8%, Nicaragua 5% (2006)
Imports: $8.667 billion (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: raw materials, consumer goods, capital goods, fuels, foodstuffs, petroleum, electricity
Imports - partners: US 32.2%, Guatemala 9.3%, Mexico 7.4%, Germany 6.3%, China 4.7% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $267.6 million of which $55 million from US (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $2.198 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $5.444 billion (December 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $5.372 billion (September 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $291.2 million (September 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $3.623 billion (2005)
Currency (code): US dollar (USD)
Currency code: USD
Exchange rates: the US dollar became El Salvador's currency in 2001
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 1.037 million (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 3.852 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: the four mobile-cellular service providers are expanding services rapidly and in 2006 mobile-cellular density stood at roughly 55 per 100 persons; growth in fixed-line services has slowed in the face of mobile-cellular competition
domestic: nationwide microwave radio relay system
international: country code - 503; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to Central American Microwave System
Radio broadcast stations: AM 52, FM 144, shortwave 0 (2005)
Radios: 2.75 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 5 (1997)
Televisions: 600,000 (1990)
Internet country code: .sv
Internet hosts: 12,519 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 4 (2000)
Internet users: 637,000 (2005)
Transportation Airports: 65 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 4
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 61
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 48 (2007)
Heliports: 1 (2007)
Railways: total: 562 km
narrow gauge: 562 km 0.914-m gauge
note: railways not in operation since 2005 because of disuse and lack of maintenance due to high costs (2007)
Roadways: total: 10,886 km
paved: 2,827 km
unpaved: 8,059 km (2000)
Waterways: Rio Lempa partially navigable for small craft (2007)
Ports and terminals: Acajutla, Puerto Cutuco
Military Military branches: Salvadoran Army (ES), Salvadoran Navy (FNES), Salvadoran Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Salvadorena, FAS) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for selective compulsory military service; 16 years of age for voluntary service; 12-month service obligation (2006)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 1,391,278
females age 18-49: 1,542,323 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 960,315
females age 18-49: 1,310,466 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 70,286
females age 18-49: 69,526 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 5% (2006)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the delimitation of "bolsones" (disputed areas) along the El Salvador-Honduras boundary, in 1992, with final agreement by the parties in 2006 after an Organization of American States (OAS) survey and a further ICJ ruling in 2003; the 1992 ICJ ruling advised a tripartite resolution to a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Fonseca advocating Honduran access to the Pacific; El Salvador continues to claim tiny Conejo Island, not identified in the ICJ decision, off Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for cocaine; small amounts of marijuana produced for local consumption; significant use of cocaine