El Salvador

El Salvador
/el sal"veuh dawr'/; Sp. /el sahl'vah dhawrdd"/
a republic in NW Central America. 5,661,827; 13,176 sq. mi. (34,125 sq. km). Cap.: San Salvador. Also called Salvador.

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El Salvador

Introduction El Salvador
Background: 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. Geography El Salvador -
Location: Middle 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 water: 320 sq km land: 20,720 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: 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: 27.27% permanent crops: 12.11% other: 60.62% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 360 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: known as the Land of Volcanoes; frequent and sometimes very 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 party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, 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 People El Salvador
Population: 6,353,681 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.4% (male 1,211,156; female 1,162,317) 15-64 years: 57.5% (male 1,735,744; female 1,922,395) 65 years and over: 5.1% (male 144,864; female 177,205) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.83% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 28.3 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 6.1 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.88 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.9 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/ female total population: 0.95 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 27.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.32 years female: 74.11 years (2002 est.) male: 66.72 years
Total fertility rate: 3.29 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.6% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 25,000 (2000 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 1,300 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Salvadoran(s) adjective: Salvadoran
Ethnic groups: mestizo 90%, Amerindian 1%, white 9%
Religions: Roman Catholic 83% 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: 71.5% male: 73.5% female: 69.8% (1995 est.) Government El Salvador
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of El Salvador conventional short form: El Salvador local short form: El Salvador local long form: Republica de El Salvador
Government type: republic
Capital: San Salvador Administrative divisions: 14 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Ahuachapan, Cabanas, Chalatenango, Cuscatlan, La Libertad, La Paz, La Union, Morazan, San Miguel, San Salvador, Santa Ana, San Vicente, Sonsonate, Usulutan
Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
Constitution: 23 December 1983
Legal system: based on civil and Roman law, with traces of common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Francisco FLORES Perez (since 1 June 1999); Vice President Carlos QUINTANILLA Schmidt (since 1 June 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: President Francisco FLORES Perez (since 1 June 1999); Vice President Carlos QUINTANILLA Schmidt (since 1 June 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for five-year terms; election last held 7 March 1999 (next to be held NA March 2004) election results: Francisco FLORES Perez elected president; percent of vote - Francisco FLORES (ARENA) 52%, Facundo GUARDADO (FMLN) 29%, Ruben ZAMORA (CD) 7.5%, other (no individual above 3%) 11.5%
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 2000 (next to be held NA March 2003) election results: percent of vote by party - ARENA 36.1%, FMLN 35.14%, PCN 8.76%, PDC 7.08%, CD 5.32%, PAN 3.75%, USC 1.47%, PLD 1.29%; seats by party - ARENA 28, FMLN 31, PCN 14, PDC 5, CD 3, PAN 1, independent 2
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (judges are selected by the Legislative Assembly) Political parties and leaders: Christian Democratic Party or PDC [Rene AGUILUZ]; Democratic Convergence or CD (includes PSD, MNR, MPSC) [Ruben ZAMORA, secretary general]; Democratic Party or PD [Jorge MELENDEZ]; Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front or FMLN [Fabio CASTILLO]; Liberal Democratic Party or PLD [Kirio Waldo SALGADO, president]; National Action Party or PAN [Gustavo Rogelio SALINAS, secretary general]; National Conciliation Party or PCN [Ciro CRUZ Zepeda, president]; National Republican Alliance or ARENA [Walter ARAUJO]; Social Christian Union or USC (formed by the merger of Christian Social Renewal Party or PRSC and Unity Movement or MU) [Abraham RODRIGUEZ, president] Political pressure groups and labor organizations - Electrical
leaders: 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 BCIE, CACM, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB,
participation: IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), MINURSO, NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Rene Antonio LEON Rodriguez consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco telephone: [1] (202) 265-9671 chancery: 2308 California Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Rose M.
US: LIKINS embassy: Final Boulevard Santa Elenal, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, San Salvador mailing address: Unit 3116, APO AA 34023 telephone: [503] 278-4444 FAX: [503] 278-6011
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 Economy El Salvador -
Economy - overview: El Salvador is a struggling Central American economy which has been suffering from a weak tax collection system, factory closings, the aftermaths of Hurricane Mitch of 1998 and the devastating earthquakes of early 2001, and weak world coffee prices. On the bright side, in recent years inflation has fallen to single digit levels, and total exports have grown substantially. The trade deficit has been offset by remittances (an estimated $1.6 billion in 2000) from Salvadorans living abroad and by external aid. As of 1 January 2001, the US dollar was made legal tender alongside the colon. Growth in 2002 will depend largely on the speed of recovery in the US.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $28.4 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 1.4% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $4,600 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 10% industry: 30% services: 60% (2000) Population below poverty line: 48% (1999 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 1.4%
percentage share: highest 10%: 39.3% (2001) Distribution of family income - Gini 50.8 (1997)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.8% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 2.35 million (1999) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 30%, industry 15%, services 55% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate: 10% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $2.1 billion expenditures: $2.5 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001 est.)
Industries: food processing, beverages, petroleum, chemicals, fertilizer, textiles, furniture, light metals Industrial production growth rate: 3% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 3.69 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 42.3% hydro: 35.5% other: 22.2% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 4.07 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 112 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 750 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: coffee, sugar, corn, rice, beans, oilseed, cotton, sorghum; shrimp; beef, dairy products
Exports: $2.9 billion (2001)
Exports - commodities: offshore assembly exports, coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals, electricity
Exports - partners: US 65%, Guatemala 11%, Honduras 8%, EU 5% (2000)
Imports: $5 billion (2001)
Imports - commodities: raw materials, consumer goods, capital goods, fuels, foodstuffs, petroleum, electricity
Imports - partners: US 50%, Guatemala 10%, EU 7%, Mexico 5%, (2000)
Debt - external: $4.9 billion (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: total $252 million; $57 million from US (1999 est.)
Currency: Salvadoran colon (SVC); US dollar (USD)
Currency code: SVC; USD
Exchange rates: Salvadoran colones per US dollar - 8.750 (fixed since January 2001), 8.755 (fixed rate since 1993) note: since January 2001 the US dollar has also become legal tender; the exchange rate has been fixed at 8.75 colones per US dollar
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications El Salvador Telephones - main lines in use: 380,000 (1998) Telephones - mobile cellular: 40,163 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA domestic: nationwide microwave radio relay system international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to Central American Microwave System Radio broadcast stations: AM 61 (plus 24 repeaters), FM 30, shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: 2.75 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 5 (1997)
Televisions: 600,000 (1990)
Internet country code: .sv Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 4 (2000)
Internet users: 40,000 (2000) Transportation El Salvador
Railways: total: 562 km narrow gauge: 562 km 0.914-m gauge note: length of operational route is reduced to 283 km by disuse and lack of maintenance (2001 est.)
Highways: total: 10,029 km paved: 1,986 km (including 327 km of expressways) unpaved: 8,043 km (1997)
Waterways: Rio Lempa partially navigable
Ports and harbors: Acajutla, Puerto Cutuco, La Libertad, La Union, Puerto El Triunfo
Merchant marine: none (2002 est.)
Airports: 83 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 4 over 3,047 m: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 79 914 to 1,523 m: 17 under 914 m: 62 (2001)
Heliports: 1 (2001) Military El Salvador
Military branches: Army, Navy (FNES), Air Force Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 1,500,712 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 951,715 (2002 est.)
service: Military manpower - reaching males: 68,103 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $112 million (FY99)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 0.7% (FY99)
GDP: Transnational Issues El Salvador Disputes - international: El Salvador claims tiny Conejo Island off Honduras in the Golfo de Fonseca; many of the "bolsones" (disputed areas) along the El Salvador-Honduras boundary remain undemarcated despite ICJ adjudication in 1992; with respect to the maritime boundary in the Golfo de Fonseca, the ICJ referred to the line determined by the 1900 Honduras-Nicaragua Mixed Boundary Commission and advised that some tripartite resolution among El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua likely would be required
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for cocaine; small amounts of marijuana produced for local consumption; domestic cocaine abuse on the rise

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officially Republic of El Salvador

Country, Central America.

Area: 8,124 sq mi (21,041 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 6,354,000. Capital: San Salvador. The majority of the people are mestizo (mixed European and Indian), with small numbers of Indians (mostly Pipil) and people of European descent. Language: Spanish (official). Religion: Roman Catholicism. Currency: U.S. dollar. The smallest but most densely populated Central American country, it is crossed by two volcanic mountain ranges and has a narrow coastal region and a high central plain in the south. The climate ranges from hot and wet in the lowlands to cooler and wetter in the highlands. Cloud forests predominate at the highest elevations. El Salvador has a developing economy based on trade, manufacturing, and agriculture, with coffee, sugarcane, and cotton the major export crops. It is a republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. The Spanish arrived in the area in 1524 and subjugated the Pipil Indian kingdom of Cuzcatlán by 1539. The country was divided into two districts, San Salvador and Sonsonate, both attached to Guatemala. With the end of Spanish rule in 1821, San Salvador was incorporated into the Mexican Empire; when the empire collapsed in 1823, Sonsonate and San Salvador combined to form the new state of El Salvador within the United Provinces of Central America. The country attained independence in 1841. From its founding, it experienced a high degree of political turmoil; powerful economic interests controlled the country through most of the 19th and early 20th centuries but were replaced by a military dictatorship that lasted from 1931 to 1979. Elections held in 1982 set up a new government, and, though a new constitution was adopted in 1983, civil war continued throughout the 1980s. An accord in 1992 brought peace, but violent crime became a major problem. Despite attempts at economic reform, the country was plagued by inflation and unemployment into the 21st century.

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▪ 2009

21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 5,794,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
President Elías Antonio Saca González

      At the start of 2008, the final full year of Pres. Elías Antonio (Tony) Saca González's term in office, El Salvador enjoyed a modest rate of economic growth. Rising foreign trade and remittances from Salvadorans in the United States accounted for much of this success, however. Although the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA–DR) had not provided all the benefits that the government promised, it had increased trade with the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. Separate trade agreements with Chile, Mexico, Panama, and Taiwan had further expanded Salvadoran trade, and negotiations with the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Canada, Israel, and the European Union promised additional growth. The U.S. economic downturn, however, slowed the growth in imports and exports as well as remittances, which had reached record levels in 2007.

      President Saca received the Path to Peace Award from an international Roman Catholic foundation that cited his leadership in consolidating peace, strengthening democracy, and reducing delinquency and poverty. Statistically, poverty levels had fallen, but there remained a vast gulf between the rich and the poor in El Salvador. Thus, some Salvadoran Roman Catholic organizations, notably the Christian Base Communities, criticized the granting of the award to Saca and complained that his draconian measures in fighting crime and violence had led to frequent civil rights violations.

      El Salvador continued to be plagued by violence, much of which emanated from the Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha gangs—which numbered their membership in the thousands—but was also related to drug trafficking and organized crime. In 2007 the murder rate reached 64 deaths per 100,000 population, one of the highest in the world. Violence and poverty also fed the continuing exodus of the population, but the rising number of illegal immigrants deported from the U.S. contributed to the growth of the gangs. In March the Los Angeles Police Department signed an agreement with the El Salvadoran police to exchange officers in an effort to study and observe methods of dealing with these gangs.

      For the El Salvadoran presidential election scheduled for March 2009, the popular TV newscaster and political moderate Mauricio Funes gave his opposition Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) a more centrist image. He held a substantial lead in the polls over the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) candidate Rodrigo Ávila. The U.S. accused Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez of trying to influence the outcome of the Salvadoran election by supporting the FMLN candidate. Although Chávez supplied cheap oil to Salvadoran towns dominated by the FMLN, he denied intervening directly in the electoral campaign.

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 2008

21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 6,857,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
President Elías Antonio Saca González

      The murder in Guatemala of three Salvadoran deputies to the Central American Parliament on Feb. 19, 2007, jostled El Salvador's government. The deputies belonged to El Salvador's ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and included a son of Roberto D'Aubuisson, founder of ARENA, which suggested that the killings might have been politically motivated. A Guatemalan investigation later revealed that drug-trafficking gangs were behind the murders.

 The increase in gang activity dominated much of Pres. Antonio Saca's time. He pursued tough anticrime measures aimed at reducing the gangs (maras) that had contributed to El Salvador's high murder rate. Thousands of gang members were arrested and jailed, which led to overcrowded prisons and criticism of civil rights violations from international human rights groups as the country appeared to be returning to its repressive past. Paramilitary death squads also joined the attacks on the MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, and other gangs. The rise of these gangs reflected El Salvador's widespread poverty and unemployment, along with an increase in organized crime connected with drug trafficking. Salvadoran gang members were also a problem in several U.S. cities, particularly Los Angeles, home to about one million Salvadoran immigrants. In May the U.S. and El Salvador agreed on a cross-border plan to reduce gang violence by sharing training methods and intelligence to better monitor Salvadorans crossing the borders (immigrants and deportees).

      A close ally of the U.S. (despite President Saca's criticism of U.S. immigration policy), El Salvador continued to boycott Cuba and was the only Latin American country to keep troops in Iraq, despite widespread opposition from El Salvador's populace. The Salvadoran contingent in Iraq dropped in August, however, from 380 to 280 troops. The administration of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush rewarded Salvadoran support for its foreign policy with leniency regarding the deportation of illegal immigrants back to San Salvador. Nearly one-third of native-born Salvadorans lived in the U.S., and their remittances of about $2.5 billion annually aided El Salvador's weak economy.

      El Salvador enjoyed a rise in exports to the U.S., including the reexport of Brazilian ethanol, which was made possible under the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the U.S.; growth was still less than expected, however. An increase in imports brought lower prices on many goods, but American corn-produced ethanol drove up grain prices in El Salvador. Moreover, the decline of the dollar, El Salvador's official currency, caused inflation.

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 2007

21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 6,991,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
President Elías Antonio Saca González

 The death of Schafik Handal on Jan. 24, 2006, was a blow to El Salvador's leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). Handal had been a guerrilla leader in the civil war of the 1980s, a peace negotiator in 1992, and the FMLN's presidential candidate in 2004. Before his death Handal had initiated a deal between 20 FMLN mayors and Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez that, when concluded on March 20, provided lower petroleum prices for Salvadoran consumers. Although Pres. Tony Saca disliked this deal, he could hardly oppose it. A week earlier, in the March 12 elections, the FMLN, highly critical of the president's close ties to the United States, had hoped to win control of the National Legislative Assembly. Yet Saca's National Republican Alliance (ARENA) won 34 of the 84 seats and, in coalition with the 10 seats of the conservative National Conciliation Party (PCN), maintained its control of that body. The FMLN scored an extremely narrow but important victory, however, in the race for mayor of the capital, San Salvador, won by FMLN candidate Violeta Menjívar.

      In March El Salvador became the first Central American state to implement the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the United States amid considerable fear from the left that U.S. agricultural imports would further impoverish Salvadoran peasants. Remittances of about $2.8 billion annually from Salvadoran immigrants in the United States remained highly important to El Salvador's weak economy, helping to alleviate the country's extreme poverty. Poverty and the rising cost of living increased pressure on many Salvadorans to migrate to the United States. Meanwhile, the administration of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush, facing increased expenditures in the Middle East, proposed cutting U.S. aid to El Salvador. El Salvador remained the only Latin American nation with troops still in Iraq. The disappointing performance of Saca's neoliberal economic program diminished his earlier popularity and forced him to become more conciliatory to the legislature as his government sought approval for large foreign loans and credits. The government continued a tough line against the widespread crime and gang violence but in the process prompted charges of human rights violations from Saca's critics.

      With French assistance El Salvador began major expansion of its airports and seaports in order to meet the needs of the increased exports that it expected CAFTA-DR to stimulate. El Salvador had also established close relations with Qatar, envisioning greater commercial opportunities for Salvadoran products in the Middle East as well as the possibility of employment of Salvadoran workers on public-works projects in Qatar.

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 2006

21,042 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 6,881,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
President Elías Antonio Saca González

      Despite widespread popular protest, El Salvador in 2005 became the first country to ratify the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2006. The Salvadoran government headed by Pres. Antonio Saca and his National Republican Alliance Party argued that CAFTA would bring significant increases in Salvadoran exports to the U.S. Aware of the rising demand for energy sources, the government hoped to expand greatly production of ethanol from sugarcane and other agricultural produce. Led by the opposition Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, opponents claimed that CAFTA would jeopardize the rights and job security of Salvadoran workers.

      Saca's government also faced a rising tide of gang violence. In collaboration with the U.S. and other Central American states, it attacked gangs such as the Mara-18 and Mara Salvatrucha. The lack of jobs for young males and the U.S. deportation of Salvadoran criminals back to the country had exacerbated the problem of gang violence. Saca's government invoked hard-line police methods, and there were charges that police turned a blind eye toward paramilitary death squads that targeted gang leaders for assassination. The U.S. offered funding for establishment in El Salvador of an international police academy to fight the gangs. The murder rate in El Salvador had risen from 37 per 100,000 in 2002 to 45 per 100,000 in 2005.

 Moderate economic growth, fueled by rising coffee prices and increased exports, was offset by rising oil prices. Agreements with other Central American states in an emergency energy plan had only limited success. Another negative economic indicator was a decline in textile exports because of Asian competition, with significant job losses in El Salvador as a result. Hurricane Katrina's devastating blow to the U.S. Gulf Coast (see Disasters ) also had an impact on El Salvador, for nearly 10,000 Salvadoran émigrés lived in the affected area, and the storm greatly reduced the remittances that they sent back to relatives and associates in El Salvador. Disruption of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast ports also reduced Salvadoran coffee and other exports to the U.S., while closure of refineries sent oil prices even higher. In early October heavy rains and landslides from Stan caused deaths and inflicted serious damage to roads and bridges in El Salvador.

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 2005

21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 6,698,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
Presidents Francisco Flores Pérez and, from June 1, Elías Antonio Saca González

      On March 21, 2004, following a bitter presidential campaign, Elías Antonio (Tony) Saca González (see Biographies (Saca Gonzalez, Elias Antonio )) of the right-wing National Republican Alliance (ARENA) defeated Schafik Hándal of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). Saca won the presidency with 57.7% of the vote against Hándal's 35.6% and was inaugurated on June 1. Saca's highly emotional anticommunist campaign overcame early polls that had predicted an FMLN victory. Saca argued that an FMLN victory might lead to deportation of the 2.5 million Salvadorans living in the United States, who sent about $2 billion dollars annually back to El Salvador. Factory workers also feared that an FMLN victory could drive their employers from the country and cost them their jobs. In extending ARENA's 14-year control of the presidency, Saca promised to continue the pro-business and pro-U.S. policies of his predecessor, Francisco Flores Pérez, to work toward implementation of the Central American Free Trade Agreements and to increase foreign investment. He also promised not to privatize the country's social security and health care systems.

      Though higher oil prices slowed economic growth and high unemployment and unequal distribution of wealth continued to be troublesome, El Salvador continued to receive favourable investment ratings. On May 28 El Salvador signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, along with other Central American countries and the U.S. Rising crime by youth gangs and a wave of kidnappings for ransom brought heavier law enforcement. Leaders from Central America and Mexico met in San Salvador in December to discuss ways to stem gang violence and crime in the region. Plans to increase economic cooperation and to ease border controls and customs regulations were also discussed.

      The government faced increasing opposition to the presence of its troops in Iraq. After the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua removed their troops from Iraq during the year, El Salvador remained the only Latin American country to keep troops there, and popular opposition delayed the sending of 380 more troops to Iraq until late August. Responding to Islamic terrorist threats, the Salvadoran government asked for extra security for its foreign embassies.

      In September a U.S. federal judge, acting on the basis of the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act and the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act, found Salvadoran Air Force Capt. Álvaro Rafael Saravía liable in the 1980 murder of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and ordered him to pay $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages. President Saca refused to reopen the case in El Salvador (Saravía had been given amnesty as part of a 1993 peace agreement), saying, “Opening up the wounds of the past wouldn't do any good for a country that is looking to the future.”

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 2004

21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 6,515,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
President Francisco Flores Pérez

      Throughout 2003 El Salvador negotiated with four other Central American countries and the United States to form a Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and sought preferential treatment for its coffee within that agreement. Fear of U.S. dominance, however, increased popular opposition to CAFTA in El Salvador. There was also widespread popular opposition, led by the leftist Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN), to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Nonetheless, the Salvadoran government agreed to send troops to join the peacekeeping brigade that was organized by Spain. U.S. pressure for consolidation of Central America's armed forces, however, met with sharp resistance from El Salvador. Spanish Pres. José María Aznar visited El Salvador in July in an attempt to develop closer economic relations between El Salvador and the European Union and to increase Spanish private investment in Central America.

      The FMLN made gains in March elections and won the mayorship of San Salvador as well as a plurality of seats (31) in the National Assembly, compared with 27 seats for the ruling National Republican Alliance (ARENA); 26 other seats were divided among four other parties. Cementing its coalition with the National Conciliation Party (PCN), ARENA continued to rule the country with 43 of the 84 seats in the unicameral legislature. As in the past, voters continued to ignore the polls, and there appeared to be widespread irregularities in the voting. The election was waged against the backdrop of a national strike by health care workers, who shut down public medical services to prevent privatization of health care services. Following its defeat, ARENA went through a major shake-up of its leadership, with coffee magnate José Antonio Salaverria Borja emerging as the new party leader. The FMLN was favoured to win the March 2004 national elections; Pres. Francisco Flores was suffering the lowest approval ratings of his administration. The U.S. ambassador warned that an FMLN victory would be harmful to U.S.-Salvadoran relations.

      Salvadoran activists in Los Angeles campaigned to protect Salvadoran citizens in the U.S. in the face of a hardening U.S. policy against illegal immigrants. Remittances of approximately $2 billion annually from an estimated 280,000 Salvadorans who lived in the U.S. under the provisions of the Temporary Protected Status, a section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, were a vital source of foreign exchange for El Salvador.

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 2003

21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 6,354,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
President Francisco Flores Pérez

      Although there was criticism about converting El Salvador's currency to the U.S. dollar, especially as the U.S. dollar declined in value during the year, Pres. Francisco Flores Pérez—who took credit for implementing dollarization—nonetheless enjoyed high approval ratings as he completed his third year in office in June 2002. Flores was also responsible for the expansion of manufacturing in the country's free-trade zones, the negotiation of free-trade agreements with other countries in the region, and the construction of schools and housing following the 2001 earthquake. Economic difficulties remained, however, with continued low coffee prices and a serious transportation strike in February slowing economic recovery. El Salvador also was suffering a serious drought and an epidemic of dengue fever, which was especially serious in San Salvador. There was also major opposition from labour to the government's efforts to privatize the country's health care system.

      El Salvador welcomed U.S. Pres. George W. Bush's initiatives to expand free trade. Bush visited El Salvador in March and praised the country as a model for economic development in Latin America, even though it was one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. The farm bill passed by the U.S. Congress in May, however, threatened to hurt Salvadoran agricultural interests.

      The leading opposition to the ruling National Republican Alliance suffered a serious split in March as reformist members of the socialist Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation broke away to form the Renovator Movement Party, which then sought to form a coalition with other parties—notably the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats—in the Legislative Assembly and in municipal elections.

      In July a U.S. federal court in Florida ordered former Salvadoran minister of defense José Guillermo García and former National Guard chief Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, a resident of Florida, to pay $54.6 million to three Salvadoran civilians who had been tortured by state security forces during the bitter civil war of the 1980s. The case was tried under the U.S. Torture Victims Protection Act of 1992.

      In September El Salvador filed an appeal with the International Court of Justice challenging the 1992 resolution of its border dispute with Honduras. The appeal charged that a map submitted by Honduras in the proceedings had been significantly altered from the original.

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 2002

21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 6,238,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
President Francisco Flores Pérez

      On Jan. 13, 2001, a major earthquake rocked much of El Salvador. (See Disasters .) Thousands of aftershocks and another major quake in February added to the destruction, which was especially heavy in the populous region around the capital, San Salvador. In addition to direct damage from the earthquakes, massive mud slides left hundreds of thousands homeless and disrupted communications, transportation, and public services. The quakes claimed the lives of 1,259 persons and caused an estimated $1.6 billion in damage. A massive international relief effort followed, but charges of corruption and misappropriation of funds clouded the relief effort.

      The earthquake imperiled El Salvador's economy and added to the confusion that had begun on January 1 when the country adopted the U.S. dollar as its official currency. (See Ecuador: Special Report (Dollarization: Is It Worth It? ).) Confusion and difficulty in converting the Salvadoran colón accompanied dollarization, as many Salvadorans resisted the change. Polls reflected that up to 80% of the population expressed preference for the colón. By the middle of the year, only a third of the currency had been converted to dollars, and at least two lawsuits challenged the constitutionality of the new system in the courts. The government insisted that the new system was working and contributing to economic growth by lowering interest rates, checking inflation, expanding credit, increasing dollar remittances from the U.S.—which rose 13.3% during the first five months of dollarization—and increasing foreign investment. Labour and leftist groups especially opposed dollarization. High oil prices, low coffee prices, and a serious drought slowed economic progress. Agricultural interests complained that the government's emphasis on expanding manufacturing and foreign trade was responsible for a serious decline in agricultural production, with rising rural poverty and hunger the result.

      Beginning on March 15, El Salvador joined with Guatemala and Honduras in a new free-trade agreement with Mexico, which promised new jobs and Mexican investment, but since it excluded the export to Mexico of coffee, sugar, or bananas, there was fear that the treaty benefitted Mexico much more than El Salvador. In April, Pres. Francisco Flores Pérez argued that economic liberty was the key to saving democratic development in the region. While El Salvador made progress in improving its bleak human rights record during 2001, extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, and allegations of police abuse continued. A United Nations Development Programme report for 2001 ranked El Salvador 95th among 162 countries for human development on the basis of its poverty, low rate of tax collection, and meagre spending on social programs.

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 2001

21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 6,123,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
President Francisco Flores Pérez

      The year 2000 opened in El Salvador with protests and strikes amid a sluggish economy. Although Pres. Francisco Flores Pérez promised to improve the standard of living, create jobs, and arrest the high crime rate, little progress was made toward these goals. About 50% of the population still lived in extreme poverty. A mosquitoborne dengue fever epidemic plagued the country by midyear, and violent crime and kidnapping rose along with popular criticism of the new National Civilian Police (PNC) force. A four-month strike by health care and social security workers ended in March when Flores agreed not to privatize the health care system.

      A low voter turnout (35%) in the March legislative elections reflected rising disenchantment with the right-wing National Republic Alliance (ARENA). Though the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) won 31 seats and ARENA captured 29, the FMLN fell short of an absolute majority when the National Conciliation Party (PCN) took 14 seats and other parties 10. An alliance between ARENA and the PCN provided a working majority of 43 votes, which prevented the FMLN from gaining the presidency of the Legislative Assembly. The FMLN—which governed 65% of the population at the local level—also won 78 mayorships, including reelection of Héctor Silva in San Salvador.

      On July 7 the Assembly ratified (49–35) an agreement that would allow the U.S. to establish an antinarcotics base at the Comalapa National Airport. The Assembly also approved U.S. training of the PNC for antidrug activities and ratified a constitutional amendment allowing Salvadorans to be extradited to the U.S.

      In June El Salvador signed a free-trade agreement with Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Foreign aid, investment, and substantial remittances from Salvadorans in the U.S. to friends and family in El Salvador were important in enabling El Salvador to maintain its low inflation and a stable currency. In November El Salvador announced that it would adopt the U.S. dollar as its currency. The colon, the local currency, would also remain legal tender. The move drew favourable reactions from the United States Treasury Department and the International Monetary Fund. The government continued to privatize government-owned services, and the telephone company and geothermal generating plants came under the control of foreigners. Credit from the World Bank, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, the Inter-American Development Bank, and nongovernmental organizations benefited the financial sector and helped build El Salvador's infrastructure but also increased the foreign debt. With increasing exports, however, economic indicators for 2000 pointed toward an economic growth in excess of 3%, and increased economic activity resulted in greater sales tax revenues for the government.

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 2000

21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 5,839,000
San Salvador
Head of state and government:
Presidents Armando Calderón Sol and, from June 1, Francisco Flores Pérez

      On March 7, 1999, Francisco Flores Pérez of the National Republic Alliance (ARENA) defeated Facundo Guardado of the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation in El Salvador's presidential election, winning 51% of the vote to Guardado's 29%. Rubén Zamora of the United Democratic Center received 7.5%, and several other parties gained less than 3% each. ARENA, which had held the presidency since 1989, benefited from ample campaign funds and an abstention rate of 62.7%. Flores, a former philosophy professor, began his five-year term on June 1. He pledged to create jobs, raise the country's standard of living, and lower its high crime rate. Although Flores made minor concessions to the left, most of his appointments reflected ARENA's rightist views.

      During the remainder of the year, Flores worked to further ARENA's pro-business economic policies. New projects aimed at repairing El Salvador's deteriorating rural transport infrastructure and at a free-trade accord with Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras moved toward implementation. Inflation, estimated at about 1% for 1999, remained the lowest in Central America. Economic growth, however, slowed to an estimated 1.5% as export revenue dropped sharply because of declining coffee prices and sugar yields. Other signs of recession included banking problems and depressed housing sales. Basic grains harvest improved, but excessive rains in the latter part of the year threatened them. In May a UN-sponsored report, based on 1997 data, estimated that 48.3% of Salvadorans still lived in poverty and that per capita income was 5% less than in 1978, before the outbreak of the Salvadoran civil war.

      Flores's appointment of former state security chief Mauricio Sandoval to head the new Civil National Police brought heavy criticism from the left. Sandoval launched an antidelinquency plan that promised to reduce crime by 60%, but the plan paid little attention to root causes of crime. On July 1 a new law made it easier for citizens to acquire guns to protect themselves against criminals. Political crimes, especially assassinations of leftist politicians and human rights advocates, continued. In July a report based on 1996 statistics named San Salvador as the second most dangerous city in the Western Hemisphere, behind Guatemala City, Guat.

Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.

▪ 1999

      Area: 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 5,752,000

      Capital: San Salvador

      Head of state and government: President Armando Calderón Sol

      On Jan. 19, 1998, Pres. Carlos Roberto Reina Idiaquez of Honduras and Pres. Armando Calderón of El Salvador signed a protocol to resolve the frontier problems that had arisen from the 1992 World Court ruling on the border disputes. Both countries agreed to proceed with demarcation of the border within a year. At the end of 1997, only 130 km (81 mi) of the 374-km (232-mi) border had been marked. Individuals affected by territorial allocations were to be guaranteed their civil and human rights.

      In April, El Salvador became the first country in Central America to establish private pension funds. Pension fund administrators would manage customers' accounts and invest contributions. This strengthened both the stock exchange and savings and investments and created thousands of jobs.

      U.S. State Department documents released in June concerning the 1980 rape and murder of three U.S. Catholic nuns and a female churchworker revealed a cover-up by U.S. and El Salvadoran authorities. Four members of the National Guard and their immediate superior had been convicted of the murders and sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1984. The declassified documents showed that the defense minister of El Salvador had reported to the U.S. ambassador that he suspected the murders had been ordered by a member of the high command. Both governments subsequently denied any involvement of high-ranking military officials. In June three of the five national guardsmen were released under a law intended to decrease prison overcrowding.

      Public security continued to be a matter of national concern. With 58,000 reported crimes, including 8,281 murders in 1997, El Salvador was one of the most violent countries in the world. In June the minister for public security called for more police resources and denied requests for a state of emergency and a suspension of constitutional rights. A month later President Calderón recommended that the death penalty be restored to stem the rising tide of violent crime. In September Calderón announced that the U.S. government had been asked to help investigate three murder cases dating from 1994, 1995, and 1997. Progress had stalled because government authorities had been implicated and accused of complicity.


▪ 1998

      Area: 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 5,662,000

      Capital: San Salvador

      Head of state and government: President Armando Calderón Sol

      Elections were held on March 16, 1997, for the 84 members of the national legislature and for 262 mayors. With more than half the electorate staying away from the polls, the vote was a resounding success for the former guerrilla force, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), now a social democratic rather than a Marxist party. As well as winning the powerful post of mayor of San Salvador, the FMLN won 39% of the vote and gained 27 seats in the legislature. The ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) gained 35% of the vote and managed to win 28 seats in the legislature. The next largest party, the right-wing National Conciliation Party, won 11 seats.

      Pres. Armando Calderón said that economic policy would not change despite the strong gains by the FMLN, but the election result immediately cast doubt on the government's privatization program. This concern was borne out when all opposition parties in the legislature united in May to vote in favour of repealing the telecommunications privatization law. The law would have allowed 51% of the company, ANTEL, to be held by one strategic investor, and 10% by employees, while the remainder was to be sold to private investors through the local stock market. The opposition parties favoured keeping 51% in the hands of the government. The president refused to veto the repeal, saying he would seek other ways of finding fresh capital for ANTEL, but this led to the resignation of Alfredo Mena Lagos, the state modernization commissioner and architect of the privatization program. On July 24 the legislature passed a law that divided ANTEL into two companies, one to control the physical plant and terrestrial network and one to manage the sale of frequencies. The government was a minority shareholder; a foreign investor could acquire 51% and employees retain 10%.

      The financial markets were rocked by the discovery of a large-scale fraud. Roberto Mathies Hill, a prominent business supporter of ARENA, was arrested for having diverted funds from two finance companies, Finsepro and Insepro, to prop up other companies that he owned and that were on the verge of bankruptcy. Some 1,400 depositors were affected, and losses were calculated at $113 million. The nation's superintendent of financial operations was sacked for not having spotted the fraud earlier, and the FBI was called in to investigate possible money laundering.


      This article updates El Salvador, history of (El Salvador).

▪ 1997

      The republic of El Salvador is situated on the Pacific coast of Central America. Area: 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 5,897,000. Cap.: San Salvador. Monetary unit: Salvadoran colón, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of ₡ 8.75 to U.S. $1 (₡13.79 = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Armando Calderón Sol.

      Inmates of the Santa Ana prison west of San Salvador began a hunger strike in July 1996 to protest overcrowding in jails. Prisoners sewed up their mouths and threatened to draw lots to determine who would be executed. The government ended the dispute when it pledged to introduce legislation within 40 days to reduce sentences. A new prison was to be constructed to relieve overcrowding, and former coffee warehouses were used temporarily.

      The Democratic Party (PD) pulled out of its pact with the governing party, ARENA (the National Republican Alliance Party), in May, leaving the government without a majority in the Legislative Assembly. The split was in protest against unfulfilled government promises, as well as a political move by the PD to distance itself from ARENA before the elections for the legislature in March 1997.

      Despite worsening poverty and social conditions, El Salvador became the first Central American country in several decades to be awarded a credit rating by Standard & Poor's. The nation was granted a BB rating on its long-term debt because of the political stability it had achieved and its prudent fiscal policies. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This article updates El Salvador, history of (El Salvador).

▪ 1996

      The republic of El Salvador is situated on the Pacific coast of Central America. Area: 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 5,768,000. Cap.: San Salvador. Monetary unit: Salvadoran colón, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of ₡ 8.75 to U.S. $1 (₡13.83 = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Armando Calderón Sol.

      On April 30, 1995, the United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador ended its job of monitoring the 1992 peace accords between the government and the guerrillas. A small UN office was to remain until October 31 to verify the last parts of the accords to be implemented, principally the land-transference program and compensation for ex-combatants. A newly appointed human rights commissioner was to be primarily responsible for monitoring the human rights situation.

      The National Civilian Police (PNC) proved unable to cope with the wave of crime sweeping El Salvador. Youth gangs, allegedly from inner-city Los Angeles, gained a foothold, and it was reported in the newspapers that there was a death every hour as a result of crime. The government sent 5,000 soldiers to support police patrols on highways and rural areas. Also emerging during the year were death squads whose targets were criminal rather than political, and there were attacks on the young gang members. By July there had been 17 killings attributed to the Black Shadow death squad and another 20 to other groups. A raid on 14 suspected members of the Black Shadow group revealed three of them to be members of the PNC. In San Salvador in June, authorities discovered an arsenal of sophisticated weapons that belonged to a criminal gang called Los Benedictos, notorious for assassinations, kidnappings, and car thefts. The group, whose leader was captured, was linked to arms trafficking and a network of organized crime in Central America.

      In May the value-added tax was raised from 10% to 13% in a congressional pact between the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance party and the Democratic Party, a newly created offshoot of the former guerrilla party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. The tax increase was one of several elements in a program designed to pay for land transfers, electoral and judicial reforms, and the repair of infrastructure damaged during the civil war. The slow pace of implementation of the reintegration and compensation programs of the 1992 accords led to demonstrations by former combatants of both sides. In July a former guerrilla was killed in clashes between police and 600 protesters traveling to the capital. In August former combatants took to the streets and occupied public buildings to demand the fulfillment of the 1992 accords. The government claimed it was doing everything possible. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article El Salvador, history of (El Salvador).

▪ 1995

      The republic of El Salvador is situated on the Pacific coast of Central America. Area: 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 5,642,000. Cap.: San Salvador. Monetary unit: Salvadoran colón, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 8.77 colones to U.S. $1 (13.95 colones = £1 sterling). Presidents in 1994, Alfredo Cristiani and, from June 1, Armando Calderón Sol.

      The first round of elections for the presidency of El Salvador was held on March 20, 1994, together with elections for the Legislative Assembly and the municipalities. Dubbed the "election of the century," it was the first time in more than 60 years that conservatives and communists had campaigned against each other. The campaign was marred by killings, however, particularly of former left-wing guerrilla leaders, and by accusations that the government had failed to implement fully the peace agreement signed with the guerrillas in January 1992 that ended the 12-year civil war. In rural areas most demobilized combatants from both sides had not been granted land; the corrupt judicial system had not been reformed; and deployment of a new civilian police force had been delayed.

      The two main contestants for the presidency were Armando Calderón Sol, of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance Party (Arena), and Rubén Zamora, leader of an alliance between the Democratic Convergence, a centre-left group, and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, the former guerrilla organization. There were widespread claims of voting irregularities, and thousands of people were unable to vote because they were not on the electoral register. These problems were particularly bad in rural areas. Calderón narrowly failed to win the 50% of the vote needed to win outright, forcing a second round of elections on April 24. This he won with almost 70% of the vote, although less than half of the electorate turned out; he was sworn in as president on June 1. The front began to break up in December, when one of the main factions withdrew.

      On August 18 the UN Observer Mission in El Salvador reported a decline in human rights violations between March 1 and June 30 but described the situation as precarious because of the growth of organized crime, abuses by the National Civilian Police, and illegal activity by members of the armed forces and National Police. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article El Salvador, history of (El Salvador).

▪ 1994

      The republic of El Salvador is situated on the Pacific coast of Central America. Area: 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 5,517,000. Cap.: San Salvador. Monetary unit: Salvadoran colón, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 8.64 colones to U.S. $1 (13.08 colones = £1 sterling). President in 1993, Alfredo Cristiani.

      In March a United Nations Truth Commission report was published on the atrocities of El Salvador's 12-year-old civil war. It found that senior army officers were responsible for ordering the murder of thousands of civilians. It named the defense minister, Gen. René Emilio Ponce, together with four other senior officers, as responsible for the murders of six Jesuit priests and their cook and her daughter in 1989; the late Roberto d'Aubuisson, leader of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena), for the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980; and the U.S.-trained Atlacatl battalion for the massacre of hundreds of civilians at El Mozote in 1981. The commission recommended the officers' dismissal and urged that they be barred from public office for 10 years and prohibited from ever gaining military or security responsibilities.

      The Legislative Assembly subsequently passed an amnesty for all those who had committed murder and other crimes during the war. This provoked the UN secretary-general to accuse the government of reneging on the peace settlement and to criticize Pres. Alfredo Cristiani for not sending an envoy to New York with a timetable for implementing proposals in the commission's report. The army high command angrily denounced "international pressures," while the U.S. said it would withhold further military aid until the purge of officers had been completed. By the end of June, changes had been announced in the high command and in other key posts, with the defense minister, the deputy defense minister, and the chief of staff all pushed into retirement.

      The political parties named their candidates for the March 1994 presidential elections. The ruling Arena party chose Armando Calderon Sol, who was president of the party and mayor of San Salvador. The Democratic Convergence chose Rubén Zamora, vice president of the Legislative Assembly. Fidel Chávez Mena was nominated by the Christian Democrats even though he had failed to win in the 1989 elections. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article El Salvador, history of (El Salvador).

* * *

El Salvador, flag of   country of Central America. El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated of the seven Central American countries. Despite having little level land, it traditionally was an agricultural country, heavily dependent upon coffee exports. By the end of the 20th century, however, the service sector had come to dominate the economy. The capital is San Salvador.

      From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, El Salvador was the focus of international attention, owing to its civil war and to external involvement in its internal conflicts. The war, which pitted a militarily and politically capable left-wing insurgency against the U.S.-backed Salvadoran Armed Forces, was caused by decades of repressive, military-dominated rule and profound social inequality. Following the United Nations-mediated 1992 peace accords, which contained fundamental provisions for El Salvador's democratization (including the removal of the military from political affairs), the country began to recover from years of political and economic turmoil, only to be devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and by a major earthquake in 2001. Skyrocketing crime, faltering economic growth, and persistent social inequality have further hampered full postwar reconstruction.

      The Pipil (descendants of the Aztecs (Aztec)), the predominant tribe in the region prior to the Spanish conquest, named their territory and capital Cuscatlán, meaning “Land of the Jewel”; the name is still sometimes applied to El Salvador today. The mixing of the Pipil and other tribes with European settlers is reflected in the modern-day ethnic composition of the country. El Salvadorans are known for their industriousness, and the country has produced several internationally acclaimed artists, including poet Roque Dalton.

 El Salvador is bounded by Honduras to the north and east, by the Pacific Ocean to the south, and by Guatemala to the northwest. Its territory is situated wholly on the western side of the isthmus, and it is therefore the only Central American country that lacks a Caribbean coast. The entire territory of El Salvador is located on the Central American volcanic axis, which determines the major geographic regions of the country.

      Relief in El Salvador is dominated by the central highlands, consisting largely of a west-east line of volcanoes (volcano) (some of which are still active) crossing the centre of the country. This volcanic range includes 20 cones, from the westernmost Izalco Volcano (6,447 feet [1,965 metres]), through those of San Salvador (6,430 feet [1,960 metres]) and San Miguel (6,988 feet [2,130 metres]), to that of Conchagua (4,078 feet [1,243 metres]) in the extreme east. These volcanoes are separated by a series of basins (commonly referred to as El Salvador's central plain), lying at elevations of between 3,500 and 5,000 feet (1,000 and 1,500 metres), whose fertile soils, derived from volcanic ash, lava, and alluvium, have for centuries supported the cultivation of crops. To the south, where the central highlands give way to the Pacific coast, is a narrow coastal plain with average elevations of between 100 and 500 feet (30 and 150 metres).

      North of the central highlands, and parallel to them, a broad interior plain drained by the Lempa River is situated at elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet (400 and 610 metres). Intermittently broken by ancient dormant volcanic structures and adversely affected by poor drainage and high soil acidities, this interior plain has provided a less-attractive environment for human habitation.

      Extending along the entire northern border region are a range of highlands, with average elevations of 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,500 to 1,800 metres), formed by ancient and heavily eroded volcanic structures. The steepness of slope, excessive forest clearance, and overuse of soils have led to serious deterioration of the environment of this northern region. In the extreme northwestern part of the country, there are limited outcrops of limestone rock associated with the older nonvolcanic structures of Honduras.

 Two principal river systems and their associated tributaries drain the major part of the country. Most important is the Lempa (Lempa River), which enters El Salvador from Guatemala in the northwestern corner of the country and flows eastward for 80 miles (130 km) across the interior plain to form part of the border with Honduras before turning sharply south to run 65 miles (105 km) through the central highlands and across the coastal plain to its mouth on the Pacific. The Lempa was navigable for several miles inland prior to the construction of two major hydroelectric installations on its middle reaches in the mid-1950s. The eastern part of the country is drained by the Rio Grande de San Miguel system. A series of short north-south streams drain directly from the central highlands to the Pacific. Flooded volcanic craters constitute the country's largest bodies of water: Lakes Coatepeque (15 square miles [39 square km]), Ilopango (Ilopango, Lake) (40 square miles [100 square km]), and Olomega (20 square miles [52 square km]).

      Less than one-fifth of El Salvador's soils are suitable for agriculture. The central plain and interior valleys have mostly volcanic soils that are relatively fertile but that are also vulnerable to erosion. The southern coast has level, fertile alluvial soils, deposited by the numerous small rivers draining from the central highlands. Combined with high year-round temperatures and abundant rainfall, they provide favourable conditions for plant growth and agriculture.

      The climate of El Salvador is tropical but is moderated by elevation in the interior; in general it is warm rather than hot, varying between the high 50s and low 70s F (about 15 and 23 °C). Heavy rains, known as the temporales, fall in the winter season, from May to October. The dry summer season lasts from November to April. There is considerable climatic variation in the different regions. The Pacific lowlands and low areas in the middle Lempa River valley have mean monthly temperatures between the high 70s and mid-80s F (about 25 and 29 °C). In San Salvador, the capital, which is 2,238 feet (682 metres) above sea level, the maximum monthly mean temperature is in the mid-90s F (about 34 °C), in March, and the lowest monthly mean is in the low 60s F (about 17 °C), in January. In the mountains, above 4,800 feet (1,460 metres), mean monthly temperatures vary between the low 60s and low 70s F (about 17 and 22 °C). Annual precipitation on the Pacific lowlands averages about 65 to 70 inches (about 1,700 mm); on the southern and northern mountain ranges, at elevations between 2,000 and 3,500 feet (600 and 1,060 metres), the average is between 70 and 100 inches (1,800 and 2,500 mm); the higher mountains receive a little more. Annual precipitation recorded in the deeper valleys and surrounding plateaulike areas is between about 45 and 60 inches (1,100 and 1,500 mm).

Plant and animal life
      The higher mountain regions have temperate grasslands and the remnants of deciduous oak and pine forests. On the central plain and in the valleys, small deciduous trees, bushes, and subtropical grasslands are found. The coastal plain and the lower slopes of the southern mountains are covered with either savanna (parklike grassland) or deciduous forests. Among the many species of trees is the balsa, known for its beauty and soft perfume. Also particularly beautiful is the maquilishuat, the pink-tufted national tree of El Salvador. The izote is the national flower.

      Because of the amount of land under cultivation, El Salvador is considerably less rich in animal life than most Central American countries. Rodents, reptiles, and insects of many kinds, however, are common. There is a wide variety of birdlife, which includes wild duck, the white and the royal heron, the urraca (which has a blue breast and a gray head and is known for its call, resembling a scoffing laugh), the blue jay, and many more, some of which have fine plumage. A wide variety of fish, as well as turtles and alligators, inhabit the streams, lakes, and rivers.

People (El Salvador)

Ethnic groups
      The intermarriage of Spanish settlers with the indigenous population of the region has resulted in a largely ethnically homogeneous people. Almost nine-tenths of the population is mestizo (people of mixed Indian and European ancestry); the remainder consists of Indians (including the Izalco and, from the village of Panchimalco, the Pancho), people of European ancestry, and other small groups.

      Spanish (Spanish language) is the official language of El Salvador. During the precolonial epoch various Indian dialects were spoken, the most important of these being Nahuatl (Nahuatl language), spoken in the central region of the country, and Poton, spoken in the east. After the initial conquest, Spanish became the official language, and the Indian dialects slowly fell into disuse. A government effort was made to preserve Nahuatl, but it proved unsuccessful.

 About four-fifths of Salvadorans profess the Roman Catholic religion. Since the 1990s Evangelical Protestantism has made inroads, particularly among the poor. About one-tenth of the population are Pentecostals. There are also smaller groups who practice other faiths.

Settlement patterns
 More than three-fourths of the Salvadoran population lives in the intermontane basins of the central highlands. For millennia before the Spanish conquest, these areas supported large communities of Indians (Mesoamerican Indian) dependent on the cultivation of crops, such as corn (maize), beans, and squash. The ruins at Chalchuapa, Sihuatán, and Cara Sucia are the legacy of their communities. The major Spanish colonial settlements, which became the country's principal cities, were also situated in these central basins and include Santa Ana, Ahuachapán, San Salvador, San Vicente, and San Miguel. This concentration of population was perpetuated during the colonial period by the commercial production of indigo and sugar on private estates, owned by a few wealthy families, alongside the continuing subsistence farming of peasants. From the 19th century these basins and their surrounding slopes provided an ideal environment for the cultivation of coffee, which became the basis of the national economy.

      In the 20th century, urban growth and industrialization increased the concentration in the highland centre of the country. San Salvador grew rapidly in the 20th century and absorbed many surrounding settlements; its major conurbation now stretches continuously from Nueva San Salvador in the west to Lake Ilopango in the east and contains about one-fourth of the total population. In the east, San Miguel, located on the slope of the volcano San Miguel, is a thriving city where Spanish colonial and modern architecture merge. The city of Santa Ana is the commercial centre of western El Salvador. At the start of the 21st century, more than two-fifths of the national population lived in urban areas. This distribution of population has been exacerbated by the effects of natural disasters; most of these cities have been subject to one or more destructive earthquakes. Moreover, the overpopulation in the central highlands has resulted in out-migration to the coastal plain, which since 1945 has been transformed by extensive cotton farming and cattle breeding. Another region that suffers from overpopulation, the northern highlands has experienced severe deforestation and soil degradation as well. The majority of the people who live there are subsistence farmers.

Demographic trends
      Severe economic conditions complicated by the civil war that began in 1981 caused dramatic changes in El Salvador's demographics. It is estimated that about one-fifth of the population left the country, departing in about equal numbers for neighbouring countries and the United States. Most of the emigrants have not returned to their homeland (though there has been an increase in the number of deportations of undocumented Salvadorans from the United States since the early 2000s). Among the remaining population there was massive displacement characterized by a general movement of people from the conflict zones in the north and east to the central cities. The emigration of many young Salvadorans has brought an accompanying decline in the rate of natural increase. At the beginning of the 21st century, El Salvador had a low rate of natural increase. Nevertheless, overcrowding remains a severe problem.

      El Salvador's economy was predominantly agricultural until industry rapidly expanded in the 1960s and '70s. Despite its traditional concentration on agriculture, the country is not self-sufficient and must import food. At the root of this problem is the disproportionate distribution of land, which favours commercial crops and leaves many peasants landless and unable to grow subsistence crops. During the civil war years, in the 1980s and the early 1990s, the U.S. government supplied El Salvador with large amounts of military and economic aid in order to counter the leftist parties and guerrilla units that had formed in response to the actions of the governing junta. A decade after it began, the war had destroyed the country's economy and infrastructure, and neither side was winning. It was not until after the signing of the peace accords in 1992 that El Salvador's economy began to recover from the effects of war. By the mid-1990s El Salvador had expanded its service industry, and in the early 2000s it increased its amount of agricultural exports and number of reconstruction projects. In 2004 El Salvador signed a free-trade agreement with the United States that further boosted its export income. However, in the late 1990s, these accomplishments had been offset by high oil prices, natural disasters, and a decline in the number of maquiladoras (manufacturing plants that import and assemble duty-free components for export). These factors prevented El Salvador from paying off its external debt, and the country continues to rely partly on foreign aid. On the other hand, remittances from an estimated more than one million Salvadorans living in the United States have played an increasingly important role in the Salvadoran economy since the end of the country's civil war.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      The most important agricultural products in El Salvador are coffee, cotton, corn (maize), and sugarcane. Several species of palm and coconut trees grow in the coastal zone, and there are many varieties of tropical fruit, such as coconut, tamarind, melon, watermelon, and mango. Nontraditional agricultural products (e.g., jalapeño peppers, marigolds, okra, and pineapple) have increased in importance since the early 2000s. Nevertheless, coffee alone still accounts for a substantial part of the value of total agricultural production. Cattle raising is also an important activity.

      Valuable wood is obtained from the cedar, mahogany, laurel, nispero, and madrecacao trees and is used for the manufacture of furniture. The trunk of the balsa tree yields excellent lumber as well as resin that is used in the manufacture of antiseptics and medicinal gums. It is also used for fuel.

      Commercial fishing, regulated by the government, has added to the country's export earnings. Most of the fish caught commercially or for sport come from offshore waters and coastal lagoons; they consist chiefly of crustaceans (including lobster and shrimp), mullet, snappers, jacks, groupers, sharks, and anchovies.

Resources and power
      There is no mineral exploitation of significance in El Salvador. The main power sources, meeting most of the country's needs, are the hydroelectric projects on the Lempa River 35 miles (56 km) northeast of San Salvador, which are administered by a government agency.

      In the mid-20th century, there was a steadily increasing investment in industry, stimulated by the Central American Common Market. Industrial plants were set up throughout the country, and existing facilities were expanded, helped by government incentives, an advanced banking system, and development credits from abroad. Manufacturing underwent a serious decline beginning in 1979, a result primarily of civil unrest and political instability. Following the civil war, manufacturing increased beyond the level of prewar output, and by the early 21st century it accounted for more than one-fifth of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). Manufactures include beverages, canned foods, organic fertilizers, cement, chemical products, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, shoes, cotton textiles, leather goods, petroleum products, and electronics.

      In 1980 the country's commercial banks and its export-marketing agencies were nationalized. By the early 1990s this trend had been reversed, and a comprehensive privatization program was implemented, which continued through the early 2000s. In 2001 El Salvador adopted the U.S. dollar as its national currency.

      More than one-fifth of El Salvador's imports are used for reexport (mostly apparel produced in maquiladoras). Among other imports are machinery parts, foodstuffs, petroleum, and chemical products. El Salvador's main trading partner is the United States. Other partners include El Salvador's Central American neighbours—particularly Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua—and Japan. El Salvador entered into the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the United States in 2004.

      Since the early 1990s services have accounted for about three-fifths of GDP. Tourism suffered a decline during the country's civil war, but since the 1990s it has been an increasing source of income. Some important tourist sites are the pyramids of Campana San Andrés; the complex of Cihuatan; the ruins of the ancient cities of Cara Sucia, Tazumal, and Quelepa; and the Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993 and consists of the ruins of a prehistoric farming village that was buried by a volcano c. AD 600.

Labour and taxation
      Although El Salvador has fared better than other Latin American countries when population increases are taken into account, the country's modest economic growth, averaging 2 percent or less since the 1990s, is not enough to produce dramatic improvements in standards of living. With about one-half of the population living in poverty and more than one-fourth reportedly feeling they must migrate abroad in search of work, some critics have argued that the average Salvadoran household has not benefited from neoliberalism. From the late 1980s to the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, poverty levels rose slightly. With prices rising, privatization has been vigorously opposed. Finally, the fruits of stable economic growth have not been equitably distributed, as the income of the richest 10 percent of the population is almost 50 times higher than that of the poorest 10 percent. Pervasive poverty and inequality, combined with 15 percent unemployment and significant underemployment, have contributed to the related problems of crime and violence that have plagued El Salvador since its civil war. In the early 1990s, more than two-thirds of the economically active population was unemployed or underemployed, and more than seven-tenths of Salvadorans lived in poverty. Poverty levels declined significantly in the early 21st century, but income inequality widened following privatization programs. Women make up about two-fifths of the country's labour force, and they are mainly employed in the agriculture and domestic-service sectors. Four-fifths of workers in the country's maquiladoras are women.

      Labour unions (organized labour) have a long history in El Salvador. The first unions were formed in the early 20th century and were meant to promote savings among members, as well as education and charitable work. The worldwide Great Depression, which began in 1929, aggravated social tensions and contributed to an increasingly militant labour union movement in El Salvador.

      Several important labour unions were created in the 1960s and during the civil war in the 1980s, including the National Farm Workers' Union (Unión Nacional Obrero Campesino; UNOC), the General Work Confederation (Confederación General del Trabajo; CGT), and the National Unity of Salvadoran Workers (Unidad Nacional de Trabajadores Salvadoreños; UNTS). Following the end of the armed conflict in 1992, the labour union sector was restructured, and a number of new or reorganized unions were formed, including the Federation of Independent Associations and Unions of El Salvador (Federación de Asociaciones o Sindicatos Independientes de El Salvador; FEASIES) and the National Confederation of Salvadoran Workers (Confederación Nacional del Trabajadores Salvadoreños; CNTS). El Salvador has a sales tax, an income tax, and a value-added tax (VAT).

Transportation and telecommunications
      El Salvador has adequate transportation facilities except in some of the more remote areas. Two main routes of the Inter-American Highway (Pan-American Highway), part of the Pan-American Highway, cross El Salvador from Guatemala to Honduras, forming the framework of a road system that reaches almost all parts of the country; one of these routes runs across the central highlands, the other across the coastal plain. Several paved roads connect with these main highways. The country's narrow-gauge railroad is operated by a national agency; the main tracks link the capital with ports on the coast and with the Guatemalan border. For seaborne commerce, El Salvador relies on three ports— Acajutla, La Libertad, and Cutuco (near La Unión). El Salvador's main outlet to the Atlantic is through the Guatemalan port of Puerto Barrios, with which San Salvador is linked by road and rail, via Guatemala City. An international airport was constructed in the 1970s on the coastal plain 25 miles (40 km) south of the capital. It replaced Ilopango Airport, which now serves as a military base. Severe damage to the country's transportation network resulted from the civil war.

      El Salvador's telecommunications system was privatized in the late 1990s; however, it has been set back various times by natural disasters. Cellular phone usage in El Salvador is high compared with that in most Central American countries, and the number of fixed-line telephones, even in urban areas, has significantly decreased.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
 El Salvador's constitution of 1983 provides for representative government with three branches—legislative, executive, and judicial. Executive power is exercised by the president (who is elected by popular vote and serves a nonrenewable five-year term), the cabinet ministers, and the undersecretaries of state. Legislative power is vested in a unicameral, popularly elected National Assembly, whose members serve three-year terms. The judicial branch is composed of a Supreme Court of Justice, whose magistrates are selected by the National Assembly, and of other tribunals as established by statute.

Local government
      El Salvador's territory is divided into departamentos (departments), each of which is divided into distritos (districts), which are further divided into municipios (municipalities). Each department has a governor and a substitute governor, appointed by executive power; and each municipality has a popularly elected municipal council composed of a mayor, a secretary, and aldermen, the number of whom is in proportion to the population.

Political process
      All Salvadorans age 18 and older have universal suffrage. Prominent political parties include the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista; Arena) and the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional; FMLN). There are many other parties, some of which were formed under the auspices of the FMLN. A party list proportional representation system is used for elections to the National Assembly. For presidential elections, a candidate must receive a majority in the first round to win election; otherwise, a runoff is required. Voter turnout has generally been low, with about two-fifths to one-half of eligible citizens participating.

Health and welfare
      Despite a number of governmental attempts to achieve a more equitable distribution of income through a major program of agrarian reform in the late 1970s, as well as improvements in education and social services following the war, progress in El Salvador has been exceedingly slow. Low-cost housing, medical assistance, and employment programs were improved upon in an attempt to meet the needs and problems of the displaced and the unemployed, but such programs have had difficulty keeping up with deteriorating conditions. The doctor-to-patient ratio is low, and most doctors serve only urban areas. Moreover, in many areas the war and population displacement have caused the reappearance and spread of diseases, particularly dengue fever, malaria, and cholera. Malnutrition is increasingly prevalent.

      All public and private institutions of learning are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. Since 1968 the school system has been composed of preschool, primary, and secondary educational categories, followed by university-level education. Primary education is free and compulsory. More than four-fifths of Salvadorans aged 10 and over are literate. Among the institutions of higher education are the University of El Salvador (1841), the University Dr. José Matías Delgado (1977), and the Central American University of José Simeón Cañas (1965). There are also schools for technology, fine arts, agriculture, social services, and nursing.

Cultural life

Cultural milieu
      The cultural life of El Salvador, like its population, is an amalgam of Indian and Spanish influences, though European influences predominate, largely because most Indian cultural activities have been suppressed by the government since the 1930s. Indian customs do survive, however, in small clusters of villages, such as those around Izalco and Nahuizalco, and traditional crafts are produced in Ilobasco (pottery) and Izalco (textiles). This cultural mix also can be seen in the country's rich tradition of folklore, poetry, and painting. The Roman Catholic (Roman Catholicism) Church also has been a major influence on almost every aspect of cultural life.

Daily life and social customs
      Owing to the large number of Salvadorans who have immigrated to, or returned from, the United States since the 1980s, the lifestyle of broad segments of El Salvador's urban population (and even that of those in many rural areas) has become increasingly Americanized. In one of San Salvador's wealthier neighbourhoods, Escalón, a number of multiscreen cinemas have opened, and the city's principal boulevard is lined with shopping malls and fast-food restaurants. On weekends North American, South American, and Mexican rock music is played in the bars.

      Salvadorans of all classes enjoy their country's folk music. Although the country's dozens of radio stations mostly play North American and Mexican popular music, there has been a revival of the canción popular, folk music often mixed with political commentary. Canción popular can frequently be heard playing in El Salvador's restaurants, which serve staples such as casamiento, a spicy mixture of rice and beans, and pupusa, a sandwich made of cheese, meat, or beans wrapped in cornmeal.

The arts
      El Salvador's elite has long prized the arts, especially literature. But any kind of antigovernment literature was an extremely dangerous enterprise during the civil war years; one of the country's most widely respected poets, Roque Dalton, was assassinated in 1975 after having written several books that criticized the ruling party, and many other Salvadoran writers, artists, and intellectuals fled the country. Few have returned, but those who have, including poets Manlio Argueta and Francisco Rodriguez, give frequent readings before large audiences.

      Private benefactors have played as important a role as that of the government in patronizing the arts. The government has increased its contribution to national cultural life, particularly in its expansion of secondary and continuing education.

Cultural institutions
      The majority of El Salvador's cultural institutions are located in the capital. The most significant of these are the state-supported National Theatre and the Presidential Theatre, the latter of which offers performances of works by contemporary playwrights. Museums, also in the capital, include the Natural History Museum of El Salvador and the David J. Guzmán National Museum, which specializes in history and archaeology.

Sports and recreation
      Football (football (soccer)) (soccer) is the most popular sport in El Salvador and is played throughout the country. Internationally renowned players include Jorge (“El Mágico”) González, who is considered one of the most accomplished footballers in the history of the Central American game, and Jaime (“La Chelona”) Rodríguez, who, with González, led the national team's memorable run in the 1982 World Cup. Other sports, such as baseball and boxing, are still incipient in El Salvador. Numerous adventure sports are popular, including hiking, surfing, fishing, and kayaking. The country first competed in the Olympics at the 1968 Games in Mexico City.

Media and publishing
      The majority of newspapers and publishing companies in El Salvador are privately owned. Major daily newspapers include the ultraconservative El Diario de Hoy (“Today's Daily”), the conservative La Prensa Gráfica (“The Graphic Press”), El Mundo (“The World”), and the government-owned Diario Oficial (“Official Daily”), among others.

René Santamaria Varela David G. Browning Markus Schultze-Kraft


Early history
      Before the Spanish arrived in Salvadoran territory in the 16th century, it was occupied by a complex of Indian (Central American and northern Andean Indian) tribes. Of these the Pocomam, Chortí, and Lenca, all related to the Maya, were the more ancient, but the Pipil, whose civilization resembled that of the Aztecs (Aztec) in Mexico, were predominant. Archaeological ruins dating from Indian times are Tazumal, Pampe, El Trapito, and San Andrés. Of several large towns founded by the Indians, Sonsonate and Ahuachapán still exist. For more information on early history and the treatment of the country in its regional context, see Central America.

The colonial period
      The Spanish conquest and colonization (colonialism, Western) of El Salvador began in 1524 with the arrival of an expedition from Guatemala led by Pedro de Alvarado (Alvarado, Pedro de). Alvarado's troops met determined opposition from a Nahua tribe, the Pipil, that occupied much of the region west of the Lempa River. However, superior tactics and armaments enabled the Spaniards to push on to the Pipil capital of Cuscatlán. Alvarado soon returned to Guatemala, but a second expedition, in 1525, founded a Spanish town called San Salvador near the site of Cuscatlán. Pipil warriors forced the Spanish settlers to withdraw, however, and the community would be resettled several times before it was permanently established in 1528.

      Thereafter, the town of San Salvador would serve as the capital of a province of the same name that included most of the eastern three-fourths of the territory of present-day El Salvador. The area to the west (comprising the present-day regions of Sonsonate, Santa Ana, and Ahuachapán), which the Pipil called Izalcos, was organized in 1558 as the autonomous province of Sonsonate and would not be incorporated as a part of El Salvador until 1823.

      The lands that would form El Salvador became the agricultural heartland of the captaincy general of Guatemala. Although most of the inhabitants were obliged to depend on subsistence farming, the more fortunate Spaniards found wealth in the export of a variety of local products, all of which experienced periods of “boom and bust.” Cocoa (cacao) was the most important source of wealth during the 16th century. Increased competition from other colonies led to a marked drop in revenue from cocoa by 1590, and the following century was clearly a period of stagnation for the region. Recovery in the 1700s came as a result of increased exports of indigo.

      The indigo trade led to the development of a fairly sophisticated form of commercial agriculture and the creation of large estates operated by families whose members played a leading role in provincial affairs. For the indigenous people, however, the indigo boom chiefly meant that an additional burden was placed on an already exhausted workforce.

      A variety of considerations caused the Salvadoran indigo planters to take a leading role in agitating for Central American independence. These included the hard times caused by a sharp decline in indigo production during the first decade of the 19th century, a long-held hostility toward Guatemalan merchants who controlled much of the economy of San Salvador, and the conviction that the province should be organized as a bishopric so that it need no longer depend upon the archbishop of Guatemala for pastoral services.

      In November 1811 the arrest of a member of one of the planter families ignited an uprising led by José Matías Delgado, the provincial vicar of San Salvador, and his nephew Manuel José Arce. The rebels held the government for nearly a month before Spain's authority was restored by the captain general of Guatemala, whose measures seemed more conciliatory than repressive. A second, shorter uprising in 1814 had wider popular support, and it provoked a more severe response from the captain general, costing Arce more than four years in prison.

      In 1821 the province endorsed Guatemala's declaration of independence from Spain. The Salvadorans, however, opposed the Guatemalan decision to accept incorporation into Agustín de Iturbide (Iturbide, Agustín de)'s Mexican Empire, a stance that led to confrontations with Guatemalan and Mexican armies. Faced with defeat late in 1822, a Salvadoran congress sought adoption of a resolution providing for the province's annexation to the United States, but this scheme was abandoned when Iturbide's government collapsed in 1823. Meeting in June of that year in Guatemala City, a Central American constitutional convention chose Delgado as its president, appointed Arce as a member of the provisional executive triumvirate, and went on to draft a constitution, which was completed in 1824. The state thus created was now called the Federal Republic of Central America, having earlier been termed the United Provinces of Central America; in 1825 Arce became its first president.

      The state of San Salvador (the modern-day name, El Salvador, was not used until 1841) played an important part in the affairs of the Central American federation. Not only was it the birthplace of the federation's first president, but it was also there that a revolt was sparked against Arce in 1827, beginning the civil war in which Central American liberals and conservatives contested for control of the new country. This conflict, which caused the collapse of Arce's presidency, ended in 1829 with the seizure of the federal government by Francisco Morazán (Morazán, Francisco), commander of the liberal army. Having cast their lot with Morazán, the Salvadorans became his most loyal allies and were rewarded in 1834 with the transfer of the federal capital to the city of San Salvador. The Salvadorans were so attached to the ideals of federation that the state did not assume sovereign powers until 1841, one year after the other four member states had already left the federation.

      Sovereignty did not signal the arrival of peace and prosperity for El Salvador; if anything, the new country experienced increased civil strife and international conflict for several decades after 1841. From that year until 1863, just one chief of state could claim continuous service that ran two full years. During this time, El Salvador was involved in wars with neighbouring countries that usually arose from attempts to meddle in their politics. Often El Salvador found that the final arbiter of its political affairs was Rafael Carrera (Carrera, Rafael), conservative dictator of Guatemala from 1839 until his death in 1865. In the midst of this turmoil, El Salvador secured the establishment of the long-sought bishopric and saw the beginnings of the coffee industry, which was advanced in part by the policies of Pres. Gerardo Barrios Espinosa (1861–63).

A coffee republic
      The presidency of Francisco Dueñas (1863–71) pointed toward greater political stability for the country; real change came, however, when his overthrow in 1871 marked the beginning of a 60-year period of rule by liberals who focused on the pursuit of economic growth and domestic tranquility. Late in the 19th century, a substantial shift in the country's economy became essential when the development of synthetic dyes severely reduced the income normally generated by the export of indigo. Salvadorans solved this problem by means of a “coffee (coffee production) revolution.” New lands had to be opened to cultivation, a step facilitated during the administration of Rafael Zaldívar (1876–85), who authorized the sale of Indian lands. These proceedings provoked Indian uprisings, which were put down by a newly created rural mounted police force.

      The coffee planters developed a highly efficient system of plantation enterprises and formed a closely knit elite that used its growing economic strength to ensure that the government served its interests. Among the small number of controlling families, just two—the Meléndez and Quiñónez families—monopolized the office of the president between 1913 and 1927.

Military dictatorships (dictatorship)
      The coffee barons' direct control of the presidency ultimately came to an end as a consequence of the Great Depression, which began in 1929. A coup installed Gen. Maximiliano Hernández Martínez as president in December 1931 and initiated a succession of military governments that controlled the country through 1979.

      The persistence of military rule can be partly explained as a result of a two-day revolt by farmworkers in January 1932 that was organized by Augustín Farabundo Martí, head of the recently formed Salvadoran Communist Party. Hernández Martínez easily suppressed the rebellion and authorized the summary execution of at least 10,000 suspected participants. The uprising and its brutal repression, which is referred to as la matanza (“the slaughter”), were momentous events in the history of the country. The revolt demonstrated the value of the military dictatorship to the landed elite, which became convinced of the need for eternal vigilance against the menace of a communist revolution. It also eliminated the immediate threat from the left as well as most of the last vestiges of Indian culture.

      Personally honest and austere, Hernández Martínez sought to emulate the fascist dictators of Europe, but he may be best known for his interest in the occult arts. His regime survived a coup in April 1944, but the following month a general strike launched by university students brought the country to a standstill and caused the dictator to resign from office. There was no real change, however, until 1948, when a revolt by young army officers installed a junta headed by Maj. Oscar Osorio. This “Majors' Revolution” gave rise to policies and patterns of behaviour that would have a central role in the practice of Salvadoran politics during the next 30 years.

      Elected to a six-year term as president in 1950, Osorio organized the Revolutionary Party of Democratic Unification (Partido Revolucionario de Unificación Democrática; PRUD) and launched a variety of reform projects, such as the development of hydroelectric facilities and urban housing projects. He also extended collective bargaining rights to urban workers, but, for the most part, the reforms served to encourage economic growth and to benefit the middle class. Osorio's successor, Lieut. Col. José María Lemus (1956–60), continued these programs, but there was no improvement in the living standards of workers. When faced with open discontent, Lemus resorted to repressive measures, and a military coup deposed him in October 1960.

      A second coup, in January 1961, brought Lieut. Col. Julio Adalberto Rivera (1962–67) to power. PRUD was dismantled and replaced by the National Conciliation Party (Partido de Conciliación Nacional; PCN), which would control the national government for the next 18 years. Under the banner of the Alliance for Progress, Rivera advanced programs aimed at economic growth and diversification, which enabled El Salvador to take advantage of the increased trade opportunities offered by the recently formed Central American Common Market (CACM). A greater degree of political liberty seemed evident from the rise of the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano; PDC) and the victory of its candidate, José Napoleón Duarte (Duarte, José Napoleon), in the 1964 mayoral election in the city of San Salvador. At the same time, the Rivera government oversaw the formation of the Democratic Nationalist Organization (Organización Democrática Nacionalista; ORDEN), a large, secretive, and predominantly rural paramilitary organization.

      Col. Fidel Sánchez Hernández (1967–72) encountered difficulties as a result of the decline in world prices for coffee and cotton, but in 1969 the country's attention was diverted from economic problems by the outbreak of what came to be known as the “Soccer War” with Honduras. This conflict broke out shortly after the two countries had played three bitterly contested matches in the World Cup competition, but the real causes for the war lay elsewhere.

      In the first place, there was a long-standing dispute concerning the location of portions of the border between the two countries. Also, Hondurans resented the substantial trade advantage El Salvador held over them on the basis of the rules of the CACM. Most important was the problem raised by some 300,000 Salvadorans who had migrated to Honduras in search of land or jobs and who now found themselves threatened by an involuntary repatriation program begun by the Honduran government. Spurred by reports of the mistreatment of these refugees, the Salvadoran government opened hostilities on July 14, 1969. A cease-fire took effect on July 18, but El Salvador continued to force the action until the Organization of American States (American States, Organization of) (OAS) threatened economic sanctions against the country on July 29. The brief war had cost several thousand lives, and a peace treaty between the two countries was not concluded until 1980.

      Continuing economic troubles and the growing popularity of Duarte (Duarte, José Napoleon), the PDC candidate who headed a coalition slate, suggested that the military might lose control of the government in the 1972 elections. Members of ORDEN supervised voting in the outlying provinces, however, and managed to ensure the victory of the PCN's Col. Arturo Armando Molina. An attempted coup afterward achieved little more than Duarte's arrest and exile to Venezuela, where he resided until 1979.

      During the period that encompassed the tenure of President Molina (1972–77) and that of his successor, Gen. Carlos Humberto Romero (Romero, Carlos Humberto) (1977–79), the country experienced more-frequent expressions of public discontent and growing abuses of human rights. The increasing opposition among Roman Catholic clergymen to the church's traditional defense of the status quo provided one clear sign of widening concern about the problem of social injustice in El Salvador. This period also witnessed the formation of mass popular front organizations that expressed the grievances of peasant groups and labour unions by such means as strikes, demonstrations, and parades. By 1979 several separate guerrilla organizations were operating in El Salvador.

      Apart from an agrarian-reform proposal that was offered (and quickly retracted) in 1976, the government had no response to this opposition other than tightening the screws of repression. Peasants surely suffered the brunt of efforts to stifle dissent, but the most egregious example of government violence came in 1975 when at least a dozen university students were shot to death while protesting the use of public funds to hold the Miss Universe contest in El Salvador. The political situation steadily worsened until Romero was removed from office by a military coup in October 1979.

Civil war
      Shortly after General Romero's ouster, the country was plunged into a civil war that would last for the next 12 years. There were other significant consequences to be noted. Most obvious was the military's loss of the monopoly it had held on the direct exercise of governmental authority for nearly 50 years. At the same time, there was a change in the relationship between the military and the country's propertied elite. The latter group felt it could no longer rely entirely on the armed forces for protection and sought to broaden its base of support by the formation in 1981 of a new political organization, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista; Arena), led by retired major Roberto D'Aubuisson Arrieta.

      In addition, the role of the United States, which previously had shown very little interest in the affairs of El Salvador, changed markedly with Ronald Reagan (Reagan, Ronald W.)'s inauguration as president in January 1981. During the balance of the decade, the United States supplied El Salvador with financial aid amounting to $4 billion; assumed responsibility for the organization and training of elite military units; supported the war effort through the provision of sophisticated weaponry, particularly helicopters; and used its influence in a variety of ways to guide the political fortunes of the country.

      The years following Romero's downfall provided a kaleidoscopic array of events. The governing junta made up of civilians and army officers that had formed in October 1979 collapsed three months later when its civilian members resigned because of their failure to reach agreement on reforms and their inability to bring the military under control. Duarte returned from exile and became head of the second junta, which enacted a package of laws that included an agrarian-reform program. The reforms did not contribute to any reduction in the level of political violence, however. That was made clear in March 1980 when Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who had become a vehement critic of the military establishment, was assassinated while performing mass; it was further demonstrated at the end of the year when the military murdered three American nuns and a Roman Catholic lay worker.

      By that time the guerrilla units had joined in a single organization, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional; FMLN), and announced the opening of a “final offensive” in January 1981. The offensive was by no means final, however, and the fortunes of the guerrilla army would ebb and flow throughout the balance of the decade. During that time the guerrillas initiated and survived hard-fought battles with government troops who were trained and supplied by the United States.

      Elections held in 1982 enabled the formation of a constituent assembly that organized a provisional government and drafted a new constitution (the third since 1948), which was promulgated in December 1983. Duarte was elected president the following March. Although a meeting held with guerrilla leaders in the fall of 1984 raised hopes that Duarte could negotiate an end to the civil war, the talks led nowhere; furthermore, his presidency was plagued by misfortune. He made no progress in his efforts to achieve peace or advance social and economic reforms. At the end of his term, charges of widespread corruption in the government contributed to the victory of the Arena candidate, Alfredo Cristiani, in the 1989 presidential election. Duarte died of stomach cancer shortly after Cristiani's inauguration.

      Cristiani continued to enforce harsh strictures on dissent, but he also showed willingness to examine FMLN proposals for peace. In November 1989 the FMLN launched a major offensive on a number of urban centres in the country, including the capital city, San Salvador. The fierceness of the attack took the army by surprise, and it was only after weeks of intense fighting and indiscriminate aerial bombardment of San Salvador's neighbourhoods by the Salvadoran Air Force that the guerrilla units were forced to retreat from the city. In the course of the battle for San Salvador, the U.S.-trained Rapid Response Atlacatl Battalion killed six Jesuit priests and two housekeepers at the Central American University of José Simeón Cañas on Nov. 16, 1989. Strong international pressure to prosecute the perpetrators of the crime and Cristiani's loss of faith in the army's capacity to defeat the FMLN strengthened the president's commitment to reaching a negotiated settlement. UN-mediated peace negotiations began in the spring of 1990, and the two parties signed the Chapultepec Peace Accords in Mexico City on Feb. 16, 1992. By that time more than 75,000 people (mostly noncombatants) had lost their lives, the economy was in shambles, and massive damage to the infrastructure was evident everywhere.

Philip F. Flemion

The postconflict era
      The peace agreement officially ended the civil war and mandated a major reduction of the country's armed forces, the dissolution and disarming of guerrilla units, the creation of a new civilian police force (Policía Nacional Civil; PNC), and the establishment of a commission to investigate human rights abuses of the Salvadoran Armed Forces and the FMLN during the war. The FMLN subsequently became a political party. Also in 1992, a century-old territorial dispute between El Salvador and Honduras was settled by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which awarded Honduras two-thirds of the land in the Gulf of Fonseca (Fonseca, Gulf of) and ensured Honduras's free passage to the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador unsuccessfully appealed this decision before the ICJ in 2002.

      Armando Calderón Sol of Arena triumphed in the presidential election of 1994, and his party also won control of the National Assembly. Under Calderón's leadership the government reduced the number of its troops and turned over public security to the new PNC; however, violent crime increased dramatically during the same period, most notably through assassinations and terrorism inflicted by right-wing death squads. Indeed, the administration's most serious challenge was the marked increase in criminal violence, partly due to the large number of weapons still in the possession of many Salvadorans in the aftermath of the war.

      Calderón's government largely failed to deliver the land and agricultural credits that had been promised in the peace accords to former combatants in order to assist their transition back into civilian life, prompting violent protests by thousands of demobilized soldiers in January 1995. (The land transfer issue continued into the early 21st century.) At the same time, harsh living conditions, the impact of neoliberal economic adjustment policies, and the weak performance of state institutions (namely the judicial system and the PNC) further contributed to a climate of insecurity and fear.

      Midway through its second term in office, Arena was shaken by corruption scandals and internal feuds, and it lost a considerable number of seats to the FMLN in the 1997 municipal and legislative elections. Under the leadership of former president Cristiani, the party chose Francisco Flores Pérez as its candidate for the presidential elections in March 1999. The FMLN, by contrast, experienced difficulties in selecting its candidate but finally settled on former guerrilla commander Facundo Guardado. Flores defeated Guardado, and Arena continued to hold control. Flores's government faced formidable economic and social challenges, including recovery from severe hurricane damage in 1998 and a series of deadly earthquakes in 2001.

El Salvador in the 21st century
      During his tenure Flores modernized the economy, strengthened relations with the United States, and advocated for El Salvador's entry into the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the United States (which officially went into effect for El Salvador on March 1, 2006).

      Arena candidate Elias Antonio (Tony) Saca was elected president in 2004 following a bitter campaign with the FMLN, which early on was expected to emerge victorious. The two most pressing issues facing him upon taking office were the increase in the maras (Salvadoran street gangs involved in drug trafficking and kidnapping) and growing opposition to the sending of Salvadoran troops to fight in the Iraq War. Moreover, in the early 21st century, land reform had not been achieved—indeed, it had been resisted by the powerful landowning elite—and pervasive poverty was contributing to continued crime and violence in the country.

Markus Schultze-Kraft

Additional Reading

Physical geography is graphically presented in Instituto Geográfico Nacional Ingeniero Pablo Arnoldo Guzmán, Atlas de El Salvador, 3rd ed. (1979). Alistair White, El Salvador (1973), provides a comprehensive analysis of social and economic development. David Browning, El Salvador: Landscape and Society (1971), deals with the population as well as the country, focusing on “man-land” relationships. Philip J. Williams and Knut Walter, Militarization and Demilitarization in El Salvador's Transition to Democracy (1997), is an in-depth analysis of the changing political role of the Salvadoran military in the 1980s and '90s. Carlos B. Cordova, The Salvadoran Americans (2005), discusses Salvadoran emigration, including a chapter on the cultural and historical background of the country and biographies of notable Salvadorans in the United States.

Philip L. Russell, El Salvador in Crisis (1984), is the best choice for a historical overview. Of the many general studies that centre on the period since 1931, some of the most useful include Enrique A. Baloyra, El Salvador in Transition (1982), a penetrating analysis of the political system; Raymond Bonner, Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador (1984), a critical account by a former New York Times correspondent; James Dunkerley, The Long War: Dictatorship and Revolution in El Salvador, new ed. (1985), a scholarly critical examination of events leading to the civil war; Tommie Sue Montgomery, Revolution in El Salvador: Origins and Evolution (1982), an informed commentary on the role of the Roman Catholic Church and the rise of the left; and Michael McClintock, The American Connection (1985), a detailed discussion of the U.S. role in the Salvadoran counterinsurgency effort. Thomas P. Anderson, Matanza: El Salvador's Communist Revolt of 1932 (1971), stands as the definitive study of the peasant uprising, and The War of the Dispossessed: Honduras and El Salvador, 1969 (1981), is an account of the Soccer War, including his firsthand observations; while William H. Durham, Scarcity and Survival in Central America (1979), provides insightful treatment of the ecological and socioeconomic factors that led to that war. Patricia Parkman, Nonviolent Insurrection in El Salvador (1988), explains the fall of the Hernández Martínez dictatorship in 1944. Stephen Webre, José Napoleón Duarte and the Christian Democratic Party in Salvadoran Politics, 1960–1972 (1979), focuses on a critical period in El Salvadoran history. Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., El Salvador (1988), offers the best bibliographic guide to further study.Markus Schultze-Kraft

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Universalium. 2010.

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