Last modified on December 12, 2023, at 09:30

El Salvador

República de El Salvador
Flag of El Salvador.png
Arms of El Salvador.png
Flag Coat of Arms
Capital San Salvador
Government Republic
Language Spanish (official)
President Nayib Bukele
Area 8,124 sq mi
Population 6,500,000 (2020)
GDP per capita $7,564 (2005)
Currency U.S. Dollar
Colón (SVC)

El Salvador (República de El Salvador) is a republic in Central America, bounded to its west by Guatemala, to its north and east by Honduras and to its south by the Pacific Ocean. It has an area of 8,124 sq miles (21,041 km2) and a population (2006) of 6.8 million. The capital is San Salvador (1998 pop 1.2 million).

President Nayib Bukele started an historic decrease of murders in the country, bringing security to record levels.[1] The international left accuses him of being too authoritarian by having in a big jail the same criminales that made El Salvador a dangerous place. The Biden Administration even said that Human Rights were not respected enough.[2]


El Salvador is largely mountainous, formed of numerous extinct volcanoes.


El Salvador's population numbers about 5.7 million. Almost 90% is of mixed Indian and Spanish extraction. About 1% is indigenous; very few Indians have retained their customs and traditions. The country's people are largely Roman Catholic and Protestant. Spanish is the language spoken by virtually all inhabitants. The capital city of San Salvador has about 2.2 million people; an estimated 40.3% of El Salvador's population lives in rural areas.

  • Population (2007 est.): 5.7 million.
  • Annual growth rate (2005 est.): 1.7%.
  • Ethnic groups: Mestizo 90%, indigenous 1%, Caucasian 9%.
  • Religion: About 52% Roman Catholic, with significant and growing numbers of Protestant groups.
  • Language: Spanish.
  • Education: Free through ninth grade. Attendance (grades 1-9)-90.4%. Literacy—84.5% nationally; 76.3% in rural areas.
  • Health: Infant mortality rate (2003)--24.6/1,000. Life expectancy at birth (2006)--71.8 years.
  • Work force (about 2.5 million, 2004): Agriculture—19.1%; services—49.8%; industry—16.8%; construction—6.4%; government—7.3%; other—0.6%.


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President Nayib Bukele.

El Salvador is a democratic republic governed by a president and an 84-member unicameral Legislative Assembly. The president is elected by universal suffrage and serves for a 5-year term by absolute majority vote. A second round runoff is required in the event that no candidate receives more than 50% of the first round vote. Members of the assembly, also elected by universal suffrage, serve for 3-year terms. The country has an independent judiciary and Supreme Court.

National Civilian Police

The civilian police force, created to replace the discredited public security forces, deployed its first officers in March 1993, and was present throughout the country by the end of 1994. The National Civilian Police (PNC) has about 16,000 officers. The United States, through the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), led international support for the PNC and the National Public Security Academy (ANSP), providing about $32 million in non-lethal equipment and training since 1992.


Both the Truth Commission and the Joint Group identified weaknesses in the judiciary and recommended solutions, the most dramatic being the replacement of all the magistrates on the Supreme Court. This recommendation was fulfilled in 1994 when an entirely new court was elected, but weaknesses remain. The process of replacing incompetent judges in the lower courts, and of strengthening the attorney generals' and public defender's offices, has moved more slowly. The government continues to work in all of these areas with the help of international donors, including the United States. Action on peace accord-driven constitutional reforms designed to improve the administration of justice was largely completed in 1996 with legislative approval of several amendments and the revision of the Criminal Procedure Code—with broad political consensus.

Principal Government Officials

  • President—Nayib Bukele
  • Vice President--
  • Minister of Foreign Relations—
  • Ambassador to the United States—
  • Representative to the OAS—
  • Representative to the UN—

Political Landscape

Hard-line conservatives, including some members of the military, created the Nationalist Republican Alliance party (ARENA) in 1981. ARENA almost won the election in 1984 with solid private sector and rural farmer support. By 1989, ARENA had attracted the support of business groups. Multiple factors contributed to ARENA victories in the 1988 legislative and 1989 presidential elections, including allegations of corruption in the ruling Christian Democratic party, poor relations with the private sector, and historically low prices for the nation's main agricultural exports.

The successes of Alfredo Cristiani's 1989-94 administration in achieving a peace agreement to end the civil war and in improving the nation's economy helped ARENA—led by former San Salvador mayor Armando Calderon Sol—keep both the presidency and a working majority in the Legislative Assembly in the 1994 elections. ARENA's legislative position was weakened in the 1997 elections, but it recovered its strength, helped by divisions in the opposition, in time for another victory in the 1999 presidential race, bringing President Francisco Guillermo Flores Perez to office. Flores concentrated on modernizing the economy and strengthening bilateral relations with the U.S. by becoming a committed partner in anti-terror efforts, sending troops to aid in the reconstruction of Iraq, and by playing a key role in negotiations for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Taking advantage of both public apprehension of Flores' policies and ARENA infighting, the chief opposition party, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), was able to score a significant victory against ARENA in the March 2003 legislative and municipal elections. ARENA, left with only 29 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly, was forced to court the right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN) in order to form a majority voting bloc. However, in 2003 the PCN entered into a loose partnership with the FMLN, further limiting ARENA's ability to maneuver in the legislature.

Despite these constraints, ARENA made a strong showing at the March 2004 presidential election, which was marked by an unprecedented 67% voter turnout. ARENA candidate Elias "Tony" Saca handily defeated the FMLN candidate and party head Schafik Handal, garnering 57.71% of the votes cast. Nevertheless, Saca faced a complex political environment. The defeat of FMLN's presidential candidate rekindled an FMLN internal struggle between party hardliners and more moderate party members who saw the party's 2004 defeat as a call for reform. In addition, the PCN and the two parties that comprise the center/center-left coalition, the United Democratic Center (CDU) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), faced dissolution for failing to each capture at least 3% of the votes. Members of all three parties, whose deputies continued to hold seats in the legislature, publicly discussed creating new parties or aligning with existing ones.

In March 12, 2006 Legislative Assembly and municipal elections, the ruling ARENA party garnered 34 Assembly deputies and 147 mayoralties, while the opposition FMLN won 32 legislative seats and 51 city halls (plus 8 additional mayoralties in which they participated as part of a coalition). The PCN, PDC, and CD carried 10, 6, and 2 Legislative Assembly seats, respectively. As with the 2003-2006 Assembly, the combined 44 seats of ARENA and their center-right PCN allies are sufficient for all legislation requiring a 43-vote simple majority, while the FMLN can still block legislation requiring a two-thirds (56 vote) supermajority. El Salvador's political parties have already begun preparation and planning for 2009, when presidential, Legislative Assembly, and municipal elections will be held simultaneously for the first time since 1994.

Foreign Relations

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El Salvador is a member of the United Nations and several of its specialized agencies, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Central American Common Market (CACM), the Central American Parliament, and the Central American Integration System. It actively participates in the Central American Security Commission (CASC), which seeks to promote regional arms control. From 2002-03, El Salvador was chair of the OAS anti-terrorism coordinating body, CICTE. El Salvador also is a member of the World Trade Organization and is pursuing regional free trade agreements. An active participant in the Summit of the Americas process, El Salvador chairs a working group on market access under the Free Trade Area of the Americas initiative. El Salvador has joined its six Central American neighbors in signing the Alliance for Sustainable Development, known as the Conjunta Centroamerica-USA or CONCAUSA to promote sustainable economic development in the region.

El Salvador enjoys normal diplomatic and trade relations with all of its neighboring countries including Honduras, with which it has previously had territorial disputes. While the two nations continue to disagree over the status of their maritime borders in the Gulf of Fonseca, they have agreed to settle their land-border disputes with the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In September 1992, the Court awarded most of the territory in question to Honduras. In January 1998, Honduras and El Salvador signed a border demarcation treaty to implement the terms of the ICJ decree although delays continue due to technical difficulties.

Relations with the United States

President Nayib Bukele with President Donald Trump.

President Nayib Bukele told Fox News the ‘new-liberal practice’ immigration policy was ‘immoral’ and 'not good for the US, not good for El Salvador, causing a brain drain and sending El Salvadore's future workforce to the U.S. in exchange for a tiny remittance.[3] Bukele to slam the FBI raid and asked after the Biden regime's Mar-a-Lago raid on President Donald Trump's home residence, “What would the US government say, if our police raided the house of one of the main possible contenders of our 2024 presidential election?”[4]

Human Rights and Post-War Reforms

During the 12-year civil war, human rights violations by both the government security forces and left-wing guerillas were rampant. The accords established a Truth Commission under UN auspices to investigate the most serious cases. The commission reported its findings in 1993. It recommended that those identified as human rights violators be removed from all government and military posts. Thereafter, the Legislative Assembly granted amnesty for political crimes committed during the war. Among those freed as a result were the Salvadoran Armed Forces (ESAF) officers convicted in the November 1989 Jesuit murders and the FMLN ex-combatants held for the 1991 murders of two U.S. servicemen. The peace accords also established the Ad Hoc Commission to evaluate the human rights record of the ESAF officer corps.

In accordance with the peace agreements, the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances. Demobilization of Salvadoran military forces generally proceeded on schedule throughout the process. The Treasury Police, National Guard, and National Police were abolished, and military intelligence functions were transferred to civilian control. By 1993–9 months ahead of schedule—the military had cut personnel from a war-time high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF strength stood at less than 15,000, including uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, consisting of personnel in the army, navy, and air force. A purge of military officers accused of human rights abuses and corruption was completed in 1993 in compliance with the Ad Hoc Commission's recommendations. The military's new doctrine, professionalism, and complete withdrawal from political and economic affairs leave it the most respected institution in El Salvador.

More than 35,000 eligible beneficiaries from among the former guerrillas and soldiers who fought the war received land under the peace accord-mandated land transfer program, which ended in January 1997. The majority of them also have received agricultural credits. The international community, the Salvadoran Government, the former rebels, and the various financial institutions involved in the process continue to work closely together to deal with follow-on issues resulting from the program.


The Salvadoran economy continues to benefit from a commitment to free markets and careful fiscal management. The economy has been growing at a steady and moderate pace since the signing of peace accords in 1992, and poverty has been cut from 66% in 1991 to 35.2 percent in 2005. Much of the improvement in El Salvador's economy is a result of free market policy initiatives carried out by ARENA governments, including the privatization of the banking system, telecommunications, public pensions, electrical distribution and some electrical generation; reduction of import duties; elimination of price controls; and improved enforcement of intellectual property rights. Capping those reforms, on January 1, 2001, the U.S. dollar became legal tender in El Salvador, and the economy is now fully dollarized.

  • GDP (2006): $18.57 billion, PPP GDP (2006) $38.62 billion (IMF estimate)
  • GDP annual real growth rate (2006): 4.2%.
  • Per capita income (2006): $2,656.9, PPP per capita income $5,514.97 (IMF estimate)
  • Agriculture (9.8% of GDP, 2006): Products—coffee, sugar, livestock, corn, poultry, and sorghum. Arable, cultivated, or pasture land—68% (2005).
  • Industry (21.2% of GDP, 2006): Types—textiles and apparel, medicines, food and beverage processing, clothing, chemical products, petroleum products, electronics.
  • Trade (2006): Exports--$3.5 billion: textiles and apparel, coffee, sugar, medicines, iron and steel products, tuna, light manufacturing, and paper products. Major markets—U.S. 57.1%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 29.2%. Imports--$7.6 billion: petroleum, iron products, machines and mechanical devices, cars, medicines, consumer goods, foodstuffs, capital goods, and raw industrial materials. Major suppliers—U.S. 40.46%, CACM 15.1%, Mexico 7.7%.

In 2021 Nayib Bukele sent to congress the Bitcoin law which legalized the cryptocurrency in the country. "All prices may be expressed in Bitcoin" and "All tax contributions may be paid in Bitcoin", states the Law.[5]

President Nayib Bukele, confirmed in October 1st, 2021, that El Salvador mined the first Bitcoin with volcanic energy. Through Twitter, the social network he uses so well, he shared an image of the mining in progress, which showed 0.00599179 Bitcoin, with a value of around 288 dollars at the exchange rate at the time.[6]

The Salvadoran government has maintained fiscal discipline during post-war reconstruction and reconstruction following earthquakes in 2001 and hurricanes in 1998 and 2005. Taxes levied by the government include a value added tax of 13%, income tax of 20%, excise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, and import duties. The VAT is the largest source of revenue, accounting for about 55.1% of total tax revenues in 2006. For December 2007, El Salvador projects a fiscal surplus of 0.6% of GDP. El Salvador's public external debt in May 2007 was about $5.8 billion, 29.9 percent of GDP.

Years of civil war, fought largely in the rural areas, had a devastating impact on agricultural production in El Salvador. A fall in world coffee prices, once a major export earner for El Salvador, has also hurt rural employment. Seeking to develop new growth sectors and employment opportunities, El Salvador created new export industries through fiscal incentives for free trade zones. The largest beneficiary has been the textile and apparel (maquila) sector, which directly provides approximately 70,000 jobs. Services, including retail and financial, have also shown strong employment growth, with about 49.8% of the total labor force now employed in the sector. During the last three years foreign companies have set up 96 new subsidiaries providing 18,000 new jobs, mainly in maquilas, tourism, and telephone call centers.

Remittances from Salvadorans working in the United States are an important source of income for many families in El Salvador. In 2006, the Central Bank estimated that remittances totaled $3.3 billion, and UNDP surveys show that an estimated 22.3 percent of families receive them.

Under its export-led growth strategy launched in 1989, El Salvador has pursued economic integration with its Central American neighbors and negotiated trade agreements with the Dominican Republic, Chile, Mexico, Panama, Taiwan and the United States. The trade agreement with Taiwan will enter into force in 2008. Central America will begin negotiating an Association Agreement with the European Union in 2007. Agreements with Colombia and Canada are under negotiation while agreements with CARICOM and Israel are being considered. Exports in 2006 grew 3.7% while imports grew 11.6%. As in previous years, the large trade deficit was offset by family remittances.

The U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) implemented between El Salvador and the United States on March 1, 2006, provides El Salvador preferential access to U.S. markets. Textiles and apparel, shoes, and processed foods are among the sectors expected to benefit.

In addition to trade benefits, CAFTA-DR also promises to provide a framework for additional reforms on issues such as intellectual property rights, dispute resolution, and customs that will improve El Salvador's investment climate. For sensitive sectors such as agriculture, the agreement includes generous phase-in periods to allow Salvadoran producers an opportunity to become more competitive.

U.S. support for El Salvador's privatization of the electrical and telecommunications markets markedly expanded opportunities for U.S. investment in the country. More than 300 U.S. companies have established either a permanent commercial presence in El Salvador or work through representative offices in the country. The Department of Commerce maintains a Country Commercial Guide for U.S. businesses seeking detailed information on business opportunities in El Salvador.

Natural Disasters

Lying on the Pacific's earthquake-prone Ring of Fire and at latitudes plagued by hurricanes, El Salvador's history is a litany of catastrophe, including the Great Hurricane of 1780 that killed 22,000 in Central America and earthquakes in 1854 and 1917 that devastated El Salvador and destroyed most of the capital city. More recently, an October 1986 earthquake killed 1,400 and seriously damaged the nation's infrastructure; in 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed 10,000 in the region, although El Salvador—lacking a Caribbean coast—suffered less than Honduras and Nicaragua. Major earthquakes in January and February 2001 took another 1,000 lives and left thousands more homeless and jobless. El Salvador's largest volcano, Santa Ana (also known by its indigenous name Ilamatepec), erupted in October 2005, spewing tons of sulfuric gas, ash, and rock on surrounding communities and coffee plantations and killing two people and permanently displaced 5,000. Also in October 2005, Hurricane Stan unleashed heavy rains that caused flooding throughout El Salvador. In all, the flooding caused 67 deaths, and more than 50,000 people were evacuated at some point during the crisis. Damages from the storm were estimated at $355.6 million.


The Pipil Indians, descendants of the Aztecs, and the Pocomames and Lencas were the original inhabitants of El Salvador,

The first Salvadoran territory visited by Spaniards was on Meanguera Island, located in the Gulf of Fonseca, where Spanish Admiral, Andrés Niño, lead an expedition to Central America and disembarked on May 31, 1522. In June 1524 the Spanish Captain Pedro de Alvarado started a war to conquest Cuzcatlan. His cousin Diego de Alvarado established the village of San Salvador in April 1525. In 1546, Charles I of Spain granted San Salvador the title of city.

During the subsequent years, the country evolved under Spanish rule; however, towards the end of the year 1810 many people began to express discontent. On November 5, 1811, when the Priest José Matias Delgado, clang the bells of La Merced Church in San Salvador, calling for insurrection, the people began to officially band together for freedom.

In 1821, El Salvador and the other Central American provinces declared their independence from Spain. When these provinces were joined with Mexico in early 1822, El Salvador resisted, insisting on autonomy for the Central American countries. In 1823, the United Provinces of Central America was formed of the five Central American states under Gen. Manuel Jose Arce. When this federation was dissolved in 1838, El Salvador became an independent republic. El Salvador's early history as an independent state—as with others in Central America—was marked by frequent revolutions; not until the period 1900-30 was relative stability achieved. Following a deterioration in the country's democratic institutions in the 1970s a period of civil war followed from 1980-1992. More than 75,000 people are estimated to have died in the conflict. In January 1992, after prolonged negotiations, the opposing sides signed peace accords which ended the war, brought the military under civilian control, and allowed the former guerillas to form a legitimate political party and participate in elections.

The politician Nayib Bukele initially was a left-wing politician, during his administrations as mayor in Nuevo Cuscatlán and San Salvador he became known for his law and order policies.

In 2019, he united both left and right-wing voters in his party "Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional", GANA, which promised to move away from Chavism and Latin American socialism and closer to the United States and Europe, but maintaining a strong national sentiment for El Salvador's culture and history.

With this discourse, Bukele obtained almost a million and a half votes in the first round, which consecrated him president with more than 53% of the electoral roll. Thus, he left out of the government both the conservative Carlos Calleja and the communist Hugo Martinez, both of whom are accused of being close to Caribbean drug trafficking.

In addition, he promised to confront crime and organized crime with all the power of the State, a measure that both the FMLN and ARENA have failed miserably in the past. It should be remembered that El Salvador is a country whose national territory is occupied in some parts by the maras mafia, which have parallel governments and promote terrorism and drug trafficking on Salvadoran soil.[7] In 2021 he legalized BitCoin as a legal currency in his country, being one of the few in the world.


Copyright Details
License: This work is in the Public Domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the U.S. Code
Source: File available from the United States Federal Government.