El Salvador

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EL SALVADOR

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS SALVADORANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of El Salvador

República de El Salvador

CAPITAL: San Salvador

FLAG: The national flag consists of a white stripe between two horizontal blue stripes. The national coat of arms is centered in the white band.

ANTHEM: Saludemos la Patria Orgullosos (Let us Proudly Hail the Fatherland).

MONETARY UNIT: The US dollar became El Salvador's currency in 2001 replacing the colón.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but some old Spanish measures also are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Independence Day, 15 September; Columbus Day, 12 October; All Souls' Day, 2 November; First Call for Independence, 5 November; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Monday, and Corpus Christi; there is a movable secular holiday, the Festival (1st week in August).

TIME: 6 am = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

El Salvador, the smallest Central American country, has an area of 21,040 sq km (8,124 sq mi), extending 270 km (168 mi) wnwese and 142 km (88 mi) ns. Comparatively, the area occupied by El Salvador is slightly smaller than the state of Massachusetts. Bounded on the n and e by Honduras, on the s and sw by the Pacific Ocean, and on the nw by Guatemala, El Salvador has a total boundary length of 852 km (529 mi), of which 307 km (191 mi) is coastline. It is the only Central American country without a Caribbean coastline.

El Salvador's capital city, San Salvador, is located in the west central part of the country.

TOPOGRAPHY

El Salvador is a land of mountains and once-fertile upland plains. It is divided into three general topographic regions: (1) the hot, narrow Pacific coastal belt, 260 km (160 mi) long and 1624 km (1015 mi) wide; (2) the central plateau, at an altitude of about 610 m (2,000 ft), crossing from east to west, between two mountain ranges; and (3) the northern lowlands, formed by the wide Lempa River Valley, bounded by a high mountain range ascending to the Honduran border.

The central plateau, north of the Pacific coastal belt, is an area of valleys endowed with rich volcanic soil. This is the agricultural, industrial, and population center of the country; the capital, San Salvador (682 m/2,237 ft above sea level), is in this region. Almost surrounded by active volcanoesSanta Ana (2,381 m/7,812 ft), San Vicente (2,173 m/7,129 ft), San Miguel (2,132 m/6,995 ft), San Salvador (1,967 m/6,453 ft), and Izalco (1,965 m/6,447 ft)the region is a zone of recurrent earthquakes and volcanic activity; Izalco is known as the Lighthouse of the Pacific. El Salvador has several lakes, the largest being Ilopango, Güija, and Coatepeque. The Lempa, the most important of some 150 rivers, rises in Guatemala and runs south into El Salvador, eventually reaching the Pacific.

CLIMATE

Located in the tropical zone, El Salvador has two distinct seasons: the dry season, from November to April, when light rains occur, and the wet season, from May to October, when the temporales, or heavy rains, fall. The coastal plain receives the heaviest rainfall. Some interior areas are relatively dry most of the year, necessitating irrigation and a selection of crops suited for arid land cultivation. The average annual rainfall is 182 cm (72 in). Temperatures vary with altitude, from the hot coastal lowlands to the semitropical central plateau; in general, the climate is warm, with an annual average maximum of 32°c (90°f) and an average minimum of 18°c (64°f). The average temperature at San Salvador is 22°c (72°f) in January and 23°c (73°f) in July.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Indigenous trees include the mangrove, rubber, dogwood, mahogany, cedar, and walnut; pine and oak are found in the northern mountainous region. Varieties of tropical fruit, numerous medicinal plants, and balsam, a medicinal gum, grow in the country. Native fauna (greatly reduced in past decades) includes varieties of monkey, jaguar, coyote, tapir, and armadillo, along with several kinds of parrots and various migratory birds. Fish, both freshwater and saltwater, turtles, iguanas, crocodiles, and alligators abound. Both venomous and nonvenomous snakes, the latter including the boa constrictor, are common in El Salvador.

As of 2002, there were at least 135 species of mammals, 141 species of birds, and over 2,900 species of plants throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

Because of heavy cutting, the forest resources of El Salvador had been reduced to about 5.8% of the total area by 2000. Forty-five percent of the wood taken from the forests has been used for fuel. Peasant farmers burn the small trees and other growth on the hillsides to plant corn and beans, thus hastening the erosion of the topsoil. Seventy-five percent of the land area in El Salvador is threatened by erosion and desertification at a rate of 20 tons per hectare per year. The government enacted forestry conservation measures in 1973, but they have had little effect on the rate of deforestation. Among the environmental consequences of forest depletion, in addition to loss of soil fertility, are diminution of groundwater resources and drastic loss of native flora and fauna.

Pollution is widespread and restrictions on waste disposal, including disposal of toxic waste, are lax. By 1993, 90% of El Salvador's rivers were polluted. Safe drinking water is available to 91% of the urban population and 68% of the rural dwellers. Forty-six percent of the nation's 18 cu km of renewable water sources is used for agricultural purposes.

There is no comprehensive national law controlling environmental protection, and the legislation that is on the books is poorly enforced. The National Environmental Protection Committee, established by decree in 1974, has had little impact. In 2003, about 0.4% of the total land area was legally protected. There are two Ramsar wetland sites.

The pollution of the environment in El Salvador is a serious threat to the survival of its plants and wildlife. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 2 types of mammals, 3 species of birds, 5 types of reptiles, 8 species of amphibians, 5 species of fish, 1 species of invertebrate, and 25 species of plants. Endangered species in El Salvador included the tundra peregrine falcon, four species of turtle (green sea, hawksbill, leatherback, and olive ridley), American crocodile, ocelot, spectacled caiman, jaguar, giant anteater, and Central American tapir.

POPULATION

The population of El Salvador in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 6,881,000, which placed it at number 98 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 33% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 97 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.0%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 9,052,000. The population density was 327 per sq km (847 per sq mi), which makes it the most densely populated country in Central America. Overpopulation is considered a major problem in El Salvador. A majority of the people live in the central plateau.

The UN estimated that 59% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.7% for 20002005. The capital city, San Salvador, had a population of 1,424,000 in that year. Other major cities and their estimated populations are Santa Ana (250,000) and San Miguel (245,428).

MIGRATION

Until the early 1980s, emigration and immigration were negligible in El Salvador, except for migration of Salvadorans seeking economic advantages in Honduras, a trend that inflamed tensions between the two nations and was an underlying cause of their 1969 war. At that time, 300,000 Salvadorans were estimated to have settled in Honduras; following the war, as many as 130,000 Salvadorans may have returned from Honduras. An estimated 550,000 people were displaced from their homes by warfare between 1979 and 1992.

While the United States granted temporary asylum to thousands of Salvadoran refugees under the administration of President Jimmy Carter (197781), the administration of President Ronald Reagan began returning them to El Salvador in 1981. Of the one million Salvadorans estimated to be in the United States in 1988, an estimated 550,000 had entered the country illegally, about 500,000 of them since 1979. Their remittances to their families in El Salvador were an important component of the stagnant economy, and their absence from the Salvadoran labor force kept local unemployment lower than it would otherwise have been. In 2002 worker remittances were 13.5% of GDP; in 2003 remittances amounted to $2.2 billion. Where migration from rural to urban areas was once heavy, the pattern has changed as rural migrants bypass urban centers and migrate directly to the United States and Canada. Internal migration had also shifted significantly by 2004. The population of the peri-urban area around San Salvador more than doubled, while the population of the northern third of the country remained stagnant and the southeastern portion of El Salvador's population increased by more than 20%.

In 1989, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua adopted a five-year plan called CIREFCA to solve the problems of uprooted people. Between 1989 and 1994, this plan helped repatriate 30,000 Salvadorians to their homeland. Thousands more Salvadorans who decided not to go home were integrated into asylum countries. In 2000 there were 24,000 migrants living in El Salvador, including 100 refugees. By the end of 2004 only 1 person sought asylum in El Salvador, while 235 sought refuge. However, in that same year 127,941 Salvadorans applied for asylum in the United States and 415 in Canada. The net migration rate estimated for El Salvador in 2005 was -3.67 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.

ETHNIC GROUPS

The population of El Salvador is racially and culturally homogeneous, with about 90% mestizo (mixed European and Amerindian), 1% Amerindian (mainly the Pipil tribes), and 9% European.

LANGUAGES

The official language of the country is Spanish. A few Amerindians continue to speak Nahua.

RELIGIONS

About 57.1% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic; San Salvador is an archbishopric. About 21.2% of the population are members of various Protestant churches, with the largest denominations being Baptists and Assemblies of God. There are also many active Protestant missions throughout the country. Approximately 2.3% of the populace are associated with other churches and religious groups, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-Day Adventists, Jews, Muslims, and Amerindian tribal religionists, among others. As many as 16.8% of inhabitants have no religious affiliation whatsoever.

The constitution of 1962 guarantees religious freedom and exempts churches from property taxes. The constitution specifically recognizes the Roman Catholic Church, granting it legal status; however, it also provides that other churches may register for such status according to the Non-Profit Organizations and Foundations law. Certain Christian holidays are celebrated as public holidays.

TRANSPORTATION

As of 2002 there were 1,986 km (1,234 mi) of paved highways out of 10,029 km (6,232 mi) of roadway in El Salvador. The Pan American Highway links El Salvador with Guatemala in the northwest and Honduras in the southeast. The Cuscatlán Bridge, where the Pan American Highway crosses the Lempa River, was the main thoroughfare for travel between eastern and western El Salvador at the time of its destruction by guerrillas in January 1984. In 2003, registered passenger vehicles numbered about 67,500, and commercial vehicles numbered 98,250.

As of 2004, El Salvador's railroad mileage totaled 283 km (176 mi), down from 562 km (349 mi) in 2002, due to a lack of maintenance and general disuse. The entire rail system is narrow gauge and single track.

The country's three portsLa Unión/Cutuco, La Libertad, and Acajutlaare located on the Pacific coast. Acajutla was the only port in service and it only receives bulk goods. Finished goods arrive at Guatamalan or Honduran ports and are trucked into El Salvador. In 2002, El Salvador had no registered cargo ships. Inland waterway traffic is negligible, with only the Río Lempa partially navigable, as of 2004.

In 2004 there were an estimated 73 airports. In 2005 only four had paved runways, and there was also one heliport. El Salvador is linked with the entire Western Hemisphere, Europe, and the Far East through international air services provided by Transportes Aéreos Centroamericanos (TACA) and other transportation companies. The principal airport, El Salvador International, is near San Salvador. In 2003, about 2.966 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.

HISTORY

The Pipil Amerindians, a subgroup of the nomadic Nahuatl Amerindians, migrated from present-day Mexico to Central America in about 3000 bc. The Pipil are believed to have organized their nation into two federated states comprised of smaller principalities in the 11th century, after the Mayan Empire that had held sway over the Nahuatl declined in the 9th century. They were an agricultural people, with a civilization comparable to the Aztecs, except that the Pipil had abolished human sacrifice. The Pipil also succeeded in building lasting urban centers that grew into current cities, such as Sonsonate and Ahuachapan. This fierce peopleas well as two smaller groups, the Pocomans and the Lencalived in the area of present-day El Salvador met the Spanish conquistadors with significant resistance.

In 1524, Pedro de Alvarado, a Spanish conquistador sent by Hernán Cortés from Mexico, invaded El Salvador but was forced by Pipil resistance to retreat. After two additional attempts in 1525 and 1528, the Spanish eventually brought the Pipil under their control. When the conquistadors discovered the area's relative lack of precious metals, the Spanish monarch appropriated to Spanish settlers large tracts of land and the ability to collect tribute (forced payments) from the Amerindians under the terms of the encomienda system.

During the Spanish colonial period, San Salvadorfounded by Alvaradowas one of six administrative regions of the captaincy general of Guatemala. This collective of Central American colonies declared their independence from Spain in 1821, but the first calls for liberation far preceded that date. At the La Merced church in San Salvador, Father José Matías Delgado cried out for independence on 5 November 1811, a day still commemorated as a national holiday in El Salvador. Following successful independence from Spain in 1821, Central America was annexed by the Mexican emperor, Agustín de Iturbide in 1822. When Iturbide was deposed a year later, the Central American states broke from Mexico to form a federation of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, which they named the United Provinces of Central America.

Perpetual conflict between liberals and conservatives forestalled any unification of the United Provinces of Central America into a national unit, as it crippled the legitimacy of the government and its capability to enact political, economic, and social reforms. El Salvador was particularly supportive of the liberals and the rule of liberal Honduran Francisco Morazan, as opposed to the conservative Guatemalan Rafael Carrera. Thus, when liberal forces fell to Carrera in March 1840, El Salvador declared its independence from the United Provinces of Central America shortly thereafter, in January 1841.

The republic of El Salvador was formally proclaimed on 25 January 1859. Turbulence, political instability, and frequent presidential changes characterized Salvadoran history during the second half of the 19th century. This period also saw the growth of coffee as El Salvador's leading product. The Salvadoran elite, known as the "14 families" or simply "the 14," created large coffee plantations, often on the land of displaced Indians. There followed a period of relative stability during 190030, but the seizure of power in 1931 by Gen. Maximiliano Hernández Martínez brought a period of constant military rule for almost 50 years. Hernández ruled for 13 years and presided over la matanza, a brutal suppression of a peasant uprising known in 1932, killing about 30,000 people. Few of the governments after Hernández tried to reduce the gap between the landowners and the landless classes, and those that did were doomed to failure.

Landless Salvadorans found land available in neighboring Honduras. During the 1960s the influx of Salvadorans increased, provoking countermeasures from the Honduran government. Tensions rose between the two nations, and on 14 July 1969, they went to war for four days. The immediate occasion of the conflict was the Central American soccer championship between the two states, in which El Salvador won on a disputed referee's call, leading US journalists to dub it the "Soccer War." A total of 3,0004,000 people on both sides were killed. After an OAS-sponsored cease-fire, the two sides worked out a peace settlement, which was signed on 30 October 1980. A leftover border dispute was settled by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1992.

In 1972, the military candidate for president was opposed by José Napoleón Duarte of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). Duarte was denied election by fraud and sent into exile. Pressure for reform came from the armed resistance from several leftist factions. In response, the right unleashed "death squads" to intimidate and eliminate any who attempted to introduce change to the country.

By the late 1970s, the situation had erupted into civil war. The guerrillas consolidated under the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), and right-wing violence escalated. The military had not distinguished itself in its response to the violence, having engaged in widespread repression against suspected rebels. In 1979, a coup brought to power a set of reformist officers, who found common cause with such civilian leaders as Duarte. The junta liberalized the political system, setting legislative elections for 1982. It also nationalized banks and the coffee export trade, while launching an ambitious and controversial land-reform program. Attacked by both left and right, the junta was unable either to suppress left-wing guerrillas or to control its own security forces, which began their own vigilante campaigns even as the angry landowners hired "death squads" to suppress opposition among peasants, students, clergy, and other groups.

In December 1980, José Napoleón Duarte of the Christian Democratic Party was installed by the junta as president. Though he was El Salvador's first civilian head of state since 1931, human rights abuses and bloodshed persisted throughout his administration. In 1980, Archbishop Romero was assassinated while celebrating mass, spurring the guerrilla's launch of their unsuccessful "final offensive," in 1981. It is estimated that at least 62,000 people died between October 1979 and April 1987, most of whom were civilian noncombatants murdered by death squads and government security forces.

The junta headed by Duarte oversaw the drafting of a new constitution, adopted on 20 December 1983 by interim president Álvaro Alfredo Magaña and a constituent assembly that had been elected in March 1982. Following the 1984 election, Duarte became the first constitutionally elected president in over 50 years, after defeating Roberto D'Aubuisson of the National Republican Alliance (ARENA). D'Aubuisson was an extreme anticommunist accused of plotting against the government and supporting the death squads.

Despite Duarte's attempts at reform, charges of corruption, the ongoing civil war, and the economic dislocation brought on by his austerity measures, all led to Duarte's defeat by Alfredo Félix Christiani Burkard in the 1989 elections. Many were concerned because Christiani's ARENA party was tied to former candidate D'Aubuisson.

Christiani allayed these fears, calling for direct dialogue between the government and the guerrillas. Despite a rocky negotiations process punctuated by military escalations, on 31 December 1991 the government and the FMLN signed the Chapultepec Accord formally ending the civil war. The accord called for reforms throughout the military, including the purge of officers linked to human rights abuses, and a reduction by 50% of the force. While the former has been a slow process, the latter goal was achieved ahead of schedule. A cease-fire took effect 1 February 1992, and held until 15 December 1992, when the FMLN officially laid down its arms.

ARENA was returned to power again when Calderón Sol won the presidential runoff election in 1994. Calderón's ambitious economic liberalization plan, his cutting tariffs, his privatizing of banks and pensions, and his attracting foreign investment resulted in healthy economic growth of 45% a year. Yet underemployment and low wages were persistent and were accompanied by an upswing in violent crimefrom marauding bands robbing agricultural workers to organized gang activity preying on urban dwellers. Even the 1996 12-point government plan, which included investment in infrastructure and social services, couldn't convince the electorate to maintain its support of ARENA in the March 1997 parliamentary and local elections. FMLN significantly increased its share of seats in the legislature, as well as in local elections.

The ruling ARENA party managed to retain control of the presidency in the 1999 elections, with Francisco Flores winning 51.4% of the vote. In the March 2000 parliamentary election, however, FMLN became the strongest party in the Assembly, with more seats than ARENA. The FMLN maintained these seats in the March 2003 elections, but ARENA maintained its hold on the presidency when Elias Antonio Saca won the March 2004 presidential election. Despite a public outcry, Saca upheld amnesty laws protecting former officials, like himself, from prosecution for involvement in death-squad murders during the civil war.

Though the peace agreement officially ended the civil war in 1992, the country was still trying to grapple with justice in the region as of 2006. El Salvador has not been able to cope fully with the effects of the civil war; this process has been further hindered by a series of natural disasters that contributed to the socio-political and economic instability.

Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998, and a number of earthquakes occurred in 2001, leaving at least 1,200 people dead and more than one million others homeless. The financial toll, furthermore, was in the billions. In October 2005, the Ilamatepec (Santa Ana) volcano erupted, forcing thousands of people from their homes only days before Hurricane Stan hit, with its consequent flooding and deadly landslides.

GOVERNMENT

The constitution adopted on 20 November 1983 defines El Salvador as a republic. The constitution vests executive power in the president, who is to be elected by direct popular vote for a term of five years. The president, who must be native-born, over 30 years of age, the offspring of native-born parents, and a layperson, is not eligible for immediate reelection. The president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, enforces the laws, formulates an annual budget, draws up international treaties and conventions (which must be ratified by the National Assembly), appoints diplomatic and consular officials, and supervises the police. Every two years, the National Assembly elects three substitutes (designados), who can, in order of designation, assume the presidency when the president and vice president are not available.

Legislative power is exercised by a unicameral National Assembly composed of 84 deputies apportioned among the various departments according to population. Deputies are elected for a three-year term and must be at least 25 years of age. The Assembly levies taxes, contracts loans and arranges for their payment, regulates the money supply, approves the executive budget, ratifies treaties and conventions, declares war, and suspends or reestablishes constitutional guarantees in national emergencies. The deputies, the president's ministers, and the Supreme Court all may propose legislation. The Assembly approves legislation and is technically empowered to override a presidential veto by a two-thirds vote.

Universal male and female suffrage (over the age of 18) was inaugurated in 1950. However, voting in El Salvador has been a source of controversy. During the 1980s, the government made voting compulsory, while the guerrillas insisted the citizens should not collaborate with the system. Thus, the Salvadorans were confronted with a dilemma: vote, and face the wrath of the guerrillas, or refuse to vote, and immediately become suspected of leftist sympathy. At times, voting was not secret. Current practices include a more confidential and voluntary system.

POLITICAL PARTIES

The leading party of the right in El Salvador is the National Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana NacionalistaARENA), organized in 1982 by Roberto D'Aubuisson. ARENA controlled the National Assembly until 1985, and its next leader, Alfredo Christiani, was elected to the presidency in 1989. Five years later, ARENA candidate Armando Calderón Sol became president. In the March 1997 parliamentary elections, ARENA's representation was reduced from 42 seats in the 84-member legislature to 28. In 1999, ARENA recovered and won the presidency again with 51.4% of the vote, but a year later its support fell to 36% in the National Assembly elections of March 2000. In March 2003, ARENA plummeted even further with 28% of the vote. However, in 2004, ARENA scored a victory when Elias Antonio Saca Gonzalez captured 57.7% of the vote, securing the fourth consecutive ARENA presidential win and extending his term for five years, until 2009. During the campaign, Saca stated his desire to work with other parties to tackle the violent street gangs, known as maras, and to make government more transparent. As one of the most pro-US governments in the hemisphere, Saca worked to promote economic ties with the United States through CAFTA and other similar free trade arrangements.

The Chapultepec Accords introduced a new force into El Salvador's electoral system: the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí de Liberación NacionalFMLN). Named for an insurgent leader of the 1930s, the FMLN was originally a paramilitary group in armed rebellion against the government. As part of the 1992 accords, the FMLN is now a legal party after having ceased its military operations. The FMLN-backed candidate, Ruben Zamora, was the runner-up in the 1994 presidential election, winning 24% of the vote. In the March 1997 legislative elections, the FMLN made significant gains, nearly doubling its representation in the Legislative Assembly, from 14 to 27 seats, and winning municipal elections in half the departmental capitals. In the March 2000 elections, the FMLN won 31 seats, shy of a majority but more than any other political party. In 2003, the FMLN increased its share of the vote to 34%, but did not win any additional seats in parliament. Expectations ran high that FMLN might secure the presidency in the 2004 elections, but its candidate, Schafik Handa, secured just 35.6% of the vote, more than 20% less than Saca.

The moderate Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata CristianoPDC) was formed in 1960. For three decades, it was associated with its leader and founder, José Napoleón Duarte. Damaged by many splits over the years, and suffering after Duarte's unsuccessful presidency (19841989), the centrist PDC lost strength among the electorate. In the March 2000 National Assembly elections, it obtained 7.2% of the votes and 6 seats in the 84-member Assembly. In 2003, its share of the vote fell to 7.3% and it lost one seat. The National Conciliation Party (PCN), which was founded by the military in 1961, obtained 8.8% of the votes in the 2000 election and secured 13 seats, enough to give a majority to either ARENA or the FMLN. In 2003, it increased its vote to 13% and it secured 16 seats. Because of its ability to break the tie between the FMLN and ARENA, the PCN has gained an important negotiating role in Salvadorian politics.

In March 2003, the Centro Democrático Unido (United Democratic Centre, social-democratic) secured five seats in the National Assembly. The PDC and UDC's mutually endorsed presidential candidate, Hector Silva, secured only 3.9% of the vote in the March 2004 elections.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

El Salvador is divided into 14 departments (departamentos), including Ahuachapan, Cabanas, Chalatenango, Cuscatlan, La Libertad, La Paz, La Union, Morazan, San Miguel, San Salvador, Santa Ana, San Vicente, Sonsonate, and Usulutan. Each departamento has its own governor and alternate governor appointed by the executive power through the corresponding ministry. The country's 262 municipalities (cities, towns, and villages) are administered by mayors and municipal councils elected by popular vote. Traditionally independent in their local functions, municipalities may be limited in their activities by the departmental governor.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The court system includes justices of the peace, courts of the first instance, intermediate level appellate courts, and the Supreme Court (Corte Suprema) made up of 13 justices selected by the National Assembly. With the exception of justices of the peace, judges are appointed to renewable three-year terms. An 11-member National Council of the Judiciary, appointed by the National Assembly, is an independent body charged with screening judicial candidates for nomination.

According to the constitution, the Supreme Court is the court of last appeal; it passes on writs of habeas corpus, constitutionality of the laws, jurisdiction and administration of lower courts, and appointment of justices below the appellate level. There are also special courts, appointed by the National Assembly, and military tribunals, selected by the Supreme Court. The 1995 legislation provides for oral trials and establishes family and juvenile courts. The 1996 criminal procedure code replaces a criminal system based on civil law with one in which oral argument is the norm.

Under the constitution, defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence, to representation by legal counsel, to be present in court, and to confront witnesses.

Foreign and international judicial systems also mattered to the future of justice in El Salvador. El Salvador accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice with reservations. In 2002, US courts held two former Salvadoran army generals on trial for civil war atrocities and ordered them to pay the victims. Additionally, in March 2005, an OAS humans rights court reopened an investigation into one of the worst massacres of the civil warthe 1981 massacre in El Mozote.

ARMED FORCES

In 2005, there were a total of 15,500 active personnel in El Salvador's armed forces, supported by 9,900 reservists. Military numbers had been reduced as prescribed by the peace accord ending the country's civil war. There were 13,850 members in the Army, 700 in the Navy, and an Air Force estimated at 950 personnel. The Army's primary equipment included 10 reconnaissance vehicles, 51 armored personnel carriers and over 600 artillery pieces. The Navy's major units consisted of 38 patrol/coastal vessels. The Air Force had 21 combat capable aircraft, including 5 fighter ground attack aircraft. Paramilitary forces consisted of the National Civilian Police, which numbered over 12,000. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $106 million.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

El Salvador is a founding member of the United Nations, having joined on 24 October 1945; it is part of the ECLAC and several specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. El Salvador is one of five members of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) and the Central American Common Market (CACM). It is also a member of the WTO, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), G-77, the Río Group, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the OAS. The country has observer status in the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). In 2004, El Salvador, the United States, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic signed the USCentral America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The agreement must be ratified by all participating countries before it enters into force.

The country is a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty, an inter-American security agreement. In environmental cooperation, El Salvador is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change, and Desertification. El Salvador is also signatory to the Central American-US Joint Declaration (CONCAUSA).

ECONOMY

Traditionally, the Salvadoran economy depended on a single agricultural export commodity. Shortly after independence, this product was indigo. When the market for indigo declined (due to replacement with artificial dyes), El Salvador moved to the cultivation and export of coffee in the mid-1800s. Earnings from coffee spurred cultivation of cotton and sugar, and later financed light manufacturing. The Central American Common Market (CACM) provided a previously absent market for the light manufactures and thus prompted that industry's growth throughout the 1960s. Coffee and sugar remained two of the four principal exports in 2005.

By the 1970s, El Salvador was the most industrialized nation in Central America, although the breakdown of CACM and a dozen years of civil war eroded that position. The change in GDP growth over the years from 19651978 and 19791982 illustrate the effects of civil conflict and disruption of coffee, sugar, and cotton production during the 1980s. From 19651978, GDP growth averaged about 4.3% annually. However, from 1979 to 1982, it declined by 23%. From 19831986, growth recovered modestly at an average annual rate of 1.5%.

The economy largely recovered from the civil strife of the 1980s. Agriculture (mostly coffee) is the foundation of El Salvador's economy, providing about two-thirds of the nation's exports and employing nearly one-third of its labor force. El Salvador enjoys one of the lowest levels of indebtedness in the region, with the bulk of foreign financing provided on a concessional basis.

The Crisitani administration, which came into power in 1989, began a comprehensive economic reform plan oriented toward a free market economy. A market-based currency exchange rate was adopted. Price controls were eliminated, as were the sugar, coffee, and cotton marketing monopolies. The nationalized banking system was largely privatized beginning in 1989. However, due to increased credit availability and public services prices, inflation doubled to around 20% in 1992.

Bolstered by peace, El Salvador's economy experienced brisk growth, with yearly GDP growth averaging 6.5% from 1990 to 1995. Inflation remained a problem, however, falling to 12% in 1993 and 8.9% in 1994, but rising to 11.4% in 1995. The latter increase was due in part to an increase in the VAT rate and one-off increases in charges for telephone, electricity, and water services. Unlike most of the Latin American economies, El Salvador was largely unaffected by the "Tequila Effect" following the Mexican peso devaluation in 1995 because of the government's solid macro-economic management and the economy's low external debt.

In 1996 economic growth slowed to 2.1% as the government sought to rein in inflation, which, through tight monetary and fiscal policies, achieved a then-record low for El Salvador of 7.4% for the year. Higher interest rates resulting in very expensive borrowing costs and pessimistic expectations combined to drive down domestic investment. Yet this did not hold back growth. In 1997, GDP growth rose to 4%, and inflation dipped to the low level of 2% where it stayed through 2000. The growth rate gravitated around that level, with a rate of 3.4% in 1998 and 4.9% in 1999. In 1999, inflation remained at 2%.

In 2000, however, the growth rate was reduced to 2% by the destructive impact of Hurricane Mitch. Inflation rose to 4.3%. Growth was further dampened (1.4%) in 2001 due to two earthquakes, as well as the US recession, global slowdown, and reduced investment activity following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Inflation declined to 3% in 2001. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, real GDP growth in El Salvador averaged 1.9% from 2000 to 2004, and inflation averaged 2.9%.

By 2005, El Salvador had become one of the strongest economies in Central America, with a steady growth in GDP, an environment of macroeconomic stability, falling inflation rates, and increased exports from involvement in several free trade arrangements.

The Economist Intelligence Unit projected that GDP growth would remain positive (at approximately 2.5%) in 2006 due to increased consumption, investment and exports due to the launching of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free-Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). Inflation was projected to average 4.7%, accompanied by a worsening current-account deficit.

Despite these advances, GDP per capita was only half that of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. A historic inequality in income distribution plagued the country wherein 45% of the income accrued by the richest fifth of the population and 5.6% by the poorest. In 2003, 36.1% of the population lived below the poverty line. Further, though the dollarization in 2001 made for some increased trade and investment opportunities, it also created an increase in prices without increases in wages, which eroded individuals' purchasing power (GDP per capital was $4,900 in 2004). Natural disaster struck El Salvador once again at the end of 2005, as Tropical Storm Stan acted as another weight on the economy.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 El Salvador's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $33.9 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $5,100. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.7%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 9.8% of GDP, industry 30.3%, and services 60%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $2.122 billion or about $325 per capita and accounted for approximately 14.2% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $192 million or about $29 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.3% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in El Salvador totaled $13.31 billion or about $2,037 per capita based on a GDP of $14.9 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.5%. It was estimated that in 2003 about 36.1% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.

LABOR

The civilian labor force was estimated at 2.81 million in 2005. As of 2003, agriculture accounted for 17.1% of the workforce, with 65.8% in services, and 17.1% in industry. Although unemployment in 2005 was estimated at 6.5%, much of the nation's workforce is underemployed.

Although workers have the right to organize a union without gaining prior authorization, the government and the courts continued to deny union applications for legal standing through the excessive use of formalities, effectively blocking union formation. Collective bargaining is limited to private sector employees and to those public employees in autonomous government agencies, such as the port authority and utilities. Technically, only private sector workers may strike, nevertheless, many public sector workers carry out strikes that are treated as legitimate. However, unions wishing to call a strike must meet a number of conditions if that strike is to be considered legal. These include: the collective bargaining agreement has to have expired; attempts at resolving differences must first go through a process of direct negotiations, mediation, and arbitration; and at least 51% of the affected workers must support the strike, including those who are not represented by the union. According to the Ministry of Labor, as of end 2005, only 9.1% of El Salvador's workforce were unionized.

The workweek is set at a maximum of 44 hours and six days. Bonus pay is required for overtime, and all full-time employees are required to get a weekly, paid eight-hour day of rest. Minimum pay rates are set by executive decree, and are based on recommendations from a committee made up of labor, business and government representatives. As of 2005, minimum daily wage rates were $5.28 for service employees, $5.16 for industrial workers, and $5.04 for workers in the maquila plants. Those rates were set in 2003. Although the law prohibits employment for those under age 14, child labor remains a problem. Minors between the ages of 14 and 16 years are limited to six hours per day, with a maximum normal workweek at 34 hours. Workers in hazardous occupations must be at least 18 years of age.

AGRICULTURE

Arable land in 2003 consisted of 910,000 hectares (2,249,000 acres) planted with annual and permanent crops. Irrigation covered 4.9% of this area in 2003, half of it in the Sonsonate and Sensunapan region. In 2003, agriculture represented 9.8% of GDP and 17.1% of employment.

Coffee, El Salvador's major crop (30% of total agricultural output), is grown principally in the west and northwest at elevations of 460 to 1,520 m (1,500 to 5,000 ft). Primarily as a result of the civil war, coffee production declined in the 1980s. In June 1993, the Ministry of Economy certified the first shipment of organic coffee; the agrarian reform cooperative that produced the coffee had not used chemicals or pesticides for over four years. Production in 2004 amounted to 83,000 tons (down from 156,000 tons in 1990). Exports of coffee in 2004 amounted 80,744 tons, valued at to $123.4 million. The coffee industry is a major employer in El Salvador, generating about 82,000 jobs.

Sugar production fell between 1979 and 1981 but later recovered; cane production in 2004 was 5.3 million tons, and the sugar industry contributed $37.6 million to the country's foreign exchange earnings in 2004. Sugar is the most important agricultural product after coffee, and is grown mostly by independent producers. Investment has increased, as has the area under cultivation (in contrast to the other two major export crops). The world price has, however, been in decline for several years, and this decline has cut export earnings; the government secured a $30.4 million loan from Venezuela to divert some production to gasohol.

Traditional grains grown in El Salvador include white corn, sorghum, rice, and edible beans. These crops make up the fundamental diet for most Salvadorans and are produced on virtually all small farms. Production amounts in 2004 included corn, 648,000 tons; sorghum, 148,000 tons; rice, 26,500 tons; and beans, 72,000 tons. An additional 441,660 tons of corn were imported in 2004 to meet local demand.

Land that was originally planted for cotton is now being used for sugarcane, pasture, and nontraditional crops. El Salvador has steadily shifted agricultural exports towards nontraditional items such as jalapeño peppers, marigold flowers, okra, and pineapples. Traditional coffee areas are also being absorbed by urbanization projects.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Cattle and hogs are the predominant livestock in El Salvador. Cattle are of the "criollo" type and are used for production of both meat and milk. The dairy sector continued to suffer from inefficient production methods, poor animal genetic quality, and diseases. There are over 100 slaughterhouses operating illegally and without sanitary control. The government has planned to rebuild the livestock sector through financial and technological assistance.

The poultry industry is one of El Salvador's most organized and efficient agri-businesses, divided into smaller family farms and large commercial operations. The poultry industry directly generates roughly 6,000 jobs (60% of which are in rural areas), with an additional 20,000 secondary jobs. Commercial production accounts for 80% of poultry meat and about 75% of egg production.

In 2005 there were 1,259,000 head of cattle. The hog population rose from 390,000 in 1950 to 560,000 in 1979 but then declined to 188,000 in 2005. Other livestock included 96,000 horses, 24,000 mules, 10,800 goats, and 13,209,000 chickens. In 2005, milk production was 412,602 tons. A total of 63,649 tons of eggs were produced during the same year.

FISHING

The fishing industry, which centers on shrimp, has undergone significant development since it first gained commercial importance in 1957. The best coastal fishing grounds are off the southeastern sector. Scaled fish include freshwater robalo, sea bass, mullet, mackerel, swordfish, and redmouth; a tuna industry has been operating since 1963. Total fish production was 36,541 tons in 2003, including 1,131 tons from aquaculture.

FORESTRY

Forests and woodlands covered 121,000 hectares (299,000 acres) in 2000, representing only 6% of the total land area. Virgin forests once covered 90% of El Salvador. Almost all of the lumber used in building and in other Salvadoran industries must be imported, mainly coming from neighboring Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Roundwood production in 2003 was 4.5 million cu m (170 million cu ft). Forest products include dye woods and lumber, such as mahogany, walnut, and cedar, for furniture and cabinet work. El Salvador is the world's main source of balsam, a medicinal gum; between Acajutla and La Libertad in the southwest is the so-called Balsam Coast, which supports a species of balsam tree unique to El Salvador. Imports of forest products in 2003 exceeded exports by $148.3 million.

MINING

El Salvador, 90% of which is of volcanic origin geologically, is less well endowed with mineral resources than other Central American country. Mineral production contributed less than 1% to the GDP. The country has produced gold and silver in the past. As of 2003, there had been no recorded production of gold or silver since 2000. Recent activity has been limited to exploration, including at El Dorado, whose indicated resources were estimated at 25,536 kg of gold and 164,849 kg of silver. A 1,050 m diamond drill program on the Aldea Zapote project was completed in 2001. Industrial minerals, especially limestone mined for domestic cement plants, were the primary commodities of the industry. Marine salt output rose in 2003 totaling 31,366 metric tons, down from 31,552 metric tons in 2002. Gypsum output in 2003 was estimated at 5,600 metric tons, unchanged from 1999 through 2002. Copper, lead, zinc, and sands containing titanium and ilmenite were also found in El Salvador.

ENERGY AND POWER

El Salvador has no known exploitable reserves of fossil fuels. Thus, it must rely upon imports to meet its fossil fuel needs. However, El Salvador is the largest producer of geothermal generated energy in Central America, with two geothermal facilities, the 95 MW Ahuachapan and the 66 MW Berlin facilities, in operation as of October 2005. According to government statistics, in 2003, geothermal sources produced 0.97 billion kWh of electricity, or about 21.9% of the total amount of the electricity generated. In that same year, thermal and hydropower sources accounted for 37.5% and 33.1%, respectively of all power generated. In 2004, a total of 4.158 billion kWh of electricity was produced, with consumption at 4.45 billion kWh. Imports and exports of electricity in that year totaled 473 million kWh and 91 million kWh, respectively. In 2002, electric power generating capacity stood at 1.133 million kW.

Although El Salvador has no known reserves of oil, it is one of only three countries in Central America to operate a refinery. Located at Acajutla on the Pacific coast, the facility has a capacity of 22,000 barrels per day, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. In 2002, refinery output totaled 18,840 barrels per day. Oil product consumption for that year came to 39,010 barrels per day, with total petroleum imports at 45,710 barrels per day.

INDUSTRY

The leading industrial region is the department of San Salvador. Other industrial centers are La Libertad, Santa Ana, San Miguel, Usulutan, and San Vicente. The industrial sector has been oriented largely to the domestic and Central American markets, though this is changing in light of recent free trade arrangements. There are coffee-processing plants, sugar mills, bakeries, plants making petroleum products, vegetable oils, fats, confectioneries, dairy products, tobacco, soap, candles, matches, shoes, furniture, light metals, cement, and organic fertilizers.

Manufacturing got a foothold in the economy in the 1950s and further grew as the CACM opened up regional markets in the 1960s. Large-scale industry was then introduced, relying mostly on imports of crude materials. In 1963, an oil refinery at Acajutla began processing Venezuelan crude oil; most of the output is consumed locally (in 2002, production capacity was 22,000 barrels per day). During the early 1970s, the greatest increase in value of manufacturing occurred in chemicals and textiles. Civil war during the 1980s hurt industrial production, with an average annual decline of 6% between 1977 and 1987.

Following the attainment of civil peace in the 1990s, the Salvadoran economy boomed. This growth was sustained by the recovery of the agricultural sector, and expansion of the construction and manufacturing sectors. Boosted by the rapid growth and development of its maquila (offshore assembly for re-export) zones, the economy became the most industrialized and best-performing in the Central American region. Maquila exports, as the primary export, are more important to El Salvador's economy than local manufactures. However, reliance on maquilas may prove to be a short-term growth prospect as lower production costs in China and Asia attract maquilas elsewhere. Where growth rates in the 1990s were around 45%, they fell to an average of 7% in 200004, and a 3% drop is expected for 2005. In May 2005, the garment-producer Charles Products transferred operations from El Salvador to Sri Lanka to take advantage of cheaper production costs that would make its products more competitive with those produced in China.

Growing at a rate of 4.5% in 2000, the manufacturing sector as a whole was one of the largest contributors to GDP, and, along with construction (which accounted for 4% of the GDP in 2004), led the economy in past years. Though growth in the sector slowed to 2.3% and 0.7% in 2003 and 2004 respectively, it still remained an important motor for economic growth from 200004. By 2004, manufactures accounted for 27% of El Salvador's total output.

Despite the growth in manufactures, the same basic problems persisted from decade to decade: the low purchasing power of the local population and the diffi cult financial and political situation of other Central American countries on which El Salvador depends for export markets. Nevertheless, El Salvador received substantial amounts of foreign direct investments in the industrial sector in 2001.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

El Salvador has research institutes devoted to the study of seismology and geology, meteorology and hydrology, agriculture (including the Salvadoran Institute for the Study of Coffee), and medicine. The principal learned society in the country is the El Salvador Academy, headquartered in San Salvador. In the same city are museums devoted to natural history and zoology. Nine colleges and universities offer degrees in basic and applied sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 59% of college and university enrollments.

In 1998, (the latest year for which the following data was available) research and development (R&D) expenditures totaled $21.280 million, or 0.08% of GDP. Of that total, 51.9% came from the government, followed by foreign sources at 23.4%, higher education at 13.2%, private nonprofit institutions at 10.4%, and business at 1.2%. In 1998, El Salvador had 33 researchers per million people actively engaged in R&D. In 2002, high technology exports were valued at $44 million, accounting for 6% of manufactured exports.

DOMESTIC TRADE

San Salvador is the chief commercial and marketing center. However, following the end of the civil war, thousands of Salvadorans returned from the United States and made San Miguel and Santa Ana two of the most industrialized cities in Central America.

Food is generally produced in small, scattered plots in the vicinity of urban areas and taken to market by traders (mostly women), either on their heads or by pack animals. Residents of remote rural areas usually consume most of what they produce exchanging the remainder for other commodities. In urban areas, the business units are mainly small shops, while in rural regions, individual traders conduct their business at town marketplaces, where agricultural produce, meats, fruit, handicrafts, ceramics, and flowers are sold.

A 10% value added tax was established in 1992 and raised to 13% in 1995. This tax made up 52.3% of the governments total tax revenues in 2004.

The central bank estimated that nearly $150 million per month, over $1.9 billion per year (2001 est.) is added to the economy through remittances of expatriates, primarily those living in the United States. Such remittances reached a record high of $2.5 billion in 2004 and accounted for 17.1% of GDP.

The usual business hours in the major cities are from 8 am to noon and from 2 to 6 pm on weekdays and from 8 am to noon on Saturday. Banking hours are from 9 to 11:30 am and from 2:30 to 4 pm on weekdays, with a half day on Saturday.

FOREIGN TRADE

While coffee remains one of the four main exports, it has gone from making up one-half of the country's exports in 1988 to 3.8% in 2004. Maquilas and nontraditional goods comprised, respectively, 55.3% and 39.8% of the $3.249 billion in exports in 2004. Sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals, and electricity comprised a portion of the remaining exports. The United States, Guatemala, and

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 1,255.0 4,381.8 -3,126.8
Guatemala 361.2 463.6 -102.4
United States 243.8 1,500.0 -1,256.2
Honduras 184.9 134.9 50.0
Costa Rica 102.0 157.4 -55.4
Nicaragua 98.1 111.6 -13.5
Panama 46.3 126.0 -79.7
Mexico 37.4 315.6 -278.2
Russia 25.9 21.5 4.4
Areas nes 25.7 25.7
Spain 14.6 66.5 -51.9
() data not available or not significant.

Honduras absorbed, respectively, 65.5%, 11.8%, and 6.3% of El Salvador's exports in 2004.

El Salvador imports raw materials, consumer goods, capital goods, fuels, foodstuffs, petroleum, and electricity. In 2004, imports totaled $5.968 billion. Imports emanated from the United States (46.3%), Guatemala (8.1%), and Mexico (6%).

One of the El Salvador's greatest weaknesses remained its trade deficit. In 2000, the value of imports was almost three times that of exports. In 2004, the current account balance was -$880.5 million. The deficit is sustained in part by huge inflows of remittances from Salvadoran workers in the United States, estimated at 2.5 billion, 16% of the 2004 GDP.

El Salvador has sought to shrink its trade deficit and increase exports, especially of manufactured and nontraditional products, by creating new export industries through free trade zones. Fifteen of these zones already exist in El Salvador. Maquila industries have thus far been the largest beneficiaries, and have employed approximately 90,000. The Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act allows these goods to be sold duty-free in the United States.

Additionally, El Salvador has negotiated agreements to reduce trade and investment barriers through CAFTA. It has increased its exports to those countries with which it already has signed agreementsMexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. Along with the other five Central American states, El Salvador is pushing for a customs union and the harmonization of customs duties.

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

El Salvador's positive trade balances in the late 1970s changed into deficits after 1980. The main reasons for this development were declines in cotton, sugar, and coffee export earnings, civil war, and the virtual collapse of the CACM market. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2004 El Salvador's exports were $3.249 billion while imports totaled $5.968 billion, resulting

Current Account -733.6
   Balance on goods -2,273.6
     Imports -5,436.0
     Exports 3,162.4
   Balance on services -169.4
   Balance on income -407.7
   Current transfers 2,117.1
Capital Account 112.9
Financial Account 1,089.5
   Direct investment abroad -18.6
   Direct investment in El Salvador 103.7
   Portfolio investment assets -263.7
   Portfolio investment liabilities 452.7
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets 19.8
   Other investment liabilities 795.6
Net Errors and Omissions -152.6
Reserves and Related Items -316.2
() data not available or not significant.

sin a trade deficit of $880.5 million. Though the deficit was down from figures reported in 2001, it still remained uncomfortably high.

Capital inflow, principally in the form of remittances, transfers, donations, and credits from the United States, has helped cover the deficit. The government in 2000 expected remittances to grow at a rate of 56% from 2000 to 200204. However, with a low tax base and national savings, the economy can become vulnerable to fluctuations in such flows.

Though nontraditional and maquila exports were expected to grow by more than 15% each, maquila exports declined due to more competitive production conditions in China and other regions. This engendered, in part, projections that the current-account deficit would worsen in 200506.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador, established in 1934, was nationalized in 1961. It is the sole bank of issue and the fiscal agent for the government. The entire banking system was nationalized in March 1980, but was later privatized. By 1989, the financial system was practically broke; destroyed by mismanagement and political conflict. In 1991, as part of economic reforms, the government privatized six commercial banks and seven savings and loan institutions. In 1994, the government created the Banco Multisectorial de Inversiones (BMI) to promote private sector development. The Banking Law was modified in 1995 to encourage foreign banks to enter the country. There were 12 commercial banks in 2002. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2000, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.1 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $6.1 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 6.93%.

A stock exchange was established in San Salvador in 1993, with five government issues of long-term bonds. In the first 12 months of activity, stock market transactions were nearly $100 million; the rate of growth in 199395 was rapid, and by the end of 1995 transactions reached an estimated $2.4 billion. The market trades almost exclusively in government bonds and short-term commercial paper, but private companies put shares on the market in the late 1990s.

INSURANCE

By 2000, El Salvador had at least 19 insurance companies in operation. The 1995 Insurance Law provided national treatment for foreign insurance firms. In 2003, there was $350 million worth of direct premiums written, with nonlife premiums accounting for $246 million. The country's top insurer in that same year was SISA Vida, with written premiums (life and nonlife) of $44.4 million.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Most public revenues come from taxes, fees, and fines. Municipal taxes and fees are subject to approval by the Ministry of the Interior. Until the early 1980s, government fiscal operations had generally shown surpluses; these enabled the government to sustain a growing volume of capital expenditures, resulting in a higher

Revenue and Grants 2,312.8 100.0%
   Tax revenue 1,679.1 72.6%
   Social contributions 344.6 14.9%
   Grants 17.9 0.8%
   Other revenue 271.2 11.7%
Expenditures 2,688.7 100.0%
   General public services 471.9 17.6%
   Defense 91.1 3.4%
   Public order and safety 306.6 11.4%
   Economic affairs 273.7 10.2%
   Environmental protection 5.4 0.2%
   Housing and community amenities 213.2 7.9%
   Health 358.1 13.3%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 31.7 1.2%
   Education 404.5 15.0%
   Social protection 381 14.2%
() data not available or not significant.

government share in total investments. Improved tax collection in 1998 resulted in approximately 56% of government revenues being attributed to the VAT. The use of the colón was phased out and the Central Bank was dissolved in 2003.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 El Salvador's central government took in revenues of approximately $2.8 billion and had expenditures of $3.1 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$28.8 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 45.8% of GDP. Total external debt was $8.273 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues in millions of colones were 2,312.8 and expenditures were 2,688.7. The value of revenues in millions of US dollars was $264 and expenditures $289, based on a market exchange rate for 2003 of 8.750 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 17.6%; defense, 3.4%; public order and safety, 11.4%; economic affairs, 10.2%; environmental protection, 0.2%; housing and community amenities, 7.9%; health, 13.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.2%; education, 15.0%; and social protection, 14.2%.

TAXATION

Residents of El Salvador, whether citizens or not, are subject to progressive taxation on both domestic and foreign income ranging from 1030%. Amounts received from insurance policies, interest on savings accounts, gifts, and inheritances are tax exempt. Taxes on corporate income are levied at 25% for amounts over the first $75,000, which are exempt. Dividends are not taxable. The main indirect tax is the value-added tax (VAT) introduced in September 1992 at a standard rate of 10%. In 2003, the standard VAT rate was 13%. Excise taxes are assessed on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. A 3% real estate transfer tax is imposed when the real estate involved has a market value above $250,000. There are no local taxes.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

According to the Heritage Foundation in 2000, El Salvador had the most open trade environment in Central America. El Salvador completed a tariff reduction program in 1999 and as a result has tariffs of 0% on capital goods, 05% on raw materials, 510% on intermediate goods, and up to 15% on final products. Some items, such as textiles, agricultural products, and vehicles receive higher tariffs of up to 40%.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

The Salvadoran government has fostered foreign investment since the 1988 Foreign Investment and Promotion Law came into force. Incentives included unrestricted remittance and reinvestment of profits and, for firms located in the free zones, the government offers up to a 20-year income tax holiday and duty-free importation of materials needed for production.

The inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) spiked in 1998 to over $1 billion (up from only $59 million in 1997), but then averaged about $219 million a year 1999 to 2001. Contrary to the global trend, and due primarily to the international relief effort following the earthquake of January 2001, FDI inflow increased to El Salvador in 2001 and in 2002 rose to an estimated $277.8 million, $10 million above the year before. Major foreign investors included Coastal Technologies (power generation), Kimberly Clark (paper products), Texaco (fuel storage and distribution), Esso and Shell (petroleum refining), Bayer (pharmaceuticals), Sara Lee (clothing assembly), Xerox (sales), AIG (insurance), and British American Tobacco. El Salvador received approximately $250 million in direct investments in 1999, the majority from the United States.

Over 300 US companies have a commercial presence or financial investment in El Salvador. Such opportunities came about through the US-supported privatization of the electrical and telecommunications markets.

PROESA, the national agency promoting foreign investment in El Salvador, has been boosted by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The guarantees that MIGA makes of Salvadoran manufacturing and financial sectors helps those sectors attract further investment.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Prior to 1950, the government, with moderate success, followed a policy of stimulating national economic development indirectly by building roads, developing power facilities, establishing credit facilities, and extending tariff protection to some industries. The prosperity and advantageous international position of Salvadoran coffee masked the long-term need for further diversification.

During the 1950s, it became apparent that El Salvador's primary problems were the growing population and lack of uncultivated arable land. The government therefore embarked on a program to encourage intensification of agriculture and expansion of small industry. The National Council for Economic Planning and Coordination (CONAPLAN), established in 1962, drafted a comprehensive five year plan (196569) embodying general objectives proclaimed by the government in line with the aims of the US-inspired Alliance for Progress. The objectives included an increase of the GNP; decrease in illiteracy; expansion of education, health, and housing programs; extension of social security benefits to areas not yet covered; and implementation of an integrated program of agrarian reform. The stimulus for the development program was to be provided by a small group of wealthy Salvadorans, with a minimum of government participation.

In early 1973, CONAPLAN drafted a development plan for 197377, concentrating on production, labor, and social welfare. The basic objectives of the plan were improvement in income distribution, employment, health, nutrition, housing, and education; stimulation of the agricultural, industrial, and construction sectors; acceleration of regional development; and export diversification. The plan called for adoption of a government-sponsored investment and financing program, institutional and financial reforms, and policies to stimulate private investment.

The economic reforms adopted in 1980 included a land redistribution program and nationalization of the banking system. After the civil war was over, the country received substantial influx of economic aid and private remittances. As part of the economic reform program, initiated in 1989 by newly elected President Christiani, the country's economy recuperated at a fair pace. After the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords in January 1992, El Salvador boosted business confidence and stimulated private investment.

In January 1986, a comprehensive stabilization program was announced. Among its most important measures were unification of the exchange rate at C5=$1 (a 50% devaluation), raising of fuel prices and public transportation fares, imposition of price controls on consumer staples (food, medical supplies, and clothing), tariff hikes on nonessential imports, and a rise in commercial interest rates. Because of the continuing costs from the civil war, and also from a drought the program fell short of its objectives. Approximately $2.2 billion were lost to infrastructure damage and foregone production opportunities from 197990 due to the civil war. However, since attacks ended and the peace accords were signed in 1992, investor confidence improved and foreign direct investment (FDI) increased.

In 1990, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a standby agreement, which was followed by another one in January 1992 and another one in May 1993. The World Bank extended a $75 million structural adjustment loan in 1991, and the Inter-American Development Bank provided additional sectoral adjustment financing. Aided by the government's economic reforms and the IMF and World Bank supported macroeconomic programs, the country's economy continued to prosper. The rising influx of private remittances, official transfer, and the return of local capital boosted domestic demand as well as construction activity, especially in transportation infrastructure and other public projects. The industrial sector also benefited from this upturn.

El Salvador's external debt decreased sharply in 1993, chiefly as a result of an agreement under which the United States forgave about $461 million of official debt. Debt still stood at around $2.4 billion in 1999, despite US forgiveness. In 1998, significant aid came from the World Bank for agricultural reform ($40 million) and structural adjustment ($52.5); from the Central American Bank for Economic Development ($20 million) for road repair; and from the Inter-American Development Bank ($60 million) for poverty alleviation. Total non-US government aid reached $600 million in 1998.

In 2001, El Salvador's external debt stood at $4.9 billion. A damaging hurricane, earthquakes, and a decline in world coffee prices in the late 1990s and early 2000s slowed economic growth. The country adopted the US dollar as legal tender in 2001 upon approval of the "Monetary Integration." Colónes were no longer printed, and the Central Bank was dissolved in 2003. This meant that the government could no longer use monetary policy and had to focus attention on maintaining a disciplined fiscal policy. The government broadened the income tax base, by introducing a new tax code, and implemented new banking reform legislation. El Salvador still faced the diffi cult challenge of reducing poverty, in part by investing in infrastructure and social programs.

In 2004, El Salvador ratified the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that it had signed the previous year. It was the first Central American country to do so. El Salvador worked to encourage foreign investment, modernize tax systems and fiscal policies, and to pursue liberalization policies in an effort o open new export markets and balance its trade deficits. Once in place, CAFTA was expected to increase GDP of the signatories by 0.6% annually.

It was projected that the Salvadoran government would implement further tax reforms to raise fiscal revenue after the 2006 elections, to be implemented prior to the legislative elections in 2009.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

A mandatory private social insurance program replaced the government-sponsored program. Employees and employers each must contribute 7% of payroll for social insurance, and there is also a private insurance scheme. Old age, disability and survivorship is covered. Maternity and sickness benefits are provided by a social insurance program that is funded by employee and employer contributions, as well as a subsidy from the government. Maternity benefits are equal to 75% of wages for up to 12 weeks. Work injury insurance covers those in industry, commerce and public service; casual workers, domestic workers, and teachers are not covered.

Women have the same legal rights as men, but in practice they face discrimination in employment, salaries, education, and access to credit. Men often receive priority in hiring, and there have been reports of pregnancy tests for female job applicants. Domestic violence against women is pervasive. The incidence of child abandonment and abuse and the use of child labor appear to be on the increase. The government was working with the United Nation's Children's Fund to improve the welfare of children.

Human rights violations include use of excessive force and extrajudicial killings by police. New criminal and sentencing codes decreased violations of due process. Lengthy pretrial detentions are common, and prison conditions remain harsh. Very few Salvadorians claim indigenous status; most have been assimilated into the general population. Indigenous groups live in poor rural areas. Most lack titles to their land and therefore lack the collateral necessary to access credit from a bank.

HEALTH

Health standards have improved considerably since 1930. Average life expectancy in 2005 was 71.22 years. The infant mortality rate, 139.4 per 1,000 live births in 1930 to 1934, declined to 25.10 by 2005. The crude death rate, 23 per 1,000 in 1930 to 1934, dropped to an estimated 6.1 as of 2002. The fertility rate has dropped from 5.3 in 1980 to 3.1 in 2000. Malnutrition persisted in an estimated 23% of children under five as of 2000. However, immunization rates for children up to one year old were quite high in 1997: tuberculosis, 93%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 97%; polio, 96%; and measles, 97%. The contraceptive prevalence for women was 60% as of 2000.

As of 2004, El Salvador had 127 physicians, 184 nurses, 56 dentists, and 31 pharmacists per 100,000 people. The Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare coordinates mobile health brigades, professional medical delegations, field offices, clinics, laboratories, and dispensaries. UNICEF, the US Institute of Inter-American Affairs, the Rockefeller Foundation, and other foreign organizations assisted health campaigns. Health care expenditure was estimated at 7.2% of GDP.

The principal causes of death remain gastroenteritis, influenza, malaria, measles, pneumonia, and bronchitis, caused or complicated by malnutrition, bad sanitation, and poor housing. Major causes of death were noted as communicable diseases and maternal/perinatal cause, noncommunicable diseases, and injuries. In 2000, 74% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 83% had adequate sanitation. In 1999, there were 67 cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people. There were 1,416 new cases of AIDS reported in 1996 and 2,798 cases of malaria in 1994. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.70 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 29,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 2,200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Much of the progress since the 1930s was undermined by the country's civil war, which overtaxed health care facilities while, in real terms, expenditures on health care declined. The National Medical School was shut down in 1980.

HOUSING

Inadequate housing, most critically felt in cities and towns, is endemic throughout El Salvador. A 2005 report from Habitat for Humanity indicated a housing deficit of 630,000 homes. Housing problems have been exacerbated by the civil war, which has created hundreds of thousands of refugees. Earthquakes in 2001 damaged nearly 335,000 homes, about 25% of the total housing stock. In 2002, there were about 1,491,588 dwellings in the country. About 90% were single-family, detached homes.

More than half of all urban dwellings have earthen floors and adobe walls and many have straw roofs. Concrete and adobe are preferred building materials. In 2000, only about 74% of households had access to improved water sources and 83% had access to improved sanitation systems.

The government has received financial assistance from international and foreign organizations, such as USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank, for projects focused on repair and reconstruction of damaged housing, as well as new housing development. The Salvadorian Foundation for Development and Basic Housing (FUNDASAL), which was established in 1968, continued to work on projects to improve the living conditions of low-income and poverty stricken residents. FUNDASAL has sponsored over 200 improvement projects and built over 25,000 homes.

EDUCATION

Primary education is free and compulsory through elementary school, and the public school system is government controlled. Enforcement of primary-school attendance is diffi cult, however, and truancy is high in rural areas. Primary education lasts for nine years, followed by three years of secondary education, with student choosing either a general studies or technical/vocational track. In 2000, an institutional reform process for education was initiated under a Basic Education Modernization Project, and the government was seeking international funding support for improvements in the quality and coverage of secondary education. The academic year runs from February to December. The primary language of instruction is Spanish.

In 2001, about 46% of children between the ages of four and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 90% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 49% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 88.6% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 28:1 in 1995.

Twelve private and three public universities offer higher education. The University of El Salvador in San Salvador, authorized in 1841 and with enrollments averaging 30,000, was a base for antigovernment agitation during the 1970s. The university was stormed and ransacked by government troops on 26 June 1980; at least 50 students and the rector were killed; the university did not reopen for several years. In 2003, about 17% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 79.7%, with 82.4% for men and 77.1% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.9% of GDP, or 20% of total government expenditures.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The National Library in San Salvador is the largest in the country, with 150,000 volumes. The library at the University of El Salvador has 34,000 volumes. The Central American University José Simeón Cañas in San Salvador has 150,000 volumes. In addition, there are three governmental libraries attached to the ministries of Education, Economics, and Foreign Affairs and a few small private and college libraries. The Ministry of Education maintains a mobile library with a total of 25,000 volumes.

The David J. Guzmán National Museum in San Salvador, founded in 1883, is a general museum housing historical documents and pre-Columbian artifacts. The Natural History Museum of El Salvador was founded in 1976. The National Zoological Park in San Salvador, established in 1961, maintains a natural science museum. The Anthropological Museum of El Salvador and the Museum of Word and Image are also in San Salvador.

MEDIA

Ownership of domestic telephone and telegraph services has been transferred from the government to a semiautonomous agency. In 2003, there were an estimated 116 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 38,200 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 176 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

As of 2001 there were 150 licensed radio stations and at least 11 commercial television stations, including the government-owned Radio Nacional. Radios in use increased from 398,000 in 1968 to about 2.75 million in 1995. In 2003, there were an estimated 481 radios and 233 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 25.2 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 84 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 35 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The principal newspapers are published in San Salvador. They are, with 2004 circulations, El Diario de Hoy, 115,000; La Prensa Gráfica, 112,800; El Mundo, 58,000 (in 2002); and Co Latino, 15,000.

The constitution of El Salvador provides for freedom of expression, including that of speech and press, and the government is said to respect these rights in practice. Print and broadcast journalists are said to freely and regularly criticize the government without censure.

ORGANIZATIONS

Of prime importance is the Salvadoran Coffee Association, founded in 1930 to promote coffee production, distribution, and consumption; to improve quality; and to provide information and advice to growers. Its membership includes all native and foreign coffee growers in El Salvador, and it receives financial support from the government export tax on coffee. Other prominent management organizations include the National Coffee Institute, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Salvadoran Association of Industrialists, Cattle Raisers' Association, El Salvador Sugar Cooperative, National Sugar Institute, Salvadoran Cotton Growers' Cooperative, and National Federation of Small Salvadoran Enterprises. In the early 1970s, the Salvadoran Communal Union was formed to improve peasant farming methods and to campaign for agrarian reform. In 1986, the union claimed 100,000 members.

There are youth organizations affiliated with religious institutions and political movements, as well as student unions at major universities. Scouting and Girl Guide programs are also active. There are several sports associations promoting amateur competitions in a variety of pastimes, such as tennis, badminton, tae kwon do, squash, and baseball. The country also has an active program of the Special Olympics.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. There are national chapters of the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Caritas.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

El Salvador's best-known natural wonder is Izalco, an active volcano often referred to as the Lighthouse of the Pacific because its smoke and flames are a guide to ships. Noteworthy are the cathedrals and churches of San Salvador, Santa Ana, and Sonsonate; the parks, gardens, and architecture of San Miguel; and the colonial atmosphere of San Vicente. Archaeological ruins of pre-Columbian origin are found in many parts of the country. Among the most striking are those at Tazumal, near Santa Ana, which include large pyramids and buildings with ancient carvings and inscriptions; there are more than 100 pyramid sites in El Salvador, many still unexcavated. The Pacific coast contains excellent beaches, and there is large-game fishing in the Gulf of Fonseca and in the ocean. Football (soccer) is the national sport. A valid passport is required for entry into El Salvador as well as a visa or a tourist card.

In 2003, there were 857,378 foreign visitors. The 4,578 hotel rooms with 9,156 beds had an occupancy rate of 51%. Visitors stayed an average of five nights. Tourism receipts totaled us $514 million.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in San Salvador at us$191 per day. Outside the capital, daily expenses were an estimated us$91.

FAMOUS SALVADORANS

The national hero of El Salvador is Father José Matías Delgado (17681833), who raised the first call for independence. A renowned political leader was Manuel José Arce (17861847), who fought against the Mexican empire of Iturbide and was the first president of the United Provinces of Central America. Gerardo Barrios Espinosa (180965) was a liberal president during the 19th century.

Prominent Salvadoran literary figures of the 19th century were Juan José Cañas (18261912), a poet and diplomat and the author of the Salvadoran national anthem, and Francisco E. Galindo (18501900), a poet and dramatist.

Writers of note in the 20th century included Alberto Masferrer (18651932), an essayist and poet; poet Roque Dalton (19351975); Juan Ramón Uriarte (18751927), an essayist and educator; and Salvador Salazar Arrué (18991975). Juan Francisco Cisneros (182378) was a nationally recognized painter.

Key figures in Salvadoran politics of the 1970s and 1980s were José Napoleón Duarte (192690) and Roberto D'Aubuisson Arrieta (194392). The assassinated Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdames (191780) was well known as a defender of human rights.

DEPENDENCIES

El Salvador has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Boland, Roy. Culture and Customs of El Salvador. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Byrne, Hugh. El Salvador's Civil War: A Study of Revolution. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Gomez, Mayra. Human Rights in Cuba, El Salvador, and Nicaragua: A Sociological Perspective on Human Rights Abuse. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Johnstone, Ian. Rights and Reconciliation: UN Strategies in El Salvador. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 1995.

Peterson, Anna, Manuel Vásquez, and Philip Williams (eds.). Christianity, Social Change, and Globalization in the Americas. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

Studemeister, Margarita S. (ed.). El Salvador: Implementation of the Peace Accords. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2001.

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EL SALVADOR

Compiled from the February 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of El Salvador


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 21,476 sq. km. (8,260 sq. mi.); about the size of Massachusetts.

Cities: Capital—San Salvador (pop. 1.7 million). Other cities—Santa Ana San Miguel, Soyapango, and La Union.

Terrain: Mountains separate country into three distinct regions—southern coastal belt, central valleys and plateaus, and northern mountains.

Climate: Semitropical, distinct wet and dry seasons.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Salvadoran(s).

Population: (2003) 6.6 million.

Annual growth rate: (2003) 2%.

Ethnic groups: Mestizo 90%, indigenous 1%, Caucasian 9%.

Religions: About 55% Roman Catholic, with significant and growing numbers of Protestant groups.

Languages: Spanish.

Education: Free through ninth grade. Attendance (grades 1-9)—85%. Literacy—84.1% nationally; 75.3% in rural areas.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2002)—33/1,000. Life expectancy at birth (2002)—70.4 years.

Work force: (about 2.7 million) Agriculture—22%; services—18.7%; commerce—27.2%; manufacturing—17.6%; construction—5.4%; transportation and communication—4.6%; other—4.5%.

Government

Type: Republic.

Constitution: December 20, 1983.

Independence: September 15, 1821.

Branches: Executive—president and vice president. Legislative—84-member Legislative Assembly. Judicial—independent (Supreme Court).

Administrative subdivisions: 14 departments.

Political parties: (represented in the legislature) Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), National Conciliation Party (PCN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), and the United Democratic Center (CDU).

Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy (2003)

GDP: $15 billion.

Annual growth rate: 2%.

Per capita income: $2,258.

Agriculture: (11% of GDP) Products—coffee, sugar, livestock, corn, poultry, and sorghum. Arable, cultivated, or pasture land—64%.

Industry: (24% of GDP) Types—textiles, food and beverage processing, footwear and clothing, chemical products, petroleum products, electronics.

Trade: Exports—$3.1 billion: textiles, diverse manufactures, coffee, sugar, and shrimp. Major markets—U.S. 63%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 25.5%. Imports$5.8 billion: consumer goods, foodstuffs, capital goods, raw industrial materials, and petroleum. Major suppliers—U.S. 48.6%, CACM 16.1%, Mexico 5.7%.


PEOPLE

El Salvador's population numbers about 6.6 million. Almost 90% is of mixed Indian and Spanish extraction. About 1% is indigenous; very few Indians have retained their customs and traditions. The country's people are largely Roman Catholic and Protestant. Spanish is the language spoken by virtually all inhabitants. The capital city of San Salvador has about 1.7 million people; an estimated 42% of El Salvador's population live in rural areas.


HISTORY

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


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

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

Political Landscape

Roberto D'Aubuisson and other hard-line conservatives, including some members of the military, created the Nationalist Republican Alliance party (ARENA) in 1981. D'Aubuisson's electoral fortunes were diminished by credible reports that he was involved in organized political violence. ARENA almost won the election in 1984, with solid private sector and rural farmer support. By 1989, ARENA had attracted the support of business groups. Allegations of corruption by the ruling Christian Democratic party, poor relations with the private sector, and historically low prices for the nation's main agricultural exports also contributed to ARENA victories in the 1988 legislative and 1989 presidential elections.

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

Taking advantage of both public apprehension of Flores' policies and ARENA infighting, the chief opposition party, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), was able to score a significant victory against ARENA in the March 2003 legislative and municipal elections. The FMLN won control over 31 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly as well as a number of key mayorships including those in most major population centers. ARENA, with only 29 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly, was forced to court the right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN), with 14 seats, in order to form a majority voting bloc.

However, in 2003 the PCN entered into a loose partnership with the FMLN, further limiting ARENA's ability to maneuver in the legislature.

Despite these constraints, ARENA made a strong showing at the March 2004 presidential election, which was marked by an unprecedented 67% voter turnout. ARENA candidate Elias "Tony" Saca handily defeated the FMLN candidate and party head Schafik Handal, garnering 57.71% of the votes cast. Nevertheless, Saca faces a complex political environment.

The defeat of FMLN's presidential candidate Schafik Handal rekindled an FMLN internal struggle between party hardliners allied with Handal and more moderate party members who see the party's recent defeat as a call for reform. In addition, the PCN and the two parties that comprise the center/center-left coalition, the United Democratic Center (CDU) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), face dissolution for failing to each capture at least 3% of the votes. Members of all three parties, whose deputies will continue to hold seats in the legislature, have publicly discussed creating new parties or aligning with existing ones. It remains to be seen how the reorganization of political parties, or the internal disputes of the FMLN, will affect voting blocs in the assembly.

Human Rights and Post-War Reforms

During the 12-year civil war, human rights violations by both the government security forces and left-wing guerillas were rampant. The accords established a Truth Commission under UN auspices to investigate the most serious cases. The commission reported its findings in 1993. It recommended that those identified as human rights violators be removed from all government and military posts, as well as recommending judicial reforms. Thereafter, the Legislative Assembly granted amnesty for political crimes committed during the war. Among those freed as a result were the Salvadoran Armed Forces (ESAF) officers convicted in the November 1989 Jesuit murders and

the FMLN ex-combatants held for the 1991 murders of two U.S. servicemen. The peace accords also established the Ad Hoc Commission to evaluate the human rights record of the ESAF officer corps.

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

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

National Civilian Police

The civilian police force, created to replace the discredited public security forces, deployed its first officers in March 1993, and was present throughout the country by the end of 1994. The National Civilian Police (PNC) has about 16,500 officers. The United States, through the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), led international support for the PNC and the National Public Security Academy (ANSP), providing about $32 million in non-lethal equipment and training since 1992.

Judiciary

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

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 10/20/04

President: Saca , Elias Antonio
Vice Pres.: De Escobar , Ana Vilma
Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Salaveria , Mario
Min. of Defense: Romero Orellana , Alejandro "Otto"
Min. of Economy: Mayora de Gavidia , Yolanda
Min. of Education: Meza , Darlyn
Min. of Environment: Barrera , Hugo
Min. of Finance: Lopez Suarez , Guillermo
Min. of Foreign Relations: Lainez , Francisco
Min. of Government: Figueroa , Rene
Min. of Health: Maza Brizuela , Jose Guillermo
Min. of Labor & Social Welfare: Espinal , Jose Roberto
Min. of Public Works: Gutierrez , David
Min. of Tourism: Cardenal , Luis
Min. of Treasury:
Attorney General: Artiga , Belisario
Pres., Central Reserve Bank: Serpas de Portillo , Luz Maria
Ambassador to the US: Leon Rodriguez , Rene Antonio
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Lagos Pizzati , Victor Manuel

El Salvador maintains an embassy in the United States at 2308 California Street NW, Washington, DC, 20008 (tel: 202-265-9671). There are consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco.


ECONOMY

The Salvadoran economy continues to benefit from a commitment to free markets and careful fiscal management. The economy has been growing at a steady and moderate pace since the signing of peace accords in 1992, in an environment of improved investor confidence and increased private investment. Much of the improvement in El Salvador's economy is a result of free market policy initiatives carried out by the ARENA governments, including the privatization of the banking system, telecommunications, public pensions, electrical distribution and some electrical generation, reduction of import duties, elimination of price controls, and enhancing the investment climate through measures such as improved enforcement of intellectual property rights.

One of the biggest challenges in El Salvador has been to manage the decline in the coffee sector, formerly the backbone of the economy, and to develop new growth sectors for a more diversified economy. The collapse of worldwide coffee prices has caused substantial reduction in coffee production and decreased rural employment. While as recently as 1988 coffee exports accounted for more than half of export earnings, in 2003 they were 3.4%. Moderate climate and a hard-working and enterprising labor pool comprise El Salvador's greatest assets. El Salvador has sought to leverage these assets in creating new export industries through fiscal incentives for free trade zones, and currently there are 15 free trade zones in El Salvador. The largest beneficiary has been the maquila industry, which directly provides 88,700 jobs, and primarily consists of cutting and assembling clothes for export to the United States.

The apparel industry has greatly benefited from the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, which allows these goods to enter the United States duty free under certain conditions. Moreover, the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), negotiated by the five countries of Central America with the United States in 2003, will make these benefits permanent.

Prompt ratification and implementation of CAFTA remains the core of the government's strategy to diversify the economy, make it more competitive, and create conditions for job creation. Now awaiting ratification by the legislatures of the signing countries, CAFTA will benefit several important sectors of the economy, including the textile/apparel industry, by expanding access to the U.S. market. CAFTA also provides mechanisms to develop less competitive areas of the economy, including agriculture, as the agreement is phased in.

Fiscal policy has been the biggest challenge for the Salvadoran Government. The 1992 peace accords committed the government to heavy expenditures for transition programs and social services. Although international aid was generous, the government has focused on improving the collection of its current revenues. A 10% value-added tax (VAT), implemented in September 1992, was raised to 13% in July 1995. The VAT is the biggest source of revenue, accounting for about 57% of total tax revenues in 2003.

Remittances from Salvadorans working in the United States sent to family members are a major source of foreign income and offset the substantial trade deficit. Remittances transferred through the banking system and, therefore, counted by the Central Bank have increased steadily in the last decade and reached an all-time high of $2.1 billion in 2003—approximately 14% of gross domestic product (GDP). As of April 2004 net international reserves equaled $1.9 billion. Beginning January 1, 2001, the Salvadoran Government approved the "Monetary Integration" law that made the U.S. dollar legal tender alongside the colón. Dollars have gradually replaced colónes, which are no longer printed. In practice the economy has become dollarized, with the colón only used in isolated rural areas.

El Salvador obtains concessional loans for development projects from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, the Bank for Central American Integration, and certain other international institutions. Starting in August 1999, El Salvador also has sold bonds in private international financial markets. These sales have been used to fund Salvadoran Government operations. El Salvador's external debt in March 2004 was about $4.8 billion.

Natural Disasters

El Salvador suffered from two earthquakes at the beginning of 2001 and from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Hurricane Mitch hit El Salvador in late October 1998, generating extreme rainfall of which caused widespread flooding and landslides. Roughly 65,200 hectares were flooded, and 374 people were either killed or remain missing. The areas that suffered the most were the low-lying coastal zones, particularly in the floodplain of the Lempa and San Miguel Grande Rivers.

Reconstruction from Mitch was still underway when in January and February 2001 the country experienced two devastating earthquakes that left nearly 2,000 people dead or missing, 8,000 injured, and caused severe dislocations across all sectors of Salvadoran society. Nearly 25% of all private homes in the country were either destroyed or badly damaged, and 1.5 million persons were left without housing. Hundreds of public buildings were damaged or destroyed, and sanitation and water systems in many communities put out of service. The total cost of the damage was estimated at between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

Response

The Hurricane Mitch disaster prompted a tremendous response from the international community governments, nongovernmental organizations, and private citizens alike. The U.S. Government has provided $37.7 million in assistance through USAID and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Defense.

Following the 2001 earthquakes, the U.S. Government responded immediately to the emergency, with military helicopters active in initial rescue operations, delivering emergency supplies, rescue workers, and damage assessment teams to stricken communities all over the country. USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance had a team of experts working with Salvadoran relief authorities immediately after both quakes, and provided assistance totaling more than $14 million. In addition, the Department of Defense provided an initial response valued at more than $11 million. For long-term reconstruction, the international community offered a total aid package of $1.3 billion, more than $168 million of it from the United States.

Manufacturing

El Salvador historically has been the most industrialized nation in Central America, though a decade of war eroded this position. The industrial sector has shifted since 1993 from a primarily domestic orientation to include free zone manufacturing for export. Maquila exports have led the growth in the export sector and have made an important contribution to the Salvadoran economy. Currently, manufacture industry accounts for nearly 24% of the GDP.

Trade

Exports in 2003 grew 4.7% while imports grew 11%. As in previous years, the large trade deficit was offset by family remittances. El Salvador is pursuing an aggressive strategy to increase exports, especially manufactured and nontraditional products, and to attract foreign investment. The negotiation of trade agreements such as CAFTA that reduce trade and investment barriers is a central part of this effort.

El Salvador has already signed free trade agreements with Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Panama, and increased its exports to those countries. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua also are negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada. The five Central American countries are working towards a construction of a Customs Union, and they have already harmonized their customs duties and most products.

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


FOREIGN RELATIONS

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

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


U.S.-SALVADORAN RELATIONS

U.S.-Salvadoran relations remain close and strong. U.S. policy toward El Salvador seeks to promote the strengthening of El Salvador's democratic institutions, rule of law, judicial reform, and civilian police and national reconciliation and reconstruction, economic opportunity, and growth. El Salvador has been a committed member of the coalition of nations fighting against terrorism, and has also provided a battalion to the efforts to bring stability to Iraq.

U.S. ties to El Salvador are dynamic and growing. More than 12,000 American citizens live and work full-time in El Salvador. Most are private businesspersons and their families, but a small number of American citizen retirees have been drawn to El Salvador by favorable tax conditions. The Embassy's consular section provides the full range of visa, passport, federal benefit, absentee voting, and related citizenship services to this community. The American Chamber of Commerce in El Salvador is located at World Trade Center, Torre 2, local No. 308, 89 Av. Nte. Col. Escalón, phone: 264-9393, fax: 263-9393.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

SAN SALVADOR (E) Address: Blvd. Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan; APO/FPO: APO AA 34023; Phone: (503)278-4444; Fax: (503)278-6011; INMARSAT Tel: 683-130-825; Work-week: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Website: www.elsalvador.usembassy.gov

AMB:Hugh Douglas Barclay
AMB OMS:Sharon Propst
DCM:Philip C. French
DCM OMS:Debra Grau
CG:James W. Herman
POL:Annie E. Pforzheimer
CON:James W. Herman
MGT:Andrew Oltyan
AGR:Stephen Huete (Guatemala)
AID:Mark Silverman
APHIS:Elizabeth Davis (Guatemala)
CLO:Tina Pennel
DAO:Jerry Zayas
DEA:James Rose
ECO:Jessica Webster
EST:Jessica Webster
FAA:Ruben D. Quiñones (Miami)
FAA/CASLO:Victor Guardia (Miami)
FCS:Daniel Thompson
FMO:Philip Anstead
GSO:Michael Barrow
ICASS Chair:James Herman
IMO:Dale Rice
INS:Edward Sotomayor
IPO:Ron Dick
IRS:Frederick Dulas (Mexico, D.F.)
LAB:Philip Thompson
LEGATT:David Wattley (Panama)
MLO:Felix Santiago
PAO:Donna J. Roginski
RSO:John Root
State ICASS:Andrew W. Oltyan
Last Updated: 12/16/2004

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 202-482-1658; 1-(800) USA-TRADE
Fax: 202-482-0464

Caribbean and Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

July 19, 2004

Country Description: El Salvador has a developing economy. Sixty-two percent of the population is urban, and per capita income was 2,258 U.S. dollars in 2003, according to the Central Bank. Tourism facilities are not fully developed. The capital is San Salvador, accessible by El Salvador's International Airport at Comalapa. Both the dollar and colon are now legal tender in El Salvador with a fixed exchange rate of 8.75 colones to the U.S. dollar. The dollar has nearly replaced the colon, although some prices are still listed in colones. Americans traveling with U.S. dollars are not required to exchange them for colones.

Entry/Exit Requirements: To enter the country, U.S. citizens must present a current U.S. passport and either a Salvadoran visa or a one-entry tourist card. The tourist card may be obtained from immigration officials for a ten-dollar fee upon arrival in country. U.S. travelers who plan to remain in El Salvador for more than thirty days can apply in advance for a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C. or from a Salvadoran consulate in the United States. Travelers may be asked to present evidence of U.S. employment and adequate finances for their visit at the time of visa application or upon arrival in El Salvador. An exit tax of 27 dollars and 15 cents must be paid when departing El Salvador from the international airport. This fee is waived for personnel traveling on diplomatic passports.

Travelers should be aware that El Salvador's entry requirements vary in accordance with agreements the country has with foreign governments. Citizens of six countries in addition to the United States may enter El Salvador with a current passport and either a visa or a tourist card. Citizens of several other countries, including many Latin American and western European nations, may enter with only a current passport. However, citizens of most nations are required to present both a current passport and visa to enter El Salvador.

Non-U.S. citizen travelers are advised to contact a Salvadoran embassy or consulate to determine the entry requirements applicable to them.

Airlines operating out of El Salvador International Airport require U.S. citizen passengers boarding flights for the United States to have a current U.S. passport. U.S. citizens applying for passports at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador are reminded that proof of citizenship and identity are required before a passport can be issued. Photographic proof of identity is especially important for young children because of the high incidence of fraud involving children. Since the National Passport Center in New Hampshire, and not the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, prints U.S. passports, citizens submitting applications in El Salvador should be prepared to wait approximately one week for receipt of their new passports.

The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador reminds U.S. citizen travelers that their activities in El Salvador are limited to those prescribed by Salvadoran law and the type of visa they are issued. Under Salvadoran law, all foreigners who participate directly or indirectly in the internal political affairs of the country lose the right to remain in El Salvador, regardless of visa status or residency in El Salvador.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure. Minors traveling on Salvadoran passports and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party must have the written permission of the absent parent(s) or legal guardian to depart El Salvador. A Salvadoran notary must notarize this document. If the absent parent(s) or legal guardian is (are) outside of El Salvador, the document must be notarized by a Salvadoran consul. If a court decree gives custody of the child traveling on a Salvadoran passport to one parent, the decree and a passport will allow the custodial parent to depart El Salvador with the child. Although Salvadoran officials generally do not require written permission for non-Salvadoran minors traveling on U.S. or other non-Salvadoran passports, it would be prudent for the parents of minor children traveling on U.S. passports to provide similar documentation if both parents are not traveling with the children.

For additional information on entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of El Salvador at 2308 California Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 387-6511, Internet address http://www.elsalvador.org; or a Salvadoran consulate in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Long Island, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C.

Safety and Security: Most travelers to El Salvador experience no safety or security problems, but the criminal threat in El Salvador is critical. Random and organized violent crime is endemic throughout El Salvador. U.S. citizens have not been singled out, but are subject to the same threat as all other persons in El Salvador. Traveling on the roads after dusk is dangerous for security and traffic safety reasons.

The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised, to avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark, and to avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable, even in the capital.

Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital, is risky and is not recommended. The Embassy advises official visitors to use radio dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.

Political or economic issues in the country may give rise to demonstrations, sit-ins or other related protests at any time and any place, but these activities are most frequent in the capital or on the main access roads. U.S. citizens are cautioned to avoid areas where demonstrations are being held and to follow local news media reports or call the U.S. Embassy for up-to-date information. Information about demonstrations also is available as "Security Alerts" on the U.S. Embassy Internet home page at http://elsalvador.usembassy.gov.

Many Salvadorans are armed, and shootouts are not uncommon. Foreigners, however, may not carry guns even for their own protection without first procuring a firearms license from Salvadoran officials. Failure to do so will result in detention and confiscation of the firearm, even if it is licensed in the United States.

Mine removal efforts ceased several years ago, but land mines and unexploded ordnance in backcountry regions still pose a threat to off-road tourists, backpackers and campers.

Visitors to the beach areas of El Salvador should use caution when swimming in the Pacific Ocean due to strong undertow currents along much of the coast. Two American citizens drowned in 2002, another in 2003, and a fourth in 2004, while swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: The U.S. Embassy considers El Salvador a critical crime threat country. Both violent and petty crimes are prevalent throughout El Salvador, and U.S. citizens have been among the victims. Travelers should avoid carrying valuables in public places. Passports and other important documents should not be left in private vehicles. Armed assaults and carjackings take place both in San Salvador and in the interior of the country, but are especially frequent on roads outside the capital where police patrols are scarce. Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the international airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot.

Kidnappings for ransom continue to occur but have decreased in frequency since 2001. U.S. citizens in El Salvador should exercise caution at all times and practice good personal security procedures throughout their stay.

U.S. citizens using banking services should be vigilant and cautious while conducting their financial exchanges either inside local banks or at automated teller machines. There have been several reports of armed robberies of people who appear to have been followed from the bank after completing their transactions.

Visitors to El Salvador should use caution when climbing volcanoes or hiking in other remote locations. Armed robberies of climbers and hikers are common.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care and to contact family members or friends and explain how could be transferred to you. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: Medical care is limited. Emergency services, even in San Salvador, are very basic. Ambulance services are not staffed by trained personnel and lack life-saving necessities such as oxygen. Physicians in the major hospitals are generally well-trained, often in U.S. hospitals, but nursing and support staff are not up to U.S. standards. State-of-the-art technology for dealing with medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Most hospitals accept credit cards for hospital charges, but not for doctors' fees.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas health care provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, please consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers abroad is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning El Salvador is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstances.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair to Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Road conditions throughout El Salvador are not up to U.S. standards. However, the rebuilding of major roads following the earthquakes in 2001 is nearly completed. Mini-buses, buses and taxis are often poorly maintained. Drivers are often not trained, and generally do not adhere to traffic rules and regulations. The U.S. Embassy recommends that its personnel avoid using mini-buses and buses, and use only taxis that are radio-dispatched those stationed in front of major hotels. Robberies and assaults on buses are commonplace. Further information on traffic and road conditions is available in Spanish from Automovil Club de El Salvador, at telephone number 011-503-221-0557 or via the Internet at http://www.aces.com.sv.

Because of inconsistent enforcement of traffic laws in El Salvador, safe drivers must make an extraordinary effort to drive defensively. Passing on blind corners is commonplace. Salvadoran law requires that the driver of a vehicle that injures or kills another person must be arrested and detained until a judge can determine responsibility for the accident. This law is uniformly enforced.

Visitors to El Salvador may drive on their U.S. license for up to thirty days. After that time, a visitor is required to obtain a Salvadoran license.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html. For specific information concerning El Salvador driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the El Salvador national tourist organization offices at http://www.elsalvadorturismo.gob.sv/. See also road safety information from other sources in El Salvador at http://www.aces.com.sv.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of El Salvador's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1—in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of El Salvador's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Customs Regulations: El Salvador customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from El Salvador of items such as firearms. Foreigners may not carry guns even for their own protection without first procuring a firearms license from Salvadoran officials. Failure to do so will result in detention and confiscation of the firearm, even if it is licensed in the United States. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington or one of El Salvador's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/assets/Document_Library/Reports_Publications/2003/2003_Special_301_Report/asset_upload_file665_6124.pdf. The U.S. Customs Service may impose corresponding import restrictions in accordance with the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. (Contact the Customs Service at 202 927-2336 or Internet http://exchanges.state.gov/education/cuprop for further information).

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating El Salvador's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in El Salvador are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. The Salvadoran constitution prohibits foreigners from participating in domestic partisan political activities, including public demonstrations. To do so is a violation of visa status, punishable by detention, fines, and/or deportation.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Special Circumstances: Travelers intending to carry cell phones from the United States should check with their service provider to determine if the service will be available in El Salvador. Credit cards are acceptable for payment in many but not all retail stores and restaurants in major cities. Automatic teller machines with access to major U.S. bank networks are widely available in San Salvador but less prevalent elsewhere in the country.

Disaster Preparedness: El Salvador is an earthquake-prone country. There is also the risk of flooding and landslides during the rainy season (June to November). General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated much of El Salvador on January 13, 2001. A second earthquake on February 13, 2001, measured 6.6 on the Richter scale, and caused significant additional damage and loss of life. Reconstruction efforts continue and the country is returning to normal. Additional information in Spanish about earthquakes (sismos) in El Salvador can be found on the Government of El Salvador's web page at http://www.snet.gov.sv.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/index.html, or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and abductions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living in or visiting El Salvador are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador and obtain updated information on travel and security in El Salvador and neighboring countries.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador is located at Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur, Urbanizacion Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, telephone 011-503-278-4444. The Embassy's web site can be accessed at http://elsalvador.usembassy.gov. The Consular Section is open for U.S. citizen services from 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. weekdays, excluding U.S. and Salvadoran holidays.

For any questions concerning U.S. visas for either temporary travel to or permanent residence in the U.S., please contact our regional U.S. Visa Information Center. From El Salvador, the Visa Information Center may be reached by calling 900-6011 or by purchasing a VISAS-USA calling card from any place that sells Telefonica phone cards. Calling instructions are on the back of the card. Calls using the 900 number cost approximately two dollars and 15 cents per minute and will be charged to the caller's telephone bill. The Telefonica phone card costs 15 dollars and permits a seven-minute call. From the U.S., the Visa Information Center can be contacted by dialing 818-755-8425 and charging the call to a Visa or MasterCard credit card.

International Adoption

January 2005

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign counsel.

Introduction: The U.S. Embassy advises potential adopters that El Salvador's foreign adoption law, part of the Salvadoran Family Code implemented in 1994, places limitations on the ability of prospective adoptive parents, or their attorneys, to identify a specific child for adoption and to file an adoption application for that child. The Family Code instead stipulates that a committee made up of members of the Procurador General's office (Produradoria) and the National Institute for the Protection of Minors (INPM) will review adoption applications and decide whether a particular Salvadoran child will be considered available for adoption by the prospective parents, and whether the adopting parents are desirable parents for this child. They will also investigate whether the child has any family members in El Salvador willing to raise the child. However, it appears that in practice prospective adoptive parents may request that the Institute de Menores investigate the circumstances of a child and recommend that they be allowed to adopt it. The law also contains new requirements regarding age (25 years or older) and number of years of marriage (5 years) that foreign adoptive parents must meet.

General: At this time, U.S. citizens interested in adopting a child from El Salvador should contact the U.S. Embassy for additional information. The Supreme Court of El Salvador advises that the granting of guardianships to prospective foreign adoptive parents for the purpose of allowing children to leave El Salvador for eventual adoption abroad is prohibited. An adoption must therefore be complete and final before the Embassy can issue the child a visa.

Availability of Children for Adoption: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

Number of Immigrant Visas Issued to Salvadoran Orphans in Selected Years Fiscal Year: IR-3 Immigrant Visas Issued to Salvadoran Orphans Adopted Abroad, IR-4 Immigrant Visas Issued to Salavdoran Orphans Adopted in the U.S.

1996: 17, 0
1997: 3, 2
1998: 4, 8
1999: 5, 3
2000: 5, 4
2001: 3, 1

El Salvador Adoption Authority: There are several Salvadoran governmental bodies involved in the adoption process. These include the Family Courts and the Procuradoria. The Procuradoria is responsible for family welfare law in El Salvador. The Ministry of Justice oversees the Consejo de Menores (Council of Minors) which is responsible for the care of orphans and other children in government custody. Information regarding Salvadoran laws and procedures for the purposes of adoption may be obtained by contacting:

Jefe de Seccion de Adopciones
Procuradoria General de la Republica
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador
tel. (503) 222-4444 or (503) 222-4133

El Salvador Adoption Procedures: Caveat: U.S. citizens should ensure that the child they plan to adopt complies with the U.S. immigration law definition of an orphan. El Salvador's laws do allow for the adoption of children who do not meet the U.S. definition of orphan and who would not qualify for subsequent immigration to the U.S.

At this time, the only legal way to take a child out of El Salvador is by first adopting the child legally in El Salvador. Under Salvadoran law, an orphan is a child whose parents have died. An adoptable child is any child surrendered by his/her natural parent(s) for adoption. Under Salvadoran law, to be eligible for adoption, a child with no identifiable parents must first be legally emancipated and represented by the Procuradoria.

The INPM can refer prospective parents to children who have already passed this stage and are living in government authorized facilities. Most adoptions are arranged with the child's biological mother through an attorney. The INMP then investigates the circumstances of the child's family, and seeks to find a close relative who may be willing to care of the child. Once satisfied that the adoption is in the child's best interest, the INPM forwards the case to the Procuradoria, which determines whether the adoptive parents are a suitable match to the child. The Procuradoria and the INPM then make a final decision on whether a specific child may be adopted by a particular set of parents. The case then goes to a Salvadoran judge, who issues a final adoption decree. This decree is necessary to remove a child to a foreign country and to obtain the immigrant visa.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: Adopting parents must be 25 years of age and married for five years. There must be a minimum of 15 years age difference between the adopting parents and child. Parents adopting a child under one year of age cannot be older than 45. Single individuals may not adopt.

El Salvador Adoption Records: El Salvador places adoption information in the margin of the child's original birth report. This report is usually written into a bound book kept at the alcaldia (city hall). Additionally, the adoption is recorded in a separate book of adoptions in the alcaldia.

Time Frame: In the past, adoptions in El Salvador have taken between 18 and 24 months to complete, including the time necessary for the U.S. Embassy to complete its own investigation, as required by immigration regulations. Investigations generally take between two and six weeks to complete.

El Salvador Fees: Reliable information is not available at this time regarding costs for adoptions processed under the new family code. In the past adoptions cost approximately $10,000.

El Salvador Agencies And Attorneys: Salvadoran law does not permit private adoption agencies to operate in El Salvador. U.S. citizens should be wary of adoption agencies or facilitators whose promises seem too good to be true. Fraudulent activities involving adoption in El Salvador have included kidnapping and trafficking in children. One Salvadoran attorney was disbarred and his accomplices placed in custody charged with illegal child trafficking.

El Salvador Documentary Requirements:

  • Power of Attorney for the Salvadoran lawyer to represent the adopting parents
  • Certified birth certificate of the adopting parents
  • Certified Marriage Certificate of the adopting parents
  • Police clearance from the adopting parents municipality
  • Documentation of the adopting parents' financial situation, (salary statements, bank accounts, etc.)
  • Homestudy by an authorized agency
  • Psychological report (one per adoptive parent)
  • Health certificate for the adopting parents and the adopted child
  • Certification issued by the Public or State Institution of Protection for the Child or the family. (All of the above-mentioned documents should be authenticated by a Salvadoran consulate or Embassy.)
  • Photocopy of the identity card and certified birth certificate of the Salvadoran attorney
  • Photographs of the adopting parents, adopted child, attorneys, and residence of the adopting parents.
  • Hospital records of the adopted child, issued by the hospital where the child was born.
  • Exact address of the biological parents

The homestudy should include general information on the applicants; their family history and social life; personal characteristics; family circumstances; reason for adopting; economic situation; and living conditions, as well as medical history. All supporting documents should be translated into Spanish.

El Salvador Embassy and Consulates in the U.S.:
Embassy of El Salvador
Consular Section
2308 California St. N,W,
Washington, D,C, 20008
tel: (202) 265-9671

Consulate General of El Salvador
Consular Section
2412 West 7th St., 2nd Fl.
Los Angeles, CA 90057
tel: (213) 3B3-6134

Consulate General of El Salvador
Consular Section
870 Market St., Suite 508
San Francisco, CA 94102
tel: (415) 781-7924

Consulate General of El Salvador
Consular Section
300 Biscayne Blvd, Suite 1020
Miami, FL 33131
tel: (305) 371-8B50

Consulate General of El Salvador
Consular Section
104 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 423
Chicago, IL 60603
tel: (312) 332-1393

Consulate General of El Salvador
Consular Section
1136 World Trade Center
New Orleans, LA 70130
tel: (504) 522-4266

Consulate General of El Salvador
Consular Section
46 Park Ave., 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10016
tel: (212) 889-3608

Consulate General of El Salvador
Consular Section
6420 Hillcroft street, Suite 100
Houston, TX 77081
tel: (713) 270-6239

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Orphans adopted abroad who have been in the legal custody of the adoptive parents fewer than two years require orphan petitions for U.S. immigrant visa processing to enter the United States. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

U.S. Fees: BCIS Fees for I-600 and I-600A Petitions: There is an BCIS fee of $525.00 for the filing of an I-600 or I-600A petition. If you already have a valid I-600A petition and file an I-600 within one year of the approval of the I-600A, no fee will be charged for the I-600 provided you are only petitioning for one child or for siblings. If you are petitioning for more than one child and the children are not siblings, the I-600 fee will be charged.

U.S. State Department Authentication Fee: If you are having documents authenticated by the Department of State Authentication Office, there is a fee of $55.00 per document. You can reach the Authentication Office by phone at (202) 647-5002. El Salvador has signed the Hague Convention on the Legalization of Documents.

Medical Examination Fee: The adopted child must have a medical examination performed by one of the U.S. Embassy's panel physicians before the immigrant visa can be issued. The cost of this medical examination is currently 300 Salvadoran colones (approximately U.S.$38) plus tax, and must be borne by the adoptive parents. This does not include the cost of any required vaccinations.

U.S. Immigrant Visa Fee: The fee for the immigrant visa is $325.00 and may be paid either in U.S. dollars or local currency. This $325 fee does not include the cost of medical examination, the cost of the legalization of documents or the petition fee. The U.S. Embassy does not accept personal checks or credit cards.

U.S. Embassy Assistance: U.S. citizens should register at the U.S. Embassy, Consular Section, American Citizens Services Unit upon arrival in El Salvador. The Embassy will be able to provide information about any current travel advisories and to provide other information about El Salvador including lists of physicians, attorneys, interpreters and translators. The U.S. Embassy is located at Final Boulevard Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, El Salvador; tel: 011-503-278-4444; fax: 011-503-278-5522.

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in El Salvador may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in El Salvador. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818; Phone: 1-888-407-4747; Fax: (202) 312-9743.

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El Salvador

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-SALVADORAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the January 2008 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of El Salvador

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 20,742 sq. km. (8,008 sq. mi.); about the size of Massachusetts.

Cities: Capital— San Salvador (pop. 2.2 million). Other cities—Santa Ana, San Miguel, Soyapango, and Apopa.

Terrain: Mountains separate country into three distinct regions—southern coastal belt, central valleys and plateaus, and northern mountains.

Climate: Semitropical, distinct wet and dry seasons.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Salvadoran(s).

Population: (2007 est.) 5.8 million.

Annual growth rate: (2005 est.) 1.7%.

Ethnic groups: Mestizo 90%, indigenous 1%, Caucasian 9%.

Religions: About 52% Roman Catholic, with significant and growing numbers of Protestant groups.

Languages: Spanish.

Education: Free through ninth grade. Attendance (grades 1-9)— 90.4%. Literacy—85.4% nationally; 77% in rural areas.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2005)—23/1,000 (source: UNICEF). Life expectancy at birth (2006)—71.8 years.

Work force: (about 2.7 million, 2006) Agriculture—18.9%; services—51.1%; industry—15.8%; construction—6.7%; government—7.4% (2006).

Government

Type: Republic.

Constitution: December 20, 1983.

Independence: September 15, 1821.

Government branches: Executive—president and vice president. Legislative—84-member Legislative Assembly. Judicial—independent (Supreme Court).

Political subdivisions: 14 departments.

Political parties: (represented in the legislature) Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), National Conciliation Party (PCN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR), and the United Democratic Center (CDU).

Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy

GDP: (2006) $18.57 billion; PPP

GDP: (2006) $38.62 billion (IMF estimate).

GDP annual real growth rate: (2006) 4.2%.

Per capita income: (2006) $2,656.90, PPP per capita income $5,514.97 (IMF estimate).

Agriculture: (9.8% of GDP, 2006) Products—coffee, sugar, livestock, corn, poultry, and sorghum. Arable, cultivated, or pasture land—68% (2005).

Industry: (21.2% of GDP, 2006) Types—textiles and apparel, medicines, food and beverage processing, clothing, chemical products, petroleum products, electronics.

Trade: (2006) Exports—$3.5 billion: textiles and apparel, coffee, sugar, medicines, iron and steel products, tuna, light manufacturing, and paper products. Major markets—U.S. 57.1%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 29.2%. Imports—$7.6 billion: petroleum, iron products, machines and mechanical devices, cars, medicines, consumer goods, foodstuffs, capital goods, and raw industrial materials. Major suppliers—U.S. 40.46%, CACM 15.1%, Mexico 7.7%.

PEOPLE

El Salvador's population numbers about 5.8 million. Almost 90% is of mixed Indian and Spanish extraction. About 1% is indigenous; very few Indians have retained their customs and traditions. The country's people are largely Roman Catholic and Protestant. Spanish is the language spoken by virtually all inhabitants. The capital city of San Salvador has about 2.2 million people; an estimated 40.3% of El Salvador's population lives in rural areas.

HISTORY

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

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

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

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

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

El Salvador is a democratic republic governed by a president and an 84-member unicameral Legislative Assembly. The president is elected by universal suffrage by absolute majority vote and serves for a 5-year term. A second round runoff is required in the event that no candidate receives more than 50% of the first round vote. Members of the assembly are elected based on the number of votes that their parties obtain in each department (circumscriptive suffrage) and serve for 3-year terms. The country has an independent judiciary and Supreme Court. Legislative and municipal elections will be held in January 2009. Presidential elections will be held in March 2009.

Political Landscape

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

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

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

Despite these constraints, ARENA made a strong showing in the March 2004 presidential election, which was marked by an unprecedented 67% voter turnout. ARENA candidate Elias Antonio “Tony” Saca handily defeated the FMLN candidate and party head Shafik Handal, garnering 57.71% of the votes cast. The defeat of the FMLN's presidential candidate rekindled an internal FMLN struggle between party hardliners and more moderate party members who saw the party's 2004 defeat as a call for reform. In addition, the PCN and the two parties that comprise the center/ center-left coalition, the United Dem

ocratic Center (CDU) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), faced dissolution for failing to each capture at least 3% of the votes. Members of all three parties, whose deputies continued to hold seats in the legislature, publicly discussed creating new parties or aligning with existing ones.

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

Human Rights and Post-War Reforms

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

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

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

National Civilian Police

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

Judiciary

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

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Elias Antonio SACA Gonzalez

Vice Pres.: Ana Vilma Albanez de ESCOBAR

Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Mario SALAVERIA

Min. of Defense: Jorge Alberto MOLINA Contreras

Min. of Economy: Yolanda Mayora de GAVIDIA

Min. of Education: Darlyn MEZA

Min. of Environment: Carlos GUERRERO

Min. of Finance: William HANDAL

Min. of Foreign Relations: Francisco Esteban LAINEZ Rivas

Min. of Government: Juan Miguel BOLANOS

Min. of Health: Jose Guillermo MAZA Brizuela

Min. of Labor & Social Welfare: Jose Roberto ESPINAL

Min. of Public Security & Justice: Rene FIGUEROA

Min. of Public Works: Jorge Isidro NIETO Menendez

Min. of Tourism: Ruben ROCHI Parker

Attorney Gen.: Felix Garrid SAFIE

Pres., Central Reserve Bank: Luz Maria SERPAS de Portillo

Ambassador to the US: Rene Antonio LEON Rodriguez

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Carmen Maria GALLARDO de Hernandez

El Salvador maintains an Embassy in the United States at 1400 16th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20036 (tel: 202-265-9671). There are consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.

ECONOMY

The Salvadoran economy continues to benefit from a commitment to free markets and careful fiscal management. The economy has been growing at a steady and moderate pace since the signing of peace accords in 1992, and poverty has been cut from 66% in 1991 to 30.7% in 2006. Much of the improvement in El Salvador's economy is a result of the privatization of the banking system, telecommunications, public pensions, electrical distribution and some electrical generation; reduction of import duties; elimination of price controls; and improved enforcement of intellectual property rights. Capping those reforms, on January 1, 2001, the U.S. dollar became legal tender in El Salvador. The economy is now fully dollarized.

The Salvadoran Government has maintained fiscal discipline during post-war reconstruction and reconstruction following earthquakes in 2001 and hurricanes in 1998 and 2005. Taxes levied by the government include a value added tax (VAT) of 13%, income tax of 20%, excise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, and import duties. The VAT is the largest source of revenue, accounting for about 52.2% of total tax revenues in 2007. El Salvador's public external debt in November 2007 was about $5.5 billion, 28.4% of GDP.

Years of civil war, fought largely in the rural areas, had a devastating impact on agricultural production in El Salvador. The agricultural sector has experienced significant recovery, buoyed in part by higher world prices for coffee and sugarcane and increased diversification into horticultural crops. Seeking to develop new growth sectors and employment opportunities, El Salvador created new export industries through fiscal incentives for free trade zones. The largest beneficiary has been the textile and apparel (maquila) sector, which directly provides approximately 70,000 jobs. Services, including retail and financial, have also shown strong employment growth, with about 51.1% of the total labor force now employed in the sector. During the last three years foreign companies have set up 96 new subsidiaries providing 18,000 new jobs, mainly in maquilas, tourism, and telephone call centers.

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

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

The U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), implemented between El Salvador and the United States on March 1, 2006, provides El Salvador preferential access to U.S. markets. Textiles and apparel, shoes, and processed foods are among the sectors that benefit. In addition to trade benefits, CAFTA-DR also provides a framework for additional reforms on issues such as intellectual property rights, dispute resolution, and customs that will improve El Salvador's investment climate. For sensitive sectors such as agriculture, the agreement includes generous phase-in periods to allow Salvadoran producers an opportunity to become more competitive.

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

On November 29, 2006, the Government of El Salvador and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a 5-year, $461 million anti-poverty Compact to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty in the country's northern region. The grant seeks to improve the lives of approximately 850,000 Salvadorans through investments in education, public services, enterprise development, and transportation infrastructure. It is expected that incomes in the region will increase by 20% over the 5-year term of the Compact, and by 30% within 10 years of the start of the Compact.

Natural Disasters

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

FOREIGN RELATIONS

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

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

U.S.-SALVADORAN RELATIONS

U.S.-Salvadoran relations remain close and strong. U.S. policy toward El Salvador promotes the strengthening of El Salvador's democratic institutions, rule of law, judicial reform, and civilian police; national reconciliation and reconstruction; and economic opportunity and growth. El Salvador has been a committed member of the coalition of nations fighting against terrorism and has sent 10 rotations of troops to Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

U.S. ties to El Salvador are dynamic and growing. More than 19,000 American citizens live and work full-time in El Salvador. Most are private businesspersons and their families, but a small number of American citizen retirees have been drawn to El Salvador by favorable tax conditions.

The Embassy's consular section provides a full range of citizenship services to this community. The American Chamber of Commerce in El Salvador is located at World Trade Center, Torre 2, local No. 308, 89 Av. Nte. Col. Escalón, phone: 2263-9494.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

SAN SALVADOR (E) Blvd. Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, APO/FPO APO AA 34023, (503)2501-2999, Fax (503)2501-2150, INMARSAT Tel 683-130-825, Workweek: Mon-Fri, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Website: http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Cheryl Payne
AMB OMS:Sharon Propst
DHS/CIS:Herman Pardo
DHS/ICE:Fernando Plascencia
ECO:Donn-Allan Titus
FCS:Michael MCG:ee
FM:Nathaniel Pines
HRO:Jay Williams
MGT:John Lipinski
AMB:Charles L. Glazer
CG:Carl Cockburn
DCM:Michael Butler
PAO:Robert Riley
GSO:Rafael Rodriguez
RSO:Daniel Weber
AFSA:Robert Riley
AGR:Robert K. Hoff
AID:Debbie Kennedy Iraheta
CLO:Cristina Selva/Cathy Baxter
DAO:Col. Gregory Barrack
DEA:Joe Roach
EEO:Dale Rice
FAA:Ruben Quiñonez
FAA/CASLO:Victor Guardia (Miami)
FMO:Philip Anstead
ICASS:Chair Kirk Dahlgren
IMO:Dale Rice
IPO:Edna Vega
ISSO:Dale Jones/Edna Vega
LAB:Jami Thompson
LEGATT:LeoPoldo Navarrete
MLO COL:Felix Santiago
POL:Philip Laidlaw
State ICASS:Robert Riley

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade
Administration Office of Latin America and the
Caribbean

14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 202-482-1658; 1-(800)
USA-TRADE Fax: 202-482-0464

Caribbean/Latin
American Action

1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

October 3, 2007

Country Description: El Salvador is a democratic country with a developing economy. Tourism facilities are not fully developed. The capital is San Salvador, accessible by El Salvador's International Airport at Comalapa. Although the American dollar and Colon are legal tender in El Salvador, in practice the Colon has fallen out of use, and Americans traveling with U.S. dollars should not exchange them for Colones.

Entry Requirements: To enter the country, U.S. citizens must present a current U.S. passport and either a Salvadoran visa or a one-entry tourist card. The tourist card may be obtained from immigration officials for a ten-dollar fee upon arrival in country. U.S. travelers who plan to remain in El Salvador for more than thirty days can apply in advance for a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, DC or from a Salvadoran consulate in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Long Island, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, or Washington, DC. Travelers may contact the Embassy of El Salvador at 1400 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, tel. (202) 265-9671, 265-9672; fax (202) 232-3763; e-mail: [email protected] or visit the Embassy's Internet web site at http://www.elsalvador.org. When applying for a visa, travelers may be asked to present evidence of U.S. employment and adequate finances for their visit at the time of visa application or upon arrival in El Salvador. An exit tax of $32.00 is included in the price of any airline ticket used to depart El Salvador.

Travelers should be aware that El Salvador's entry requirements vary in accordance with agreements the country has with foreign governments. Citizens of several countries in addition to the United States may enter El Salvador with a current passport and either a visa or tourist card. Citizens of many other countries, including many Latin American and western European nations, may enter with only a current passport. However, citizens of most nations are required to present both a current passport and a visa to enter El Salvador. Non-U.S. citizen travelers are advised to contact a Salvadoran embassy or consulate to determine the entry requirements applicable to them.

In June 2006, El Salvador entered a “Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement” with Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Under the terms of the agreement, citizens of the four countries may travel freely across land borders from one of the countries to any of the others without completing entry and exit formalities at Immigration checkpoints. U.S. citizens and other eligible foreign nationals, who legally enter any of the four countries, may similarly travel among the four without obtaining additional visas or tourist entry permits for the other three countries. Immigration officials at the first port of entry determine the length of stay, up to a maximum period of 90 days.

Foreign tourists who wish to remain in the four country region beyond the period initially granted for their visit are required to request a one-time extension of stay from local Immigration authorities in the country where the traveler is physically present or travel outside the CA-4 countries and reapply for admission to the region. Foreigners “expelled” from any of the four countries are excluded from the entire CA-4 region. In isolated cases, the lack of clarity in the implementing details of the CA-4 Border Control Agreement has caused temporary inconvenience to some travelers and has resulted in others being fined more than one hundred dollars or detained in custody for 72 hours or longer.

Airlines operating out of El Salvador International Airport require all U.S. citizen passengers boarding flights for the United States (including U.S.-Salvadoran dual nationals) to have a current U.S. passport. U.S. citizens applying for passports at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador are reminded that proof of citizenship and identity are required before a passport can be issued. Photographic proof of identity is especially important for young children because of the high incidence of fraud involving children. Since non-emergency passports are printed in the United States, and not at the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, citizens submitting applications in El Salvador should be prepared to wait approximately one week for receipt of their new passports.

The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador reminds U.S. citizen travelers that their activities in El Salvador are limited to those prescribed by Salvadoran law and the type of visa they are issued. Under Salvadoran law, all foreigners who participate directly or indirectly in the internal political affairs of the country (i.e. political rallies, protests) lose the right to remain in El Salvador, regardless of visa status or residency in El Salvador.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/ departure. Minors traveling on Salvadoran passports and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party must have the written permission of the absent parent(s) or legal guardian to depart El Salvador.

A Salvadoran notary must notarize this document. If the absent parent(s) or legal guardian is (are) outside of El Salvador, the document must be notarized by a Salvadoran consul. If a court decree gives custody of the child traveling on a Salvadoran passport to one parent, the decree and a passport will allow the custodial parent to depart El Salvador with the child.

Although Salvadoran officials generally do not require written permission for non-Salvadoran minors traveling on U.S. or other non-Salvadoran passports, it would be prudent for the parents of minor children traveling on U.S. passports to provide similar documentation if both parents are not traveling with the children.

Safety and Security: Most travelers to El Salvador experience no safety or security problems, but the criminal threat in El Salvador is critical. Random and organized violent crime is endemic throughout El Salvador. U.S. citizens have not been singled out by reason of their nationality, but are subject to the same threat as all other persons in El Salvador.

Political or economic issues in the country may give rise to demonstrations, sit-ins or protests at any time or place, but these activities are most frequent in the capital or on its main access roads. U.S. citizens are cautioned to avoid areas where demonstrations are being held and to follow local news media reports or call the U.S. Embassy for up-to-date information. Information about demonstrations also is available as “Security Alerts” on the U.S. Embassy home page at http://elsalvador.usembassy.gov.

Many Salvadorans are armed, and shootouts are not uncommon. Foreigners, however, may not carry guns even for their own protection without first procuring a firearms license from Salvadoran officials. Failure to do so will result in detention and confiscation of the firearm, even if it is licensed in the United States.

Armed holdups of vehicles traveling on El Salvador's roads appear to be increasing, and U.S. citizens have been victims in various incidents. In one robbery, an American family was stopped by gunmen while driving on the Pan American highway in Santa Ana Department in daylight. In another incident, an American citizen passenger was robbed after the van in which she was riding was carjacked by armed men. The van was stopped at a traffic light on the busy road between Comalapa International Airport and San Salvador shortly after dark.

Strong undertows and currents can make swimming short distances from El Salvador's Pacific coast beaches extremely dangerous for even strong and experienced swimmers. As an example of this hazard, during a single seven-day holiday period, nine Salvadoran citizens drowned while swimming at Pacific beaches. In one month alone, three U.S. citizens drowned while swimming at Pacific beaches in La Libertad and La Paz Departments.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair's Internet site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: The U.S. Embassy considers El Salvador a critical crime-threat country. The homicide rate in the country increased 25 percent from 2004 to 2005, and El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Both violent and petty crimes are prevalent throughout El Salvador, and U.S. citizens have been among the victims. Travelers should avoid carrying valuables in public places. Passports and other important documents should not be left in private vehicles.

Armed assaults and carjacking take place both in San Salvador and in the interior of the country, but are especially frequent on roads outside the capital where police patrols are scarce. Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the international airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot. Kidnapping for ransom continues to occur, but have decreased in frequency since 2001. U.S. citizens in El Salvador should exercise caution at all times and practice good personal security procedures throughout their stay.

The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised, to avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark, and to avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable to crime, even in the capital.

Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital, is risky and not recommended. The Embassy advises official visitors to use radio-dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.

U.S. citizens using banking services should be vigilant while conducting their financial exchanges either inside local banks or at automated teller machines. There have been several reports of armed robberies in which victims appear to have been followed from the bank after completing their transactions.

Visitors to El Salvador should use caution when climbing volcanoes or hiking in other remote locations. Armed robberies of climbers and hikers are common. Mine-removal efforts ceased several years ago, but land mines and unexploded ordnance in backcountry regions still pose a threat to off-road tourists, backpackers, and campers. The Embassy strongly recommends engaging the services of a local guide certified by the national or local tourist authority when hiking in backcountry areas, even when within the national parks.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you understand the local criminal justice process and find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: There are few private hospitals with an environment that would be acceptable to visiting Americans. The Embassy recommends that these hospitals be used only for emergency care, to stabilize a condition prior to returning to the U.S. for definitive evaluation and treatment. Private hospitals and physicians expect upfront payment (cash or, for hospitals, credit card) for all bills. Priority ambulance (503-2264-7911) is the only ambulance service in San Salvador approaching U.S. standards. Not all medicines found in the U.S. are available in El Salvador. Medicines often have a different brand name and are more expensive than in the U.S.

No specific vaccinations are required for entry into El Salvador. Information on vaccinations and other health considerations, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. It may be possible to purchase supplemental coverage for travel.

U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Separate insurance should be obtained for medical evacuation, as it may cost in excess of $50,000. Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency medical services and even transportation of remains, in the event of death.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning El Salvador is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road conditions throughout El Salvador are not up to U.S. standards. However, the rebuilding of major roads following the earthquakes in 2001 is nearly completed. Mini-buses, buses, and taxis are often poorly maintained. Drivers are often not trained, and generally do not adhere to traffic rules and regulations. The U.S. Embassy recommends that its personnel avoid using mini-buses and buses, and use only taxis that are radio-dispatched or those stationed in front of major hotels. Robberies and assaults on buses are commonplace.

Because of inconsistent enforcement of traffic laws in El Salvador, safe drivers must make an extraordinary effort to drive defensively. Passing on blind corners is commonplace. Salvadoran law requires that the driver of a vehicle that injures or kills another person must be arrested and detained until a judge can determine responsibility for the accident. This law is uniformly enforced.

Visitors to El Salvador may drive on their U.S. license for up to thirty days. After that time, a visitor is required to obtain a Salvadoran license. Visit the web site of El Salvador's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.elsalvadorturismo.gob.sv. Further information on traffic and road conditions is available in Spanish from Automovil Club de El Salvador, at telephone number 011-503-2221-0557 or via the Internet at http://www.aces.com.sv.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of El Salvador as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of El Salvador's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Travelers intending to carry cell phones from the United States should check with their service provider to determine if the service will be available in El Salvador. Credit cards are acceptable for payment in many-but not all-retail stores and restaurants in major cities. Automatic teller machines with access to major U.S. bank networks are widely available in San Salvador, but less prevalent elsewhere in the country.

Disaster Preparedness: El Salvador is an earthquake-prone country. Flooding and landslides during the rainy season (June to November) also pose a risk. On October 4, 2005, the Government of El Salvador declared a nation-wide state of emergency following major flooding caused by a series of storms. More than 50 deaths were confirmed as attributed to landslides and flooding at that time and over 34,000 residents were evacuated to temporary shelter. The Ilamatepec Volcano, located approximately 50 kilometers west of San Salvador, erupted briefly on October 1, 2005, casting rocks and volcanic ash onto neighboring regions and producing two confirmed deaths. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated much of El Salvador on January 13, 2001. A second earthquake on February 13, 2001, measured 6.6 on the Richter scale, and caused significant additional damage and loss of life. Reconstruction efforts continue and the country is returning to normal. Additional information in Spanish about earthquakes (sismos) in El Salvador can be found on the Government of El Salvador's web page at http://www.snet.gob.sv.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating El Salvador laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in El Salvador are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Guns: El Salvador has strict laws requiring a locally obtained license to possess or carry a firearm in the country. The Embassy strongly advises persons without a Salvadoran firearms license not to bring guns into the country or use a firearm while in El Salvador. During a three-month period in 2006, three U.S. citizens were arrested in separate incidents for firearms violations. In each instance, the individuals complied with airline procedures, declared the firearm on a Customs form upon arrival at El Salvador's Comalapa International Airport, and were allowed to depart the airport without hindrance. However, when the individuals returned to the airport and declared the weapons to airline employees, they were arrested by Salvadoran police, not for violating aviation regulations but for having carried an unlicensed firearm while in El Salvador. The Embassy cannot intervene in the judicial process when a U.S. citizen is charged with a firearms violation. Conviction for possessing an unlicensed firearm can carry a prison sentence of three-to-five years.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in El Salvador are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within El Salvador. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador is located at Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur, Urbanizacion Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, telephone 011-503-2278-4444, fax 011-503-2278-6020, e-mail: [email protected] The Embassy's web site can be accessed at http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov. The Consular Section is open for U.S. citizens' services from 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. weekdays, excluding U.S. and Salvadoran holidays. After business hours, the Embassy can be contacted by telephone at 011-503-2501-2316 or 011-503-2501-2253.

For any questions concerning U.S. visas for either temporary travel to or permanent residence in the U.S., please contact our regional U.S. Visa Information Center. From El Salvador, the Visa Information Center may be reached by calling 900-6011 from any landline operated by Telecomm, or by purchasing a VISAS-USA calling card from any location that sells Telefonica phone cards. Calling instructions are on the back of the card. Calls using the 900 number cost approximately $2.15 per minute and will be charged to the caller's telephone bill. The Telefonica phone card costs $15.00 and permits a seven-minute call. From the U.S., the Visa Information Center can be contacted by dialing 866-730-2089 and charging the call to a Visa or MasterCard credit card.

International Adoption

June 2006

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http//:travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Important Note: The process for international adoptions in El Salvador can be lengthy and complicated for prospective adoptive parents. The Salvadoran authorities responsible for administering adoptions are aware of the difficulties posed by the current process but disagree on whether current procedures should be amended. Some local officials are attempting to streamline the current adoption process, but others prefer to leave current practices unchanged. This causes the country's procedures to be applied inconsistently, and the experience of one adopting couple or parent may not be the same as that of any other couple or adopting single parent.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authorities: Several Salvadoran governmental bodies are involved in the adoption process. These include the Family Courts and the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR or Special Counsel for the Protection of Women and Children). The PGR is responsible for family welfare law in El Salvador. The Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA) is responsible for the care of orphans and other children in government custody. Representatives from ISNA and the PGR oversee international adoptions in El Salvador's adoption central authority, called the Oficina Para Adopciones (Office for Adoptions or OPA). Information regarding Salvadoran laws and procedures for the purposes of adoption may be obtained by contacting:

Oficina Para Adopciones
Jefe de Sección de Adopciones
Procuraduría General de la República
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador
Phone (503) 2222-4444 or (503) 2222-4133

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Under Salvadoran law, married adopting parents who are not Salvadoran citizens must have been married for at least five years, and the elder spouse must be at least 25 years of age. There must be a minimum of 15 years difference in age between the adopting parents and child. Parents adopting a child under one year of age cannot be older than 45. Single individuals may adopt in El Salvador if they are at least 25 years old and at least 15 years older than the child to be adopted.

Residency Requirements: Under Article 176 of the Salvadoran Family Code, adoptive parents who wish to adopt a particular child who is not related to them must be prepared to reside with the child in El Salvador for at least one year prior to finalization of the adoption. To satisfy this requirement, the adoptive parent(s) must be appointed the foster parent(s) of the child by ISNA prior to the beginning of the one year co-residency.

Although personnel at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador are familiar with some cases in which this requirement was not applied, the Government of El Salvador now is enforcing the co-residency requirement in most cases involving the adoption of a particular child. U.S. citizen missionaries, Peace Corps Volunteers, contract employees and other relatively long-term residents in El Salvador are not exempted from the one year co-residency requirement as a formally decreed foster parent.

Time Frame: Salvadoran adoption procedures can take 18 to 36 months to complete. This does not include the time necessary for the U.S. Embassy to complete its own investigation, as required by immigration regulations. Because adoption fraud in El Salvador has taken a variety of forms, an investigation of each adoption is necessary to ensure that the child is an orphan, as defined by U.S. immigration law, and that the birth mother is aware that the child is being adopted irrevocably and will be taken from the country. Investigation times vary depending upon the complexity of each case.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador maintains a list of attorneys known to provide adoption services in El Salvador at: http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov/consular/english/acs/layerslist.html.

Adoption Fees: The costs of adopting a Salvadoran child and taking him or her to the United States can vary considerably, depending primarily on the length of time required to complete the adoption process and the fees charged by Salvadoran attorneys. The costs listed below are neither comprehensive nor unchanging but are provided to give prospective adopting parents a general idea of the financial outlays required.

  • Salvadoran Attorney's Fee: typically $3,000–$10,000
  • Medical Examination for the Child: $250–$600 (includes vaccinations for all children and x-rays for children between 14 and 16 years of age)
  • Salvadoran passport fee: $10
  • Photos for Salvadoran Passport and U.S. Immigrant Visa: $10
  • Room for two adults for one nightat the Hilton Princess or Sheraton Presidente Hotel: approximately $170

Note: While the Salvadoran government charges no fees for the services it provides in the adoption process, municipal and other authorities do charge for the documents and services they provide. These fees typically are included in the Salvadoran lawyer's fee. The prospective adopting parents should confirm with their Salvadoran attorney whether the attorney's fees will cover these additional costs.

Adoption Procedures: Salvadoran law states that a child under 18 years of age may be eligible for international adoption if the child is abandoned or orphaned and a family court determines that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Salvadoran law also permits the adoption of a child under 18 who is under the care of a parent or relatives if a court determines the adoption is in the child's best interest. Foreign adoptive parents must formally adopt Salvadoran children in El Salvador, in accordance with Salvadoran laws and procedures, before taking the children out of the country to live. The Supreme Court of El Salvador advises that the granting of guardianships to prospective foreign adoptive parents for the purpose of allowing children to leave El Salvador for subsequent adoption abroad is prohibited.

OPA investigates the circumstances of an orphaned or neglected child's family and seeks to find a close relative who may be willing to care for the child. Once satisfied that adoption is in the child's best interest, OPA determines which prospective adoptive parents are a suitable match for the child. A committee composed of representatives of the Special Counsel, the Director of ISNA and OPA then determines whether a specific child may be adopted by a particular set of parents. Once the committee makes an affirmative decision, the Special Counsel signs the approved adoption petition. The case then goes to a Salvadoran judge, who rules on whether or not the court will issue a final adoption decree. In order for the adopted child to b eligible for a U.S. immigrant visa, the adoptive parents must obtain this decree. Once the court issues a final adoption decree, municipal authorities in the town where the child's birth was registere cancel the original birth certificate and issue a new birth certificate naming the adoptive parents as the child's parents. The new birth certificate becomes part of a bound record book kept at the Alcaldia (city hall).

Required Documents: Each of the U.S. documents listed below must be translated into Spanish by an individual appointed for that purpose by a Salvadoran notary public (as stipulated in Article 24 of the “Ley del Ejercicio Notarial de la Jurisdicción Voluntaria y de Otras Diligencias”).

  • Certified birth certificate for the adopting parents;
  • Certified marriage certificate for the adopting parents;
  • Police clearance from the adopting parents' municipality;
  • Documentation of the adopting parents' financial situation (salary statements, bank accounts,etc.);
  • Home study completed by an agency authorized to conduct such a study in the domicile of the parents. The home study completed for the I-600A/I-600 will fulfill this requirement;
  • Health certificate for the adopting parents;
  • Certification issued by the adoptive parents' state Department of Health and Human Services, or institution for the protection of children, or an equivalent public entity stating that the adopting parents meet the legal requirements of that state to adopt and that the state will monitor the welfare of the child after adoption;
  • In cases in which a single adopting parent is 50 years old or older and cases in which both members of an adopting couple are 50 years old or older, the adoptive parent(s) must submit a statement identifying who will be responsible for the adopted child in the absence of the adoptive parent(s).

Salvadoran Documents:

  • Photocopy of the identity card and certified birth certificate of the Salvadoran attorney;
  • Health certificate for the child to be adopted;
  • Photographs of the adopting parents, adopted child, attorney;
  • Photographs of the exterior and interior of the house of the adopting parents;
  • Proof of Salvadoran residence of the adopting parents;
  • Exact address of the biological parents, if applicable;
  • Power of Attorney for a specified Salvadoran lawyer to represent the adopting parents.

Along with the authorized Spanish translation, an authenticated English language version of all U.S. documents must be provided to the appropriate Salvadoran government agencies and courts.

Embassy of El Salvador
Consular Section
2308 California St. NW
Washington, D.C, 20008
Tel: (202) 265-9671
Fax; 202-234-3834
[email protected]
http://www.elsalvador.org/home.nsf/home

Salvadoran Consulates are established in the following metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Elizabeth (NJ), Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Nogales (AZ), San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Contact information for these consulates can be found at the Web address listed above.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immi

gration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy
Final Boulevard Santa Elena
Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad
Tel (outside the El Salvador):
011+503-2501-2600 within El Salvador: 2501-2600
Fax: (503) 2278-6020
E-mail: [email protected]

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in El Salvador may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

views updated

El Salvador

Compiled from the January 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of El Salvador

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-SALVADORAN RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 20,742. (8,008 sq. mi.); about the size of Massachusetts.

Cities: Capital—San Salvador (pop. 2.2 million). Other cities—Santa Ana, San Miguel, Soyapango, and Apopa.

Terrain: Mountains separate country into three distinct regions—southern coastal belt, central valleys and plateaus, and northern mountains.

Climate: Semitropical, distinct wet and dry seasons.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Salvadoran(s).

Population: (2005 est.) 6.9 million.

Annual growth rate: (2005 est.) 1.7%.

Ethnic groups: Mestizo 90%, indigenous 1%, Caucasian 9%.

Religion: About 52% Roman Catholic, with significant and growing numbers of Protestant groups.

Language: Spanish.

Education: Free through ninth grade. Attendance (grades 1-9)—90.4%. Literacy—84.5% nationally; 76.3% in rural areas.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2003)—24.6/1,000. Life expectancy at birth (2006)—71.8 years.

Work force: (about 2.5 million, 2004) Agriculture—19.1%; services—49.8%; industry—16.8%; construction—6.4%; government—7.3%; other—0.6%.

Government

Type: Republic.

Constitution: December 20, 1983.

Independence: September 15, 1821.

Government branches: Executive—president and vice president. Legislative—84-member Legislative Assembly. Judicial—independent (Supreme Court).

Political subdivisions: 14 departments.

Political parties: (represented in the legislature) Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), National Conciliation Party (PCN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), and the United Democratic Center (CDU).

Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy

GDP: (2005) $16.97 billion

PPP GDP: (2005) $34.15 billion.

GDP annual real growth rate: (2005) 2.8%.

Per capita income: (2005) $2,469, PPP per capita income $5,100.

Agriculture: (11.8% of GDP, 2005) Products—coffee, sugar, livestock, corn, poultry, and sorghum. Arable, cultivated, or pasture land—68% (2005).

Industry: (23.2% of GDP, 2005) Types—textiles and apparel, food and beverage processing, footwear, chemical products, petroleum products, electronics.

Trade: (2005) Exports—$3.4 billion: textiles and apparel, light manufacturing, coffee, medicines, sugar, and shrimp. Major markets—U.S. 60.7%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 27%. Imports—$6.8 billion: consumer goods, foodstuffs, capital goods, raw industrial materials, and petroleum. Major suppliers—U.S. 43.3%, CACM 15%, Mexico 7.8%.

PEOPLE

El Salvador’s population numbers about 6.9 million. Almost 90% is of mixed Indian and Spanish extraction. About 1% is indigenous; very few Indians have retained their customs and traditions. The country’s people are largely Roman Catholic and Protestant. Spanish is the language spoken by virtually all inhabitants. The capital city of San Salvador has about 2.2 million people; an estimated 40.3% of El Salvador’s population lives in rural areas.

HISTORY

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

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

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

Political Landscape

Roberto D’Aubuisson and other hardline conservatives, including some members of the military, created the Nationalist Republican Alliance party (ARENA) in 1981. D’Aubuisson’s electoral fortunes were diminished by credible reports that he was involved in organized political violence. ARENA almost won the election in 1984, with solid private sector and rural farmer support. By 1989, ARENA had attracted the support of business groups. Allegations of corruption by the ruling Christian Democratic party, poor relations with the private sector, and historically low prices for the nation’s main agricultural exports also contributed to ARENA victories in the 1988 legislative and 1989 presidential elections.

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

Taking advantage of both public apprehension of Flores’ policies and ARENA infighting, the chief opposition party, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), was able to score a significant victory against ARENA in the March 2003 legislative and municipal elections. The FMLN won control over 31 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly as well as a number of key mayorships including those in most major population centers. ARENA, with only 29 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly, was forced to court the right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN), with 14 seats, in order to form a majority voting bloc. However, in 2003 the PCN entered into a loose partnership with the FMLN, further limiting ARENA’s ability to maneuver in the legislature.

Despite these constraints, ARENA made a strong showing at the March 2004 presidential election, which was marked by an unprecedented 67% voter turnout. ARENA candidate Elias “Tony” Saca handily defeated the FMLN candidate and party head Schafik Handal, garnering 57.71% of the votes cast. Nevertheless, Saca faced a complex political environment.

The defeat of FMLN’s presidential candidate rekindled an FMLN internal struggle between party hardliners and more moderate party members who saw the party’s 2004 defeat as a call for reform. In addition, the PCN and the two parties that comprise the center/center-left coalition, the United Democratic Center (CDU) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), faced dissolution for failing to each capture at least 3% of the votes. Members of all three parties, whose deputies continued to hold seats in the legislature, publicly discussed creating new parties or aligning with existing ones.

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

Human Rights and Post-War Reforms

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

In accordance with the peace agreements, the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances. Demobilization of Salvadoran military forces generally proceeded on schedule throughout the process. The Treasury Police, National Guard, and National Police were abolished, and military intelligence functions were transferred to civilian control. By 1993—9 months ahead of schedule—the military had cut personnel from a war-time high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF strength stood at less than 15,000, including uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, consisting of personnel in the army, navy, and air force.

A purge of military officers accused of human rights abuses and corruption was completed in 1993 in compliance with the Ad Hoc Commission’s recommendations. The military’s new doctrine, professionalism, and complete withdrawal from political and economic affairs leave it the most respected institution in El Salvador.

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

National Civilian Police

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

Judiciary

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

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/11/2006

President: Elias Antonio SACA Gonzalez

Vice Pres.: Ana Vilma de ESCOBAR

Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Mario SALAVERIA

Min. of Defense: Alejandro “Otto” ROMERO Orellana

Min. of Economy: Yolanda Mayora de GAVIDIA

Min. of Education: Darlyn MEZA

Min. of Environment: Carlos GUERRERO

Min. of Finance: William HANDAL

Min. of Foreign Relations: Francisco Esteban LAINEZ Rivas

Min. of Government: Silvia AGUILAR

Min. of Health: Jose Guillermo MAZA Brizuela

Min. of Labor & Social Welfare: Jose Roberto ESPINAL

Min. of Public Security & Justice: Rene FIGUEROA

Min. of Public Works: David GUTIERREZ

Min. of Tourism: Luis CARDENAL

Min. of Treasury: Guillermo LOPEZ Suarez

Attorney General: Felix Garrid SAFIE

Pres., Central Reserve Bank: Luz Maria SERPAS de Portillo

Ambassador to the US: Rene Antonio LEON Rodriguez

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Carmen Maria GALLARDO de Hernandez

El Salvador maintains an embassy in the United States at 1400 16th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20036 (tel: 202-265-9671). There are consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco.

ECONOMY

The Salvadoran economy continues to benefit from a commitment to free markets and careful fiscal management. The economy has been growing at a steady and moderate pace since the signing of peace accords in 1992, and poverty has been cut from 66% in 1991 to 34.6 percent in 2004. Much of the improvement in El Salvador’s economy is a result of free market policy initiatives carried out by ARENA governments, including the privatization of the banking system, telecommunications, public pensions, electrical distribution and some electrical generation; reduction of import duties; elimination of price controls; and improved enforcement of intellectual property rights. Capping those reforms, on January 1, 2001, the U.S. dollar became legal tender in El Salvador, and the economy is now fully dollarized.

The Salvadoran government has maintained fiscal discipline during post-war reconstruction and reconstruction following earthquakes in 2001 and hurricanes in 1998 and 2005. Taxes levied by the government include a value added tax of 13%, income tax of 20%, excise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, and import duties. The VAT is the largest source of revenue, accounting for about 51.8% of total tax revenues in 2005. El Salvador’s budget deficit, 3.2% percent of GDP in 2005, is usually financed through loans from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, or Bank for Central American Integration as well as through the sale of government bonds in international financial markets. El Salvador’s public external debt in August 2006 was about $5.4 billion, 30.6 percent of GDP.

Years of civil war, fought largely in the rural areas, had a devastating impact on agricultural production in El Salvador. A fall in world coffee prices, once a major export earner for El Salvador, has also hurt rural employment. Seeking to develop new growth sectors and employment opportunities, El Salvador created new export industries through fiscal incentives for free trade zones. The largest beneficiary has been the textile and apparel (maquila) sector, which directly provides 70,000 jobs. Services, including retail and financial, have also shown strong employment growth, with about 49.8% of the total labor force now employed in the sector. Within that sector, call centers have shown notable growth, with 4,000 now employed. Remittances from Salvadorans working in the United States are an important source of income for many families in El Salvador. In 2005, the Central Bank estimated that remittances totaled $2.8 billion, and UNDP surveys show that an estimated 22.3 percent of families receive them.

Under its export-led growth strategy launched in 1989, El Salvador has pursued economic integration with its Central American neighbors and negotiated trade agreements with the Dominican Republic, Chile, Mexico, Panama, and the United States. Agreements with Taiwan, Colombia, the European Union, and Canada are under negotiation while agreements with CARICOM and Israel are being considered. Exports in 2005 grew 2.7% while imports grew 6.9%. As in previous years, the large trade deficit was offset by family remittances.

The U.S.—Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) implemented between El Salvador and the United States on March 1, 2006, provides El Salvador preferential access to U.S. markets. Textiles and apparel, shoes, and processed foods are among the sectors expected to benefit. In addition to trade benefits, CAFTA-DR also promises to provide a framework for additional reforms on issues such as intellectual property rights, dispute resolution, and customs that will improve El Salvador’s investment climate. For sensitive sectors such as agriculture, the agreement includes generous phase-in periods to allow Salvadoran producers an opportunity to become more competitive.

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

Natural Disasters

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

FOREIGN RELATIONS

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

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

U.S.-SALVADORAN RELATIONS

U.S.-Salvadoran relations remain close and strong. U.S. policy toward El Salvador seeks to promote the strengthening of El Salvador’s democratic institutions, rule of law, judicial reform, and civilian police and national reconciliation and reconstruction, economic opportunity, and growth. El Salvador has been a committed member of the coalition of nations fighting against terrorism, and has also provided a battalion to the efforts to bring stability to Iraq.

U.S. ties to El Salvador are dynamic and growing. More than 19,000 American citizens live and work fulltime in El Salvador. Most are private businesspersons and their families, but a small number of American citizen retirees have been drawn to El Salvador by favorable tax conditions. The Embassy’s consular section provides the full range of visa, passport, federal benefit, absentee voting, and related citizenship services to this community. The American Chamber of Commerce in El Salvador is located at World Trade Center, Torre 2, local No. 308, 89 Av. Nte. Col. Escalón, phone: 264-9393, fax: 263-9393.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

SAN SALVADOR (E) Address: Blvd. Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan; APO/FPO: APO AA 34023; Phone: (503)2278-4444; Fax: (503)2278-6011; INMARSAT Tel: 683-130-825; Workweek: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Website: www.elsalvador.usembassy.gov.

AMB:Charles L. Glazer
AMB OMS:Sharon Propst
DCM:Michael Butler
DCM OMS:Cheryl Payne
CG:Virginia Hotchner
POL:Carlos Garcia
MGT:John Lipinski
AFSA:Robert Riley
AGR:Stephen Huete (Guatemala)
AID:Debbie Kennedy Iraheta
APHIS:Elizabeth Davis (Guatemala)
CLO:Reyes, Monique/
DAO:Gregory Barrack
DEA:Ivan Rios
ECO:Donn-Allan Titus
FAA:Ruben Quiñonez
FAA/CASLO:Victor Guardia (Miami)
FMO:Philip Anstead
GSO:Michael Barrow
ICASS Chair:Kirk Dahlgren
IMO:Dale Rice
INS:Esmerehildo Pardo
IPO:Edna Vega
ISSO:Eric Connaway
LAB:Philip Thompson
LEGATT:Leopoldo Navarrete
MLO:Felix Santiago
PAO:Robert Riley
RSO:Daniel Weber
State ICASS:David Krzywda

Last Updated: 1/26/2007

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 202-482-1658
1-(800) USA-TRADE
Fax: 202-482-0464

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : October 10, 2006

Country Description: El Salvador is a democratic country with a developing economy. Tourism facilities are not fully developed. The capital is San Salvador, accessible by El Salvador’s International Airport at Comalapa. Although the dollar and Colon are legal tender in El Salvador, in practice the Colon has fallen out of use, and Americans traveling with U.S. dollars should not exchange them for Colones.

Entry/Exit Requirements: To enter the country, U.S. citizens must present a current U.S. passport and either a Salvadoran visa or a one-entry tourist card. The tourist card may be obtained from immigration officials for a ten-dollar fee upon arrival in country. U.S. travelers who plan to remain in El Salvador for more than thirty days can apply in advance for a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C. or from a Salvadoran consulate in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Long Island, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. Travelers may contact the Embassy of El Salvador at 1400 16th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, tel. (202) 265-9671, 265-9672; fax (202) 232-3763; email: [email protected] or visit the Embassy’s Internet website at http://www.elsalvador.org. When applying for a visa, travelers may be asked to present evidence of U.S. employment and adequate finances for their visit at the time of visa application or upon arrival in El Salvador. An exit tax of $32.00 is included in the price of any airline ticket used to depart El Salvador.

Travelers should be aware that El Salvador’s entry requirements vary in accordance with agreements the country has with foreign governments. Citizens of several countries in addition to the United States may enter El Salvador with a current passport and either a visa or tourist card. Citizens of many other countries, including many Latin American and western European nations, may enter with only a current passport. However, citizens of most nations are required to present both a current passport and a visa to enter El Salvador. Non-U.S. citizen travelers are advised to contact a Salvadoran embassy or consulate to determine the entry requirements applicable to them.

In June 2006, El Salvador entered a “Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement” with Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Under the terms of the agreement, citizens of the four countries may travel freely across land borders from one of the countries to any of the others without completing entry and exit formalities at Immigration checkpoints. U.S. citizens and other eligible foreign nationals, who legally enter any of the four countries, may similarly travel among the four without obtaining additional visas or tourist entry permits for the other three countries. Immigration officials at the first port of entry determine the length of stay, up to a maximum period of 90 days. Foreign tourists who wish to remain in the four country region beyond the period initially granted for their visit are required to request a one-time extension of stay from local Immigration authorities in the country where the traveler is physically present or travel outside the CA-4 countries and reapply for admission to the region. Foreigners “expelled” from any of the four countries are excluded from the entire CA-4 region. In isolated cases, the lack of clarity in the implementing details of the CA-4 Border Control Agreement has caused temporary inconvenience to some travelers a nd has resulted in others being fined more than one hundred dollars or detained in custody for 72 hours or longer.

Airlines operating out of El Salvador International Airport require all U.S. citizen passengers boarding flights for the United States (including U.S.-Salvadoran dual nationals) to have a current U.S. passport. U.S. citizens applying for passports at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador are reminded that proof of citizenship and identity are required before a passport can be issued.

Photographic proof of identity is especially important for young children because of the high incidence of fraud involving children. Since the National Passport Center in New Hampshire, and not the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, prints U.S. passports, citizens submitting applications in El Salvador should be prepared to wait approximately one week for receipt of their new passports.

The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador reminds U.S. citizen travelers that their activities in El Salvador are limited to those prescribed by Salvadoran law and the type of visa they are issued. Under Salvadoran law, all foreigners who participate directly or indirectly in the internal political affairs of the country lose the right to remain in El Salvador, regardless of visa status or residency in El Salvador.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure. Minors traveling on Salvadoran passports and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party must have the written permission of the absent parent(s) or legal guardian to depart El Salvador. A Salvadoran notary must notarize this document. If the absent parent(s) or legal guardian is (are) outside of El Salvador, the document must be notarized by a Salvadoran consul. If a court decree gives custody of the child traveling on a Salvadoran passport to one parent, the decree and a passport will allow the custodial parent to depart El Salvador with the child. Although Salvadoran officials generally do not require written permission for non-Salvadoran minors traveling on U.S. or other non-Salvadoran passports, it would be prudent for the parents of minor children traveling on U.S. passports to provide similar documentation if both parents are not traveling with the children.

Safety and Security: Most travelers to El Salvador experience no safety or security problems, but the criminal threat in El Salvador is critical. Random and organized violent crime is endemic throughout El Salvador. U.S. citizens have not been singled out by reason of their nationality, but are subject to the same threat as all other persons in El Salvador. See the section below on Crime for additional related information. Political or economic issues in the country may give rise to demonstrations, sit-ins or protests at any time or place, but these activities are most frequent in the capital or on its main access roads. U.S. citizens are cautioned to avoid areas where demonstrations are being held and to follow local news media reports or call the U.S. Embassy for up-to-date information. Information about demonstrations also is available as “Security Alerts” on the U.S. Embassy Internet home page at http://elsalvador.usembassy.gov.

Many Salvadorans are armed, and shootouts are not uncommon. Foreigners, however, may not carry guns even for their own protection without first procuring a firearms license from Salvadoran officials. Failure to do so will result in detention and confiscation of the firearm, even if it is licensed in the United States.

Armed holdups of vehicles traveling on El Salvador’s roads appear to be increasing. In September 2005 U.S. citizens were victimized in two separate incidents. In one robbery, an American family was stopped by gunmen while driving on the Pan American highway in Santa Ana Department in broad daylight. In the other, an American citizen passenger was robbed after the van in which she was riding was carjacked by armed men. The van was stopped at a traffic light on the busy road between Comalapa International Airport and San Salvador shortly after dark.

Strong undertows and currents can make swimming short distances from El Salvador’s Pacific coast beaches extremely dangerous for even strong and experienced swimmers. As an example of this hazard, during a single seven-day holiday in August 2004, nine Salvadoran citizens drowned while swimming at Pacific beaches. In July 2005, three U.S. citizens drowned while swimming at Pacific beaches in La Libertad and La Paz Departments.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: The U.S. Embassy considers El Salvador a critical crime-threat country. The homicide rate in the country increased 25 percent from 2004 to 2005, and El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Both violent and petty crimes are prevalent throughout El Salvador, and U.S. citizens have been among the victims. Travelers should avoid carrying valuables in public places. Passports and other important documents should not be left in private vehicles. Armed assaults and carjacking take place both in San Salvador and in the interior of the country, but are especially frequent on roads outside the capital where police patrols are scarce. Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the international airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot. Kidnapping for ransom continues to occur, but have decreased in frequency since 2001. U.S. citizens in El Salvador should exercise caution at all times and practice good personal security procedures throughout their stay.

The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised, to avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark, and to avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable to crime, even in the capital.

Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital, is risky and not recommended. The Embassy advises official visitors to use radio-dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.

U.S. citizens using banking services should be vigilant while conducting their financial exchanges either inside local banks or at automated teller machines. There have been several reports of armed robberies in which victims appear to have been followed from the bank after completing their transactions.

Visitors to El Salvador should use caution when climbing volcanoes or hiking in other remote locations. Armed robberies of climbers and hikers are common. Mine-removal efforts ceased several years ago, but land mines and unexploded ordnance in backcountry regions still pose a threat to off-road tourists, backpackers, and campers. The Embassy strongly recommends engaging the services of a local guide certified by the national or local tourist authority when hiking in backcountry areas, even when within the national parks.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you understand the local criminal justice process and find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: There are few private hospitals with an environment that would be acceptable to visiting Americans. The Embassy recommends that these hospitals be used only for emergency care, to stabilize a condition prior to returning to the U.S. for definitive evaluation and treatment. Private hospitals and physicians expect upfront payment (cash or, for hospitals, credit card) for all bills. Priority ambulance (503-2264-7911) is the only ambulance service in San Salvador approaching U.S. standards. Not all medicines found in the U.S. are available in El Salvador. Medicines often have a different brand name and are more expensive than in the U.S.

No specific vaccinations are required for entry into El Salvador. Information on vaccinations and other health considerations, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. It may be possible to purchase supplemental coverage for travel. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.

Separate insurance should be obtained for medical evacuation, as it may cost in excess of $50,000. Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency medical services and even transportation of remains, in the event of death.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning El Salvador is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road conditions throughout El Salvador are not up to U.S. standards. However, the rebuilding of major roads following the earthquakes in 2001 is nearly completed. Mini-buses, buses, and taxis are often poorly maintained. Drivers are often not trained, and generally do not adhere to traffic rules and regulations. The U.S. Embassy recommends that its personnel avoid using minibuses and buses, and use only taxis that are radio-dispatched or those stationed in front of major hotels. Robberies and assaults on buses are commonplace.

Because of inconsistent enforcement of traffic laws in El Salvador, safe drivers must make an extraordinary effort to drive defensively. Passing on blind corners is commonplace. Salvadoran law requires that the driver of a vehicle that injures or kills another person must be arrested and detained until a judge can determine responsibility for the accident. This law is uniformly enforced.

Visitors to El Salvador may drive on their U.S. license for up to thirty days. After that time, a visitor is required to obtain a Salvadoran license.

Visit the website of El Salvador’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.elsalvadorturismo.gob.sv/. Further information on traffic and road conditions is available in Spanish from Automovil Club de El Salvador, at telephone number 011-503-2221-0557 or via the Internet at http://www.aces.com.sv.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of El Salvador as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of El Salvador’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Special Circumstances: Travelers intending to carry cell phones from the United States should check with their service provider to determine if the service will be available in El Salvador. Credit cards are acceptable for payment in many-but not all-retail stores and restaurants in major cities. Automatic teller machines with access to major U.S. bank networks are widely available in San Salvador, but less prevalent elsewhere in the country.

Disaster Preparedness: El Salvador is an earthquake-prone country. Flooding and landslides during the rainy season (June to November) also pose a risk. On October 4, 2005, the Government of El Salvador declared a nation-wide state of emergency following major flooding caused by a series of storms. More than 50 deaths were confirmed as attributed to landslides and flooding at that time and over 34,000 residents were evacuated to temporary shelter. The Ilamatepec Volcano, located approximately 50 kilometers west of San Salvador, erupted briefly on October 1, 2005, casting rocks and volcanic ash onto neighboring regions and producing two confirmed deaths. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated much of El Salvador on January 13, 2001. A second earthquake on February 13, 2001, measured 6.6 on the Richter scale, and caused significant additional damage and loss of life. Reconstruction efforts continue and the country is returning to normal. Additional information in Spanish about earthquakes (sismos) in El Salvador can be found on the Government of El Salvador’s web page at http://www.snet.gob.sv/.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating El Salvador laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in El Salvador are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Guns: El Salvador has strict laws requiring a locally obtained license to possess or carry a firearm in the country. The Embassy strongly advises persons without a Salvadoran firearms license not to bring guns into the country or use a firearm while in El Salvador. During a recent three-month period, three U.S. citizens were arrested in separate incidents for firearms violations. In each instance, the individuals complied with airline procedures, declared the firearm on a Customs form upon arrival at El Salvador’s Comalapa International Airport, and were allowed to depart the airport without hindrance. However, when the individuals returned to the airport and declared the weapons to airline employees, they were arrested by Salvadoran police, not for violating aviation regulations but for having carried an unlicensed firearm while in El Salvador. The Embassy cannot intervene in the judicial process when a U.S. citizen is charged with a firearms violation. Conviction for possessing an unlicensed firearm can carry a prison sentence of three-to-five years.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in El Salvador are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within El Salvador. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador is located at Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur, Urbanizacion Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, telephone 011-503-2278-4444, fax 011-503-2278-6020, email: [email protected] The Embassy’s web site can be accessed at http://elsalvador.usembassy.gov. The Consular Section is open for U.S. citizens services from 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. weekdays, excluding U.S. and Salvadoran holidays. After business hours, the Embassy can be contacted by telephone at 011-503-2501-2316 or 011-503-2501-2253. For any questions concerning U.S. visas for either temporary travel to or permanent residence in the U.S., please contact our regional U.S. Visa Information Center. From El Salvador, the Visa Information Center may be reached by calling 900-6011 from any landline operated by Telecomm, or by purchasing a VISAS-USA calling card from any location that sells Telefonica phone cards. Calling instructions are on the back of the card. Calls using the 900 number cost approximately $2.15 per minute and will be charged to the caller’s telephone bill. The Telefonica phone card costs $15.00 and permits a seven-minute call. From the U.S., the Visa Information Center can be contacted by dialing 866-730-2089 and charging the call to a Visa or MasterCard credit card.

International Adoption : June 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Important Note: The process for international adoptions in El Salvador can be lengthy and complicated for prospective adoptive parents. The Salvadoran authorities responsible for administering adoptions are aware of the difficulties posed by the current process but disagree on whether current procedures should be amended. Some local officials are attempting to streamline the current adoption process, but others prefer to leave current practices unchanged. This causes the country’s procedures to be applied inconsistently, and the experience of one adopting couple or parent may not be the same as that of any other couple or adopting single parent.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authorities in El Salvador: Several Salvadoran governmental bodies are involved in the adoption process. These include the Family Courts and the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR or Special Counsel for the Protection of Women and Children). The PGR is responsible for family welfare law in El Salvador.

The Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA) is responsible for the care of orphans and other children in government custody. Representatives from ISNA and the PGR oversee international adoptions in El Salvador’s adoption central authority, called the Oficina Para Adopciones (Office for Adoptions or OPA). Information regarding Salvadoran laws and procedures for the purposes of adoption may be obtained by contacting:

Oficina Para Adopciones
Jefe de Sección de Adopciones
Procuraduría General
de la República
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador
Phone (503) 2222-4444
or (503) 2222-4133

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Under Salvadoran law, married adopting parents who are not Salvadoran citizens must have been married for at least five years, and the elder spouse must be at least 25 years of age. There must be a minimum of 15 years difference in age between the adopting parents and child. Parents adopting a child under one year of age cannot be older than 45. Single individuals may adopt in El Salvador if they are at least 25 years old and at least 15 years older than the child to be adopted.

Residency Requirements: Under Article 176 of the Salvadoran Family Code, adoptive parents who wish to adopt a particular child who is not related to them must be prepared to reside with the child in El Salvador for at least one year prior to finalization of the adoption. To satisfy this requirement, the adoptive parent(s) must be appointed the foster parent(s) of the child by ISNA prior to the beginning of the one year co-residency.

Time Frame: Salvadoran adoption procedures can take 18 to 36 months to complete. This does not include the time necessary for the U.S. Embassy to complete its own investigation, as required by immigration regulations. Because adoption fraud in El Salvador has taken a variety of forms, an investigation of each adoption is necessary to ensure that the child is an orphan, as defined by U.S. immigration law, and that the birth mother is aware that the child is being adopted irrevocably and will be taken from the country.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador maintains a list of attorneys known to provide adoption services in El Salvador at: http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov/consular/english/acs/layerslist.html.

Adoption Fees: The costs of adopting a Salvadoran child and taking him or her to the United States can vary considerably, depending primarily on the length of time required to complete the adoption process and the fees charged by Salvadoran attorneys. The costs listed below are neither comprehensive nor unchanging but are provided to give prospective adopting parents a general idea of the financial outlays required.

  • Salvadoran Attorney’s Fee: typically $3,000—$10,000
  • Medical Examination for the Child: $250—$600 (includes vaccinations for all children and x-rays for children between 14 and 16 years of age)
  • Salvadoran passport fee: $10
  • Photos for Salvadoran Passport and U.S. Immigrant Visa: $10
  • Room for two adults for one night at the Hilton Princess or Sheraton Presidente Hotel: approximately $170

Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Procedures: Foreign adoptive parents must formally adopt Salvadoran children in El Salvador, in accordance with Salvadoran laws and procedures, before taking the children out of the country to live. The Supreme Court of El Salvador advises that the granting of guardianships to prospective foreign adoptive parents for the purpose of allowing children to leave El Salvador for subsequent adoption abroad is prohibited. OPA investigates the circumstances of an orphaned or neglected child’s family and seeks to find a close relative who may be willing to care for the child. Once satisfied that adoption is in the child’s best interest, OPA determines which prospective adoptive parents are a suitable match for the child. A committee composed of representatives of the Special Counsel, the Director of ISNA and OPA then determines whether a specific child may be adopted by a particular set of parents. Once the committee makes an affirmative decision, the Special Counsel signs the approved adoption petition. The case then goes to a Salvadoran judge, who rules on whether or not the court will issue a final adoption decree. In order for the adopted child to b eligible for a U.S. immigrant visa, the adoptive parents must obtain this decree. Once the court issues a final adoption decree, municipal authorities in the town where the child’s birth was registered cancel the original birth certificate and issue a new birth certificate naming the adoptive parents as the child’s parents. The new birth certificate becomes part of a bound record book kept at the Alcaldia (city hall).

Documentary Requirements: Each of the U.S. documents listed below must be translated into Spanish by an individual appointed for that purpose by a Salvadoran notary public (as stipulated in Article 24 of the “Ley del Ejercicio Notarial de la Jurisdicción Voluntaria y de Otras Diligencias”).

  • Certified birth certificate for the adopting parents;
  • Certified marriage certificate for the adopting parents;
  • Police clearance from the adopting parents’ municipality;
  • Documentation of the adopting parents’ financial situation (salary statements, bank accounts, etc.);
  • Home study completed by an agency authorized to conduct such a study in the domicile of the parents. The home study completed for the I-600A/I-600 will fulfill this requirement;
  • Health certificate for the adopting parents;
  • Certification issued by the adoptive parents’ state Department of Health and Human Services, or institution for the protection of children, or an equivalent public entity stating that the adopting parents meet the legal requirements of that state to adopt and that the state will monitor the welfare of the child after adoption.
  • In cases in which a single adopting parent is 50 years old or older and cases in which both members of an adopting couple are 50 years old or older, the adoptive parent(s) must submit a statement identifying who will be responsible for the adopted child in the absence of the adoptive parent(s).

Salvadoran Documents

  • Photocopy of the identity card and certified birth certificate of the Salvadoran attorney;
  • Health certificate for the child to be adopted;
  • Photographs of the adopting parents, adopted child, attorney;
  • Photographs of the exterior and interior of the house of the adopting parents;
  • Proof of Salvadoran residence of the adopting parents;
  • Exact address of the biological parents, if applicable;
  • Power of Attorney for a specified Salvadoran lawyer to represent the adopting parents.
  • Along with the authorized Spanish translation, an authenticated English language version of all U.S. documents must be provided to the appropriate Salvadoran government agencies and courts.

Embassy and Consulate in the United States:
Embassy of El Salvador
Consular Section
2308 California St. NW
Washington, D.C, 20008
Tel: (202) 265-9671
Fax; 202-234-3834
[email protected]
http://www.elsalvador.org/home.nsf/home

Salvadoran Consulates are established in the following metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Elizabeth (NJ), Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Nogales (AZ), San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Contact information for these consulates can be found at the Web address listed above.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopting Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy in El Salvador:
Final Boulevard Santa Elena
Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad
Tel (outside the El Salvador):
011+503-2501-2600 within El Salvador: 2501-2600
Fax: (503) 2278-6020
E-mail: [email protected]

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in El Salvador may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

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EL SALVADOR

Republic of El Salvador

República de El Salvador

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

El Salvador, a Central American country slightly smaller than Massachusetts, borders the North Pacific Ocean between Guatemala and Honduras. It has a land area of 20,720 square kilometers (8,000 square miles) and a coastline of 308 kilometers (191 miles). Land boundaries in El Salvador total 545 kilometers (339 miles). It shares a 327-kilometer (203-mile) border with Guatemala in the northwest, and a 341-kilometer (212-mile) border with Honduras in the southeast.

POPULATION.

In 2000, the population of El Salvador was about 6.2 million and was growing by approximately 2.1 percent a year. At this rate, the population is expected to climb to nearly 8 million by 2015. The birth rate in 2000 was estimated to be 29.02 per 1000, and the death rate, 6.27 per 1000.

About 90 percent of the Salvadoran population is mestizo (of mixed Spanish and Amerindian ancestry). Native Amerindians make up about 1 percent of the population, and whites account for the rest. A significant portion of the populatiaon, nearly 40 percent, is under the age of 15. Those 65 and older account for only 5 percent of the population. The percentage of Salvadorans living in rural areas declined in the last half century from 64 percent in 1950 to about 40 percent in 2000.

Over the past 20 years the Salvadoran population has been subject to highly stressful conditions. A number of military coups (domestic takeovers of governments) in the 1970s and sham elections rigged in the army's favor diminished civilian confidence in the political system and spawned a violent guerilla movement (guerilla wars are fought by units with non-conventional military and political tactics). The 1980s were marked by a series of bloody conflicts between leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary death squads who, with tacit support of the army, violently suppressed opposition. Over the course of the decade, 70,000 people were killed. Thousands fled the country, many coming to the United States. There are currently about 1 million Salvadorans living in the United States, many illegally or with uncertain legal status.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

El Salvador's civil war, which lasted from 1979 until 1990, had a devastating impact on the country's economy. Rebel guerillas during the fight engaged in widespread sabotage, damaging the nation's infrastructure and undermining production and distribution. Export levels dropped during the war and earnings declined. Revenue losses during this period amounted to $2.2 billion.

Since the signing of the peace accord between the government and rebel factions in 1992, the economy has improved. Alfredo Cristiani, who as head of the Arena party became president in 1989, launched free market initiatives and tightened fiscal control. Competition was increased in a number of sectors; banks were privatized , import duties were lowered, and price controls on consumer products were virtually eliminated. Successive administrations have continued market liberalization . Tariffs were further reduced under Armando Calderon Sol, who was elected president in 1994. The Calderon administration also sought to strengthen intellectual property rights, and in 1998 the government privatized the country's main power plants and telecommunications firms, marking the most extensive efforts thus far to liberalize the economy.

Improvements in economic performance in the first half of the 1990s boosted investor confidence and led to a significant rise in the inflow of foreign capital. However, by 1995 the post-war boom was over, and the economy began to cool. Agriculture, once one of the country's primary export producers, registered little growth in the latter part of the 1990s, diminishing its role in the economy. The manufacturing industry, on the hand, grew rapidly during the 1990s, although by the end of the decade its performance, too, had begun to decline. In the late 1990s, no sectors registered significant gains. Overall, GDP growth rates fell: 4.0 percent in 1997, 2.6 percent in 1999, and to 2.5 in 2000.

Commercial and financial services are fast replacing industry and agriculture as the mainstays of the country's economy. As the once rural-based economy gives way to urban dominance, peasants are abandoning farm labor and moving toward the cities in search of higher paying jobs, leading to the development of shantytowns around many urban areas.

The growth in industry, primarily in the maquila sector (offshore assembly for re-export ), added new jobs to the economy in the 1990s. However, a majority of those were taken by women. Unemployment among young males is still high, which some associate with El Salvador's high crime rates.

With no discovered reserves of oil or coal, the country is dependent on imports for fuel and energy. Trade deficits in El Salvador, while historically broad, widened in the 1990s. Remittances from Salvadorans working overseas, which in 1999 totaled US$1.6 billion, help to offset trade imbalances. However, at least a portion of the trade deficit is generally financed through borrowing, which adds to the country's debt.

Remittances from expatriates are the country's largest source of foreign currency, bringing in more money than all the traditional exports combined. Some of the cash inflows likely come from smuggling and drug-running operations. Money laundering is becoming prevalent as well. If El Salvador is unable or unwilling to crack down on these illicit operations, establishing favorable trade deals with the United States will become difficult.

Taxes also provide a significant source of revenue. The value-added tax (VAT), which was established in September 1992 at 10 percent, was raised to 12 percent in 1995 to offset losses from tariff reductions. The VAT accounts for more than half of all current government revenue. While tax collection is more efficient than it used to be, the system is still hampered by inefficiency and corruption.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

The political climate in El Salvador fundamentally changed in 1972 when the military overturned a national election that had been won by the Partido Democrata Cristiano (PDC). Groups of students, peasants, and members of the labor movement abandoned the electoral process, forming guerilla groups in opposition to military rule. Throughout the 1980s, rebels and government forces clashed. Attempts to suppress the rebellion by the army and paramilitary death squads were brutal but ultimately unsuccessful. In November 1989, the guerillasunder the party banner Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN)launched an attack on the capital, San Salvador. The 2-week siege was effective, convincing government and business elites in El Salvador to seek an end to the war. Negotiations brokered by the UN resulted in the signing of a peace accord that went into effect on 16 January 1992. Members of the FMLN agreed to lay down their arms in return for political and military reforms, including a reduction in the size and role of the military. By the time the war had ended, 70,000 people had been killed.

In March of 1989, the right-wing party Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Arena) won control of the presidency with its candidate, Alfredo Cristiani. Arena has held the executive branch ever since.

The Salvadoran constitution, enacted 23 December 1983, stipulates that the country be headed by a president and vice president who are elected to 5-year terms. The legislature is made up of an 84-member body elected every 3 years, which is responsible for taxes and the ratification of treaties signed by the executive. Members of the Supreme Court, El Salvador's highest judicial authority, are selected for fixed terms by members of the legislative assembly. El Salvador considers itself a representative democracy.

The Arena party, while controlling the executive branch, has been struggling to maintain its power in the legislature. The FMLN, since laying down its arms, has become a force in mainstream politics. It captured 31 seats in the legislative assembly in 2000, making it the largest party in the unicameral (one chamber) congress. It has also gained control of the municipalities in most major cities, including San Salvador, giving it governing authority over about half the country at the local level. The FMLN's rise to power has forced Arena to abandon some of its far-right positions in an effort to gain legislative support for its policies.

The 1980s in El Salvador were marked by chronic trade deficits and fiscal imbalances. Expenditures out-paced revenues, destabilizing the currency and raising the rate of inflation . When Alfredo Cristiani came to office in 1989, he introduced fiscal austerity, liberalization, and privatization as a means to induce economic stability. He also passed a series of tax reforms to lure foreign investment, including the abolition of export tariffs on coffee and sugar. To offset losses from the cut, a 10 percent VAT was implemented in September of 1992. The VAT was increased to 12 percent in 1995 in order to fund cuts in the asset tax, which was revoked in 1994, and capital gains taxes, which were removed in 1996.

The VAT in 1999 accounted for over half of the government's revenue. Still, public sector revenues have suffered as tax collection has been persistently corrupt and inefficient.

Armando Calderon Sol, elected in 1994, expanded on the policies of the Cristiani administration, seeking higher investment by reducing import tariffs, accelerating the privatization of state assets, and introducing a fixed exchange rate . The Calderon administration privatized 75 percent of the country's 4 regional power plants and split up the national phone company, which was sold to consortia made up of private investors and local partners. The shift from a state-run to a liberal, market economy has continued under the current president, Francisco Flores, but economic growth has been slow.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

War, corruption, and general neglect have taken a toll on El Salvador's infrastructure, as have a string of earthquakes that hit the country at the beginning of 2001. Improvements are badly needed. There are 10,029 kilometers (6,232 miles) of roads in the country. Less than 1,999 kilometers (1,242 miles) of them are paved. The country's rural and secondary roads often become flooded during the 6-month rainy season. In the cities, population growth and a rise in vehicle ownership have increased traffic congestion.

There are 2 main highways in El Salvador, both of which cross the Lempa River. The bridges servicing the

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
El Salvador 48 464 675 N/A 18 N/A N/A 1.17 40
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Mexico 97 325 261 15.7 35 3.0 47.0 23.02 1,822
Guatemala 33 79 126 28.5 10 N/A 8.3 1.26 65
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

highways were destroyed by rebels during the war. Temporary spans were established to accommodate traffic, and in the late 1990s, efforts were underway to rebuild the bridges and repair smaller crossings along the 2 main routes. However, in 1998 the temporary bridges and the repair work were swept away in floods caused by Hurricane Mitch. The reconstruction project, financed by a US$90 million loan from Japan, is expected to be completed in 2001.

While road construction measures have been considered in order to facilitate travel and alleviate urban congestion, there is currently no specified transportation policy. In the 1990s, increased transportation spending resulted in few real improvements. Due to high levels of corruption in the administration of road contracts, several highway projects that got underway were never completed. The government has had a difficult time forcing contractors to meet deadlines and maintain adequate quality standards. In 1999 new legislation was being considered that would regulate bidding and require completion bonds for contracts.

Efforts were renewed to improve the road network in 1999. A construction project was initiated to build overpasses and new interchanges in the capital city to mitigate traffic problems. Other improvements were being considered as well, including the construction of 2 ring roads around the capital area and the creation of a special road fund which would finance highway improvements throughout the country. The fund, however, would likely depend on the creation of a new gasoline tax. As of March 2000, the time of mid-term elections, politicians in El Salvador had refused to acknowledge the need for such a tax, leaving the fund's creation in doubt. A string of earthquakes that struck El Salvador in January and February 2001 will also delay the implementation of road construction programs, as money and foreign aid will be diverted to more urgent reconstruction projects.

El Salvadorans are dependent on 3 main sources for their energy: hydroelectricity, geothermal power (including oil), and firewood. No deposits of oil or coal have been found. Thermal energy was widely utilized until the 1970s when rising world oil prices led to a higher dependence on hydroelectricity. About one-third of the country's energy consumption is still derived from oil imports.

The generation of electricity and the development of energy resources generally falls under the purview of the Comicion Ejecutiva Hidroelectrica del Rio Lempa (CEL), a state-run agency which recently privatized 4 of its regional distribution companies. CEL is also targeting 3 of its thermal generating plants for privatization. It is hoped that opening the market to competition will increase investment in the sector. Customers will likely reap long-term benefits as well, as electricity tariffs are reduced.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

El Salvador relies primarily on financial services and manufacturing for the generation of export revenue. Agriculture, once the country's dominant economic sector, has declined in importance but still plays a strong role in the economy. The economic restructuring which occurred over the 1980s and 1990s was undertaken to reduce volatility. Agricultural production was vulnerable to price declines and poor weather, prompting the government to reposition the economy in favor of more stable sources of revenue. The service and manufacturing industries were targeted for development.

Growth in the manufacturing sector was substantial in the 1990s, primarily due to the expansion of the maquila (offshore assembly for re-export) industry which has become the country's single largest category in terms of export revenue. Revenues generated by industry exports more than doubled in the last half of the decade. The CIA World Factbook estimated that by 1999 agriculture accounted for 12 percent of the GDP, industry 28 percent, and services 60 percent.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture, while showing negligible growth towards the end of the 1990s, has continued to play a key role in the Salvadoran economy, employing nearly 25 percent of the country's labor force , providing a third of its export earnings, and meeting about 70 percent of domestic food needs. In 1996, agriculture accounted for 14 percent of the GDP. By 1999, agriculture accounted for 12 percent of the GDP, but employed nearly 30 percent of the labor force.

Prior to the 1980s most of the land in El Salvador was owned by a minority of wealthy elites. Roughly 70 percent of the farmers who worked the land were sharecroppers or laborers on large plantations. This situation began to change in 1979, when a military-civilian junta came to power and issued sweeping land and agrarian reforms. The government carried out policies of property redistribution to address the grievances of the rural poor and make up for past injustices. Land was transferred to small farmers in an effort to create a rural middle class. By 1990, when the reforms came to an end, 22 percent of El Salvador's land had been transferred to farmers who had previously worked the land but did not own it. Over 500,000 farmers benefitted from the reforms.

El Salvador's mild climate and fertile soil have proven ideal for the production of the country's main export cropscoffee and sugar. Coffee production, which began on a mass scale in the 1850s, dominated the country's economy for over a century and is still the largest agricultural export, accounting for US$244 million in revenues in 1999, about 10 percent of all export earnings. Sugar, the next largest export, was responsible for about 2 percent of export revenues in 1999, bringing in approximately US$46 million. Fisheries have grown more important to the economy as well, mainly through shrimp production, which is third in agricultural export earnings behind coffee and sugar, generating US$25 million in revenues in 1999, a little over 1 percent of the total.

The earnings from agricultural exports as a percentage of the country's total export revenues diminished in the 1990s. Coffee revenues, especially, began to fall during this time. A surge in coffee prices in 1997 led to a brief revitalization in the sector, but poor harvests and falling prices in 1998 sent revenues plummeting. Between 1997 and 1999, coffee earnings dropped by over 50 percent. Improved harvests may raise coffee-generated revenues in the near future, but coffee will not likely regain the position it once held as a mainstay of the economy. Maize, beans, rice, and sorghum are food crops produced primarily for domestic consumption.

Cattle production plays a role, albeit a slight one, in the economy. Widespread cattle rustling and extortion have made ranching difficult, although milk production has increased.

INDUSTRY

The industrial sector of El Salvador accounted for 28 percent of the GDP and employed 15 percent of the labor force in 1999.

MINING.

Mining currently plays a negligible role in the Salvadoran economy, accounting for just 0.3 percent of the GDP in 1997, with mineral production limited primarily to gypsum, sea salt, and construction materials such as limestone. While mineral deposits are thought to exist, there has been little attempt in the past 20 years to exploit them. The country had 2 gold mines in operation until the early 1980s: San Cristobal in Morazan province and El Dorado in Cabanas province. Both fell into disuse during the country's civil war. There has been some renewed interest in mineral exploration at the El Dorado mine. A joint mining venture between Mirage Resources, Bethlehem Resources, and Dejour Mines was launched in July 1993. Although San Cristobal is estimated to contain 200,000 tons of ore, including deposits of gold and silver, efforts have not been made to reestablish large-scale operations there.

MANUFACTURING.

El Salvador's manufacturing base was established in the 1950s. As regional markets began to open in the 1960s as a result of the Mercado Comun Centroamericano (Central American Common Market, CACM), the industry began to expand. There was significant growth in the output of capital goods and chemicals in the 1970s, but manufacturing contracted in the 1980s as a result of the war and recession . The CACM began to collapse, there were shortages of foreign exchange, and the manufacturing base declined. The industry rebounded strongly in the 1990s primarily as a result of growth in the maquila sector. However, this growth steadied somewhat towards the end of the last decade as the industry matured. Expansion was also slowed by competition, especially from Mexico, which, as a party to NAFTA, receives trade benefits from the United States. Almost a dozen manufacturing plants in El Salvador closed in 1998. As of 1999, no new ones had opened.

Over the last 10 years, the maquila industry has emerged as the largest producer of export revenue in El Salvador, boosting manufacturing to 22 percent of the GDP. Production and export revenues from maquila doubled between 1994 and 1998, going from US$650 million to US$1.3 billion. Offshore production has become more important than local manufacturing, employing around 50,000 people, 85 percent of whom are women.

New opportunities have arisen since the 1990s from the revival of regional trade, yet Salvadoran manufacturers have been hard pressed to develop competitive advantages. Failure on the part of manufacturers to modernize operations, which some have blamed on the high cost of investment, have left local manufacturers vulnerable to increased competition. Compounding this liability was the failure to achieve a NAFTA parity agreement with the United States. (NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement.) By enjoying a "parity agreement" under NAFTA, El Salvador would have had the same free trade benefits as NAFTA signatories Mexico and Canada.

CONSTRUCTION.

After the peace accord was signed in 1992, construction levels in El Salvador rose, with the building industry growing at an average rate of 6.7 percent a year between 1992 and 1997. Growth peaked in 1994 at 11.5 percent. Due to such rapid expansion, supplies of new property began outpacing demands. Construction began on 6000 new homes in 1997 alone. Many housing and commercial units built during this period have yet to be sold. In 1998, growth slowed to 3.7 percent, and in 1999 it further declined to 2.2 percent amidst allegations of corruption and charges that the sector was being used as a front for money laundering. The Camara Salvadorena de la Industria de la Construccion (Casalco, the construction industry association) is marketing newly-built homes to Salvadoran expatriates in the United States. The earthquakes that hit El Salvador at the beginning of 2001 will also stimulate activity in the construction sector.

SERVICES

El Salvador's service sector was the most dominant sector in the late 1990s. It accounted for 60 percent of the GDP and employed 55 percent of the labor force in 1999.

TOURISM.

Although El Salvador has a coastline of over 308 kilometers (191 miles) and is home to ancient ruins, tourism in the country is limited. As of 2000, there had been no major initiatives launched to spur growth in the sector.

FINANCIAL SERVICES.

A primary component of the Salvadoran economy is the financial services sector, which has grown rapidly in recent years as the dependence on agricultural exports has declined. The sector registered an annual growth rate of 9.6 percent between 1995 and 1999.

In November 1998, the central bank in El Salvador increased bank reserve requirements by 3 percent. The increase was phased in over 5 months to reduce the available money supply and slow inflation. As a result, the average reserve ratio rose from 21 percent to 24 percent. Banks raised interest rates to make up for lost liquidity , and the economy slowed. In 1999, requirement rates were restored to their previous levels. A drop in interest rates could help quicken the rate of economic growth.

The rise in bank reserve ratios may also have been implemented to keep banks from overextending themselves. Bank failures in the 1990s lowered client confidence and small banks have suffered as a result, with many depositors transferring funds to the country's 3 or 4 largest institutions.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

War and civil unrest in El Salvador during the 1980s disrupted production, undermined the export sector, and raised the demand for imported goods. As import levels

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): El Salvador
Exports Imports
1975 .531 .614
1980 .967 .966
1985 .679 .961
1990 .582 1.263
1995 .998 2.853
1998 1.263 3.112
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

began to surge in the early 1990s, the trade deficit grew, reaching US$1.7 billion in 1995, about 15.4 percent of the GDP. By 1999, the deficit had narrowed slightly to US$1.6 billion, accounting for 13.3 percent of the GDP.

Total exports in 1999 amounted to around US$2.5 billion, and imports were about US$4.1 billion. These amounts rose to US$2.8 billion for exports and US$4.6 billion for imports by 2000, according to the World Fact-book. Over the years, El Salvador's trade imbalance has been partially offset by family remittances. However, continuing deficits have forced the country to rely on foreign aid to pay for consumption.

El Salvador is dependent on the United States for a majority of its trade. Exports to the United States grew steadily over the latter part of the 1990s, climbing from US$844 million in 1995 to US$1.5 billion in 1999. By the end of the decade exports to the United States accounted for 63 percent of the total. Imports of U.S. goods grew as well during this period, though not as dramatically, rising from US$1.7 billion in 1995 to about US$2.1 billion in 1999. As of 1999, about 52 percent of Salvadoran imports came from the United States.

El Salvador's largest trading partner behind the United States is Guatemala, which accounts for about 11 percent of its exports and 9 percent of its imports. The remaining trade is conducted primarily with Germany, Japan, Costa Rica, Honduras, the Netherlands, Mexico, and Panama. El Salvador's main exports include coffee, sugar, and shrimp, as well as textiles and products derived from offshore assembly.

The Triangulo del Norto (Northern Triangle, or NT, consisting of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) has negotiated a free trade agreement with Mexico pending approval from the United States. Talks with Mexico stalled in 1998 when NT countries demanded they be given up to 15 years of preferential access to Mexican markets to allow local industries time to retool and to mitigate near-term trade imbalances which might arise from an influx of Mexican goods. Disputes blocking the deal were resolved in the latter part of 2000, and an agreement was signed. Mexican industries have become increasingly interested in Central American markets, primarily for the distribution of household appliances, processed foods, clothing, and footwear. Under the terms of NAFTA, trade agreements between Mexico and her neighbors must gain U.S. approval.

El Salvador, at least in the near term, will probably not succeed in its bid to gain NAFTA parity for its exports. NAFTA parity would benefit El Salvador by making merchandise shipped to the United States more competitive. Rising levels of drug trafficking and organized crime in El Salvador could complicate future bids for export parity.

MONEY

Stabilizing El Salvador's currency and keeping inflation down are key components in the government's plan to attract foreign investment. In 1994, the colon was fixed at ¢8.755 = US$1. Strong reserves allowed the Central Bank to maintain the fixed exchange rate. Bank reserves in 1999 were US$1.97 billion, nearly 4 times what they were in 1992, when reserves stood at US$501 million. The end of the civil war, privatization of state assets, and strong family remittances have fueled the growth in reserves, which rose US$204 million in 1999 alone.

On 1 January 2001, the government in El Salvador gave up control of its monetary policy . It abandoned the fixed exchange rate and "dollarized" the economy. Thus, U.S. currency can be used in El Salvador as legal tender. El Salvadoran monetary policy is now effectively in the hands of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank.

Proponents of dollarization say it will keep the currency stable and help drive interest rates down. Critics argue that the export sector could be hurt by the move. They point out that exporters are having trouble maintaining market share in the global economy. Converting to the dollar, they argue, might lock in this competitive disadvantage.

Exchange rates: El Salvador
Salvadoran colones per US$1
Jan 2001 8.755
2000 8.755
1999 8.755
1998 8.755
1997 8.755
1996 8.755
Note: Salvadoran currency has been at a fixed rate since 1993.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

POVERTY AND WEALTH

The wealth in El Salvador is held by a small minority of the population who made their money from coffee and sugar and have now diversified into finance and commerce. Land reforms and property redistribution in the 1980s improved the situation for many small farmers and peasants, but there is still a substantial divide between the rich and the poor. According to a report from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), El Salvador's per capita income is the fifth lowest in the Western Hemisphere (when adjusted to reflect the cost of living).

The health-care system in El Salvador is in a state of disarray. Medical unions are resisting government moves toward privatization, and as a result strikes by hospital personnel have become common. Supplies of basic drugs and medical equipment are often inadequate. Hospital budgets are used up to pay salaries, with little left over for other costs. Still, general health trends have managed to improve over the last 30 years. The infant mortality rate, though still high, has fallen by over 70 percent in the last 3 decades, from 105 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to 31 per 1,000 in 1997. During the same period, life expectancy increased from 57.4 to 69.1 years. The death rate for children under 5 remains high at 81 per 1,000.

The education system in El Salvador is weak. According to the USAID report published in 1998, less than 50 percent of Salvadorans graduate from the sixth grade, only 1 out of 3 complete the ninth grade, and only 1 out of 5 complete high school. The Ministry of Education has worked to improve the quality of schooling in El Salvador, and some of its efforts have met with success. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reported in 2000 that programs designed to increase community participation in education at rural schools has increased student enrollment. The school day has been extended as well. Also, in 1995 a program was introduced integrating health care and public works agencies with education initiatives to ensure students had clean water, regular medical examinations, and nutritional monitoring.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
El Salvador 1,779 1,596 1,333 1,378 1,716
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Mexico 3,380 4,167 4,106 4,046 4,459
Guatemala 1,371 1,598 1,330 1,358 1,533
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: El Salvador
Lowest 10% 1.2
Lowest 20% 3.4
Second 20% 7.5
Third 20% 12.5
Fourth 20% 20.2
Highest 20% 56.5
Highest 10% 40.5
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

El Salvador is highly polluted and suffers from severe environmental degradation. By some estimates, only 59 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water. That figure is likely optimistic. Recent studies have shown that the Lempa river, the country's main potable water source, is contaminated with dangerously high levels of mercury and other heavy metals.

The earthquakes that struck El Salvador in January and February 2001 have made matters worse for the poor. Many were left homeless. Social services have been cut or delayed. The Flores administration has its work cut out for it. Its leadership, or lack thereof, during this crisis will likely determine the future political landscape in El Salvador.

WORKING CONDITIONS

A number of labor laws exist in El Salvador to protect the rights of workers. Some of these laws are enforced more than others. The Ministry of Labor, responsible for upholding labor-related statutes, has limited resources and, as a government agency, has at times been accused of bias when dealing with government-union conflicts.

According to the constitution, workers are guaranteed the right to unionize without the threat of harassment or discrimination. However, this right has not always been recognized. When the government telecommunications firm, CTE, was put up for sale in the 1990s, 72 labor leaders were fired to keep the company union-free for potential purchasers. When the workers appealed, the Ministry of Labor sided with the government on dubious grounds.

Because of its limited resources, the Ministry of Labor cannot conduct thorough labor inspections throughout the country, especially outside the manufacturing districts, and worker complaints of mistreatment, though not altogether common, frequently go uninvestigated.

Forced labor is generally prohibited by law, although in cases of calamity or national emergency the government can make exceptions. Child labor is prohibited. Children below the age 14 are not allowed to enter the workforce. Minors between the ages of 14 and 18 may work with permission from the Ministry of Labor if their employment is indispensable to either themselves or their family. Many children under 14 work despite the laws, either as street vendors or doing general labor for small businesses in the informal sector .

The minimum wage in El Salvador varies depending on the industry. Set by a tripartite commission (consisting of members of government, labor, and business), the minimum wage per day as of 1 May 1998 was US$4.81 for commercial, industrial, and service employees. Coffee plantation workers received US$3.66 plus a food allowance, and sugar and cotton plantation workers were paid US$2.61 plus a food allowance. All other agro-industrial workers were paid a minimum of US$2.47 per day. The minimum wage does not provide a decent standard of living for either individuals or their families.

Workers are on the job 6 days a week, for 8 hours a day. They get paid, however, for 7 days (56 hours) of work each week. Minors between age 14 and 18 are required to work no more than 6 hours a day. Employers are required to provide 1 month's wage per year as a bonus to workers, who are also supposed to be given 2 weeks of paid vacation a year.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1524. The Spanish first attempt to subjugate the territory of what is now El Salvador.

1821. El Salvador gains independence.

1822. El Salvador refuses to join union with Mexico, insists on maintaining its independence.

1823. The country joins the Central American Federation under General Manuel Jose Arce.

1838. The Central American Federation collapses. El Salvador becomes an independent republic.

1850s. El Salvador begins large-scale production of coffee after the discovery of synthetic dyes renders indigo production unprofitable.

1972. Jose Napoleon Duarte, leader of the Christian Democratic Party, wins the presidential election. The election is overturned by the military. Guerilla groups are formed in opposition to military rule.

1977. Right-wing government of General Carlos Humberto Romero comes to power.

1979. Leftist guerilla warfare breaks out in the cities and in the countryside and results in a 12-year civil war. Reform-minded military officers and civilian leaders unite and oust Romero, forming a revolutionary junta.

1980. Duarte, who has returned after being tortured and exiled in 1972, joins the junta.

1982. Salvadorans elect a new constituent assembly.

1983. The assembly drafts a new constitution strengthening individual rights.

1984. Duarte, head of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena), becomes the first freely-elected president in over 50 years.

1989. Arena's Alfredo Cristiani wins the presidency. Talks are initiated in September between government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). Talks break down in November when FMLN guerillas launch a nationwide offensive.

1990. The UN steps in to mediate the conflict. El Salvador allows its exchange rate to float.

1991. The New York accord is signed by both sides, setting up a framework for peace. The banking system is re-privatized.

1992. A final peace agreement is signed. The FMLN lays down its arms, transforming itself into a mainstream political party. A value-added tax is instituted at 10 percent.

1994. Armando Calderon Sol of the Arena party takes over the presidency. He introduces reforms aimed at liberalizing the economy, including the privatization of state assets. He also institutes monetary stability.

1995. A plan to dollarize the economy fails. The VAT is increased to 13 percent. The economy starts to slow.

1996. Laws to facilitate privatization of state assets are passed.

1998. State sells 4 of its regional electricity distributors. The state telecoms are broken up. Social security privatization begins.

1999. Francisco Flores of the Arena party becomes president.

2001. Earthquakes hit, damaging homes and infrastructure, killing many people. The government dollarizes the economy.

FUTURE TRENDS

El Salvador's future is uncertain. It is a country besieged by poverty and corruption. Crime rates are high, the standard of living is low, services are scarce, and health care is inadequate. A series of natural disasters have worsened already poor conditions. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and earthquakes in January and February of 2001 damaged the country's infrastructure, slowed the economy, and destroyed thousands of homes, leaving many in El Salvador, especially the poor, in dire straits. Road and infrastructure improvements will now have to be delayed as funds are diverted to general reconstruction projects. The administration under President Francisco Flores will be tested by the current situation. Flores has already been accused of allocating economic aid along partisan political lines, and his ability to effectively steer the country out of the current crisis will affect his chances for reelection in 2004.

El Salvador has signed a trade agreement with Mexico which will grant Salvadoran exports preferential access to Mexican markets. Trade agreements with the Dominican Republic and Chile should be ratified in 2001-02, which could help boost the economy. What is certain is that solid economic performance will depend on continued growth in the manufacturing and services sectors, whose expansion after the cease-fire helped fuel the post-war boom. Where El Salvador is most vulnerable is in its dependence on U.S. markets, which account for nearly 60 percent of its exports. A high performing U.S. economy will guarantee El Salvador good export earnings. A downturn in the U.S. economy, however, will lower the demand for imports, diminishing one of El Salvador's main sources of foreign exchange.

El Salvador will continue to battle unemployment among young males, which, according to some analysts, has contributed to high crime rates. Smuggling, drug trafficking, and money laundering, if left unchecked, will likely complicate relations with the United States and preclude future trade arrangements.

DEPENDENCIES

El Salvador has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: El Salvador, 2000. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

Embassy of El Salvador, Washington, D.C. <http://www.elsalvador.org/english/index.htm>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Agency for International Development. The USAID FY 1998 Congressional Presentation: El Salvador. <http://www.usaid.gov/pubs/cp98/lac/countries/sv.htm>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001: El Salvador. <http:www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/es.html>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Background Notes: El Salvador. <http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/elsal_0008_bgn.html>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 1999: El Salvador. <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/1999/index.cfm?docid=386>. Accessed February 2001.

John Mazor

CAPITAL:

San Salvador.

MONETARY UNIT:

Colón (¢, often called "Peso"). One colón equals 100 centavos. Coins are in denominations of ¢1, and 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 centavos. Paper currency is in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100. U.S. dollars have also been accepted as a dual currency since January 2001.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals, electricity.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Raw materials, consumer goods, capital goods, fuels, foodstuffs, petroleum, electricity.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$24 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$2.8 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$4.6 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

views updated

EL SALVADOR

Compiled from the December 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of El Salvador


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

21,476 sq. km. (8,260 sq. mi.); about the size of Massachusetts.

Cities:

Capital—San Salvador (pop. 1.7 million). Other cities—Santa Ana San Miguel, Soyapango, and La Union.

Terrain:

Mountains separate country into three distinct regions—southern coastal belt, central valleys and plateaus, and northern mountains.

Climate:

Semitropical, distinct wet and dry seasons.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Salvadoran(s).

Population (2003):

6.6 million.

Annual growth rate (2003):

2%.

Ethnic groups:

Mestizo 90%, indigenous 1%, Caucasian 9%.

Religion:

About 55% Roman Catholic, with significant and growing numbers of Protestant groups.

Language:

Spanish.

Education:

Free through ninth grade. Attendance (grades 1-9)—85%. Literacy—84.1% nationally; 75.3% in rural areas.

Health:

Infant mortality rate (2003)—26.4/1,000. Life expectancy at birth (2003)—70.6 years.

Work force (about 2.7 million, 2003):

Agriculture—17.1%; services—19.8%; commerce—28.8%; manufacturing—17.8%; construction—6.5%; transportation and communication—4.5%; other—4.4%.

Government

Type:

Republic.

Constitution:

December 20, 1983.

Independence:

September 15, 1821.

Branches:

Executive—president and vice president. Legislative—84-member Legislative Assembly. Judicial—independent (Supreme Court).

Administrative subdivisions:

14 departments.

Political parties (represented in the legislature):

Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), National Conciliation Party (PCN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), and the United Democratic Center (CDU).

Suffrage:

Universal at 18.

Economy

GDP (2004):

Purchasing Power Parity $32.28 billion.

Annual growth rate (2003):

1.8%.

Per capita income (2003):

$2,258. (PPP $4,800).

Agriculture (11% of GDP, 2003):

Products—coffee, sugar, livestock, corn, poultry, and sorghum. Arable, cultivated, or pasture land—64%.

Industry (24% of GDP, 2003):

Types—textiles, food and beverage processing, footwear and clothing, chemical products, petroleum products, electronics.

Trade (2004):

Exports—$3.3 billion: textiles, diverse manufactures, coffee, sugar, and shrimp. Major markets—U.S. 65.4%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 24.9%. Imports—$6.3 billion: consumer goods, foodstuffs, capital goods, raw industrial materials, and petroleum. Major suppliers—U.S. 46.3%, CACM 15.1%, Mexico 6.0%.


PEOPLE

El Salvador's population numbers about 6.6 million. Almost 90% is of mixed Indian and Spanish extraction. About 1% is indigenous; very few Indians have retained their customs and traditions. The country's people are largely Roman Catholic and Protestant. Spanish is the language spoken by virtually all inhabitants. The capital city of San Salvador has about 1.7 million people; an estimated 42% of El Salvador's population live in rural areas.


HISTORY

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


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

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

Political Landscape

Roberto D'Aubuisson and other hard-line conservatives, including some members of the military, created the Nationalist Republican Alliance party (ARENA) in 1981. D'Aubuisson's electoral fortunes were diminished by credible reports that he was involved in organized political violence. ARENA almost won the election in 1984, with solid private sector and rural farmer support. By 1989, ARENA had attracted the support of business groups. Allegations of corruption by the ruling Christian Democratic party, poor relations with the private sector, and historically low prices for the nation's main agricultural exports also contributed to ARENA victories in the 1988 legislative and 1989 presidential elections.

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

Taking advantage of both public apprehension of Flores' policies and ARENA infighting, the chief opposition party, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), was able to score a significant victory against ARENA in the March 2003 legislative and municipal elections. The FMLN won control over 31 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly as well as a number of key mayorships including those in most major population centers. ARENA, with only 29 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly, was forced to court the right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN), with 14 seats, in order to form a majority voting bloc. However, in 2003 the PCN entered into a loose partnership with the FMLN, further limiting ARENA's ability to maneuver in the legislature.

Despite these constraints, ARENA made a strong showing at the March 2004 presidential election, which was marked by an unprecedented 67% voter turnout. ARENA candidate Elias "Tony" Saca handily defeated the FMLN candidate and party head Schafik Handal, garnering 57.71% of the votes cast. Nevertheless, Saca faced a complex political environment.

The defeat of FMLN's presidential candidate Schafik Handal rekindled an FMLN internal struggle between party hardliners allied with Handal and more moderate party members who saw the party's 2004 defeat as a call for reform. In addition, the PCN and the two parties that comprise the center/center-left coalition, the United Democratic Center (CDU) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), faced dissolution for failing to each capture at least 3% of the votes. Members of all three parties, whose deputies continued to hold seats in the legislature, publicly discussed creating new parties or aligning with existing ones. It remains to be seen how the reorganization of political parties, or the internal disputes of the FMLN, will affect voting blocs in the assembly.

El Salvador will hold legislative and municipal elections on March 12, 2006.

Human Rights and Post-War Reforms

During the 12-year civil war, human rights violations by both the government security forces and left-wing guerillas were rampant. The accords established a Truth Commission under UN auspices to investigate the most serious cases. The commission reported its findings in 1993. It recommended that those identified as human rights violators be removed from all government and military posts, as well as recommending judicial reforms. Thereafter, the Legislative Assembly granted amnesty for political crimes committed during the

war. Among those freed as a result were the Salvadoran Armed Forces (ESAF) officers convicted in the November 1989 Jesuit murders and the FMLN ex-combatants held for the 1991 murders of two U.S. servicemen. The peace accords also established the Ad Hoc Commission to evaluate the human rights record of the ESAF officer corps.

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

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

National Civilian Police

The civilian police force, created to replace the discredited public security forces, deployed its first officers in March 1993, and was present throughout the country by the end of 1994. The National Civilian Police (PNC) has about 16,500 officers. The United States, through the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), led international support for the PNC and the National Public Security Academy (ANSP), providing about $32 million in non-lethal equipment and training since 1992.

Judiciary

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

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 8/22/2005

President: Elias Antonio SACA Gonzalez
Vice Pres.: Ana Vilma de ESCOBAR
Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Mario SALAVERIA
Min. of Defense: Alejandro "Otto"ROMERO Orellana
Min. of Economy: Yolanda Mayora de GAVIDIA
Min. of Education: Darlyn MEZA
Min. of Environment: Hugo BARRERA
Min. of Finance: Guillermo LOPEZ Suarez
Min. of Foreign Relations: Francisco Esteban LAINEZ Rivas
Min. of Government: Rene FIGUEROA
Min. of Health: Jose Guillermo MAZA Brizuela
Min. of Labor & Social Welfare: Jose Roberto ESPINAL
Min. of Public Works: David GUTIERREZ
Min. of Tourism: Luis CARDENAL
Min. of Treasury: Guillermo LOPEZ Suarez
Attorney General: Belisario ARTIGA
Pres., Central Reserve Bank: Luz Maria SERPAS de Portillo
Ambassador to the US: Rene Antonio LEON Rodriguez
Permanent Representative to the UN, NewYork: Carmen Maria GALLARDO de Hernandez

El Salvador maintains an embassy in the United States at 2308 California Street NW, Washington, DC, 20008 (tel: 202-265-9671). There are consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco.


ECONOMY

The Salvadoran economy continues to benefit from a commitment to free markets and careful fiscal management. The economy has been growing at a steady and moderate pace since the signing of peace accords in 1992, in an environment of improved investor confidence and increased private investment. Much of the improvement in El Salvador's economy is a result of free market policy initiatives carried out by the ARENA governments, including the privatization of the banking system, telecommunications, public pensions, electrical distribution and some electrical generation, reduction of import duties, elimination of price controls, and enhancing the investment climate through measures such as improved enforcement of intellectual property rights.

One of the biggest challenges in El Salvador has been to manage the decline in the coffee sector, formerly the backbone of the economy, and to develop new growth sectors for a more diversified economy. The collapse of worldwide coffee prices has caused substantial reduction in coffee production and decreased rural employment. While as recently as 1988 coffee exports accounted for more than half of export earnings, in 2004 they were 7.0%. Moderate climate and a hard-working and enterprising labor pool comprise El Salvador's greatest assets. El Salvador has sought to leverage these assets in creating new export industries through fiscal incentives for free trade zones, and currently there are 15 free trade zones in El Salvador. The largest beneficiary has been the maquila industry, which directly provides 88,700 jobs, and primarily consists of cutting and assembling clothes for export to the United States. The apparel industry has greatly benefited from the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, which allows these goods to enter the United States duty free under certain conditions. Moreover, the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), negotiated by the five countries of Central America with the United States in 2003, will make these benefits permanent.

El Salvador ratified the agreement in December 2004, the first nation in Central America to do so. CAFTA will benefit several important sectors of the economy, including the textile/apparel industry, by expanding access to the U.S. market. CAFTA also provides mechanisms to develop less competitive areas of the economy, including agriculture, as the agreement is phased in.

Fiscal policy has been the biggest challenge for the Salvadoran Government. The 1992 peace accords committed the government to heavy expenditures for transition programs and social services. Although international aid was generous, the government has focused on improving the collection of its current revenues. A 10% value-added tax (VAT), implemented in September 1992, was raised to 13% in July 1995. The VAT is the biggest source of revenue, accounting for about 52.3% of total tax revenues in 2004.

Remittances from Salvadorans working in the United States sent to family members are a major source of foreign income and offset the substantial trade deficit. Remittances transferred through the banking system and, therefore, counted by the Central Bank have increased steadily in the last decade and reached an all-ime high of $2.5 billion in 2004—approximately 17.1% of gross domestic product (GDP). Beginning January 1, 2001, the Salvadoran Government approved the "Monetary Integration" law that made the U.S. dollar legal tender alongside the colón. Dollars have gradually replaced colónes, which are no longer printed. In practice the economy has become dollarized, with the colón only used in isolated rural areas.

El Salvador obtains concessional loans for development projects from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, the Bank for Central American Integration, and certain other international institutions. Starting in August 1999, El Salvador also has sold bonds in private international financial markets. These sales have been used to fund Salvadoran Government operations. El Salvador's external debt in February 2005 was about $4.8 billion.

Natural Disasters

El Salvador suffered from two earthquakes at the beginning of 2001 and from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Hurricane Mitch hit El Salvador in late October 1998, generating extreme rainfall of which caused widespread flooding and landslides. Roughly 65,200 hectares were flooded, and 374 people were either killed or remain missing. The areas that suffered the most were the low-lying coastal zones, particularly in the floodplain of the Lempa and San Miguel Grande Rivers.

Reconstruction from Mitch was still underway when in January and February 2001 the country experienced two devastating earthquakes that left nearly 2,000 people dead or missing, 8,000 injured, and caused severe dislocations across all sectors of Salvadoran society. Nearly 25% of all private homes in the country were either destroyed or badly damaged, and 1.5 million persons were left without housing. Hundreds of public buildings were damaged or destroyed, and sanitation and water systems in many communities put out of service. The total cost of the damage was estimated at between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

Response

The Hurricane Mitch disaster prompted a tremendous response from the international community governments, nongovernmental organizations, and private citizens alike. The U.S. Government has provided $37.7 million in assistance through USAID and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Defense.

Following the 2001 earthquakes, the U.S. Government responded immediately to the emergency, with military helicopters active in initial rescue operations, delivering emergency supplies, rescue workers, and damage assessment teams to stricken communities all over the country. USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance had a team of experts working with Salvadoran relief authorities immediately after both quakes, and provided assistance totaling more than $14 million. In addition, the Department of Defense provided an initial response valued at more than $11 million. For long-term reconstruction, the international community offered a total aid package of $1.3 billion, more than $168 million of it from the United States.

Manufacturing

El Salvador historically has been the most industrialized nation in Central America, though a decade of war eroded this position. The industrial sector has shifted since 1993 from a primarily domestic orientation to include free zone manufacturing for export. Maquila exports have led the growth in the export sector and have made an important contribution to the Salvadoran economy. Currently, manufacture industry accounts for nearly 24% of the GDP.

Trade

Exports in 2004 grew 5.3% while imports grew 8.9%. As in previous years, the large trade deficit was offset by family remittances. El Salvador is pursuing an aggressive strategy to increase exports, especially manufactured and nontraditional products, and to attract foreign investment. The negotiation of trade agreements such as CAFTA that reduce trade and investment barriers is a central part of this effort.

El Salvador has already signed free trade agreements with Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Panama, and increased its exports to those countries. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua also are negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada. The five Central American countries are working towards a construction of a Customs Union, and they have already harmonized their customs duties and most products.

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


FOREIGN RELATIONS

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

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


U.S.-SALVADORAN RELATIONS

U.S.-Salvadoran relations remain close and strong. U.S. policy toward El Salvador seeks to promote the strengthening of El Salvador's democratic institutions, rule of law, judicial reform, and civilian police and national reconciliation and reconstruction, economic opportunity, and growth. El Salvador has been a committed member of the coalition of nations fighting against terrorism, and has also provided a battalion to the efforts to bring stability to Iraq.

U.S. ties to El Salvador are dynamic and growing. More than 12,000 American citizens live and work fulltime in El Salvador. Most are private businesspersons and their families, but a small number of American citizen retirees have been drawn to El Salvador by favorable tax conditions. The Embassy's consular section provides the full range of visa, passport, federal benefit, absentee voting, and related citizenship services to this community. The American Chamber of Commerce in El Salvador is located at World Trade Center, Torre 2, local No. 308, 89 Av. Nte. Col. Escalón, phone: 264-9393, fax: 263-9393.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

SAN SALVADOR (E) Address: Blvd. Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan; APO/FPO: APO AA 34023; Phone: (503)2278-4444; Fax: (503)2278-6011; INMARSAT Tel: 683-130-825; Workweek: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Website: www.elsalvador.usembassy.gov

AMB:Hugh Douglas Barclay
AMB OMS:Sharon Propst
DCM:Michael Butler
DCM OMS:Cheryl Payne
CG:Virginia Hotchner
POL:Carlos Garcia
MGT:John Lipinski
AFSA:Jessica Webster
AGR:Stephen Huete (Guatemala)
AID:Mark Silverman
APHIS:Elizabeth Davis
(Guatemala)
CLO:Reyes, Monique
DAO:Jerry Zayas
DEA:Ivan Rios
ECO:Jessica Webster
EST:Jessica Webster
FAA:Ruben Quiñonez
FAA/CASLO:Victor Guardia (Miami)
FCS:Daniel Thompson
FMO:Philip Anstead
GSO:Michael Barrow
ICASS Chair:Dan Thompson
IMO:Dale Rice
INS:Edward Sotomayor
IPO:Ron Dick
ISSO:Eric Connaway
LAB:Philip Thompson
LEGATT:David Wattley (Panama)
MLO:Felix Santiago
PAO:Donna J. Roginski
RSO:John Root
Last Updated: 11/8/2005

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
14th and Constitution Avenue,
NW Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 202-482-1658; 1-(800) USA-TRADE
Fax: 202-482-0464

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

November 21, 2005

Country Description:

El Salvador is a democratic country with a developing economy. Tourism facilities are not fully developed. The capital is San Salvador, accessible by El Salvador's International Airport at Comalapa. Although the dollar and Colon are legal tender in El Salvador, in practice the Colon has fallen out of use, and Americans traveling with U.S. dollars should not exchange them for Colones.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

To enter the country, U.S. citizens must present a current U.S. passport and either a Salvadoran visa or a one-entry tourist card. The tourist card may be obtained from immigration officials for a ten-dollar fee upon arrival in country. U.S. travelers who plan to remain in El Salvador for more than thirty days can apply in advance for a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C. or from a Salvadoran consulate in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Long Island, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. Travelers may contact the Embassy of El Salvador at 2308 California Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 265-9671, 265-9672, 265-9675; fax (202) 234-3834; e-mail: [email protected] or visit the Embassy's Internet website at http://www.elsalvador.org. When applying for a visa, travelers may be asked to present evidence of U.S. employment and adequate finances for their visit at the time of visa application or upon arrival in El Salvador. An exit tax of 27 dollars and 15 cents must be paid when departing El Salvador from the international airport. This fee is waived for personnel traveling on diplomatic passports.

Travelers should be aware that El Salvador's entry requirements vary in accordance with agreements the country has with foreign governments. Citizens of several countries in addition to the United States may enter El Salvador with a current passport and either a visa or tourist card. Citizens of many other countries, including many Latin American and western European nations, may enter with only a current passport. However, citizens of most nations are required to present both a current passport and a visa to enter El Salvador. Non-U.S. citizen travelers are advised to contact a Salvadoran embassy or consulate to determine the entry requirements applicable to them.

Airlines operating out of El Salvador International Airport require all U.S. citizen passengers boarding flights for the United States (including U.S.Salvadoran dual nationals) to have a current U.S. passport. U.S. citizens applying for passports at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador are reminded that proof of citizenship and identity are required before a passport can be issued. Photographic proof of identity is especially important for young children because of the high incidence of fraud involving children. Since the National Passport Center in New Hampshire, and not the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, prints U.S. passports, citizens submitting applications in El Salvador should be prepared to wait approximately one week for receipt of their new passports.

The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador reminds U.S. citizen travelers that their activities in El Salvador are limited to those prescribed by Salvadoran law and the type of visa they are issued. Under Salvadoran law, all foreigners who participate directly or indirectly in the internal political affairs of the country lose the right to remain in El Salvador, regardless of visa status or residency in El Salvador.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure. Minors traveling on Salvadoran passports and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party must have the written permission of the absent parent(s) or legal guardian to depart El Salvador. A Salvadoran notary must notarize this document. If the absent parent(s) or legal guardian is (are) outside of El Salvador, the document must be notarized by a Salvadoran consul. If a court decree gives custody of the child traveling on a Salvadoran passport to one parent, the decree and a passport will allow the custodial parent to depart El Salvador with the child. Although Salvadoran officials generally do not require written permission for non-Salvadoran minors traveling on U.S. or other non-Salvadoran passports, it would be prudent for the parents of minor children traveling on U.S. passports to provide similar documentation if both parents are not traveling with the children.

Safety and Security:

Most travelers to El Salvador experience no safety or security problems, but the criminal threat in El Salvador is critical. Random and organized violent crime is endemic throughout El Salvador. U.S. citizens have not been singled out by reason of their nationality, but are subject to the same threat as all other persons in El Salvador. See the section below on Crime for additional related information.

Political or economic issues in the country may give rise to demonstrations, sit-ins or protests at any time or place, but these activities are most frequent in the capital or on its main access roads. U.S. citizens are cautioned to avoid areas where demonstrations are being held and to follow local news media reports or call the U.S. Embassy for up-to-date information. Information about demonstrations also is available as "Security Alerts" on the U.S. Embassy Internet home page at http://elsalvador.usembassy.gov.

Many Salvadorans are armed, and shootouts are not uncommon. Foreigners, however, may not carry guns even for their own protection without first procuring a firearms license from Salvadoran officials. Failure to do so will result in detention and confiscation of the firearm, even if it is licensed in the United States.

Armed holdups of vehicles traveling on El Salvador's roads appear to be increasing. In September 2005 U.S. citizens were victimized in two separate incidents. In one robbery, an American family was stopped by gunmen while driving on the Pan American highway in Santa Ana Department in broad daylight. In the other, armed men robbed an American citizen passenger after the van in which she was riding was carjacked. The van was stopped at a traffic light on the busy road between Comalapa International Airport and San Salvador shortly after dark.

Mine-removal efforts ceased several years ago, but land mines and unexploded ordnance in backcountry regions still pose a threat to off-road tourists, backpackers and campers.

Strong undertows and currents can make swimming short distances from El Salvador's Pacific coast beaches extremely dangerous for even strong and experienced swimmers. As an example of this hazard, during a single seven-day holiday in August 2004, nine Salvadoran citizens drowned while swimming at Pacific beaches. In July 2005, three U.S. citizens drowned while swimming at Pacific beaches in La Libertad and La Paz Departments.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

The U.S. Embassy considers El Salvador a critical crime-threat country. The homicide rate in the country increased 25 percent from 2004 to 2005, and El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Both violent and petty crimes are prevalent throughout El Salvador, and U.S. citizens have been among the victims. Travelers should avoid carrying valuables in public places. Passports and other important documents should not be left in private vehicles. Armed assaults and carjackings take place both in San Salvador and in the interior of the country, but are especially frequent on roads outside the capital where police patrols are scarce. Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the international airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot.

In separate incidents in 2004, two U.S. citizens visiting El Salvador were murdered. The Embassy in San Salvador is aware of one incident in 2004 in which a U.S. citizen woman was carjacked in San Salvador, driven to a neighboring rural area, and sexually assaulted. On three reported occasions in 2004, U.S. citizens driving private vehicles from El Salvador into Guatemala were carjacked and robbed at gunpoint short distances into Guatemalan territory. In two of these incidents, the bandits physically assaulted their victims, raping two female minors in one of the attacks. Travelers are referred to the Public Announcement for Guatemala dated October 29, 2004, for additional information about the incidence of violent crime in Guatemala.

Kidnappings for ransom continue to occur but have decreased in frequency since 2001. In 2004, eight kidnappings were reported to authorities; another eight were reported through the first ten months of 2005. U.S. citizens in El Salvador should exercise caution at all times and practice good personal security procedures throughout their stay.

The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised, to avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark, and to avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable to crime, even in the capital.

Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital is risky and is not recommended. The Embassy advises official visitors to use radio dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.

U.S. citizens using banking services should be vigilant while conducting their financial exchanges either inside local banks or at automated teller machines. There have been several reports of armed robberies in which victims appear to have been followed from the bank after completing their transactions.

Visitors to El Salvador should use caution when climbing volcanoes or hiking in other remote locations. Armed robberies of climbers and hikers are common.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while over-seas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Medical care is limited. Emergency services, even in San Salvador, are very basic. Ambulance services are not staffed by trained personnel and lack life-saving necessities such as oxygen. Physicians in the major hospitals are generally well trained, often in U.S. hospitals, but nursing and support staff are not up to U.S. standards. State-of-the-art technology for dealing with medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Most hospitals accept credit cards for hospital charges, but not for doctors' fees.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning El Salvador is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road conditions throughout El Salvador are not up to U.S. standards. However, the rebuilding of major roads following the earthquakes in 2001 is nearly completed. Mini-buses, buses and taxis are often poorly maintained. Drivers are often not trained, and generally do not adhere to traffic rules and regulations. The U.S. Embassy recommends that its personnel avoid using mini-buses and buses, and use only taxis that are radio-dispatched or those stationed in front of major hotels. Robberies and assaults on buses are commonplace.

Because of inconsistent enforcement of traffic laws in El Salvador, safe drivers must make an extraordinary effort to drive defensively. Passing on blind corners is commonplace. Salvadoran law requires that the driver of a vehicle that injures or kills another person must be arrested and detained until a judge can determine responsibility for the accident. This law is uniformly enforced.

Visitors to El Salvador may drive on their U.S. license for up to thirty days. After that time, a visitor is required to obtain a Salvadoran license.

Visit the website of El Salvador's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.elsalvadorturismo.gob.sv/. Further information on traffic and road conditions is available in Spanish from Automovil Club de El Salvador, at telephone number 011-503-221-0557 or via the Internet at http://www.aces.com.sv.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of El Salvador as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of El Salvador's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Special Circumstances:

Travelers intending to carry cell phones from the United States should check with their service provider to determine if the service will be available in El Salvador. Credit cards are acceptable for payment in many but not all retail stores and restaurants in major cities. Automatic teller machines with access to major U.S. bank networks are widely available in San Salvador but less prevalent elsewhere in the country.

Disaster Preparedness:

El Salvador is an earthquake-prone country.

Flooding and landslides during the rainy season (June to November) also pose a risk. On October 4, 2005, the Government of El Salvador declared a nation-wide state of emergency following major flooding caused by a series of storms. More than 50 deaths were confirmed as attributed to landslides and flooding at that time and over 34,000 residents were evacuated to temporary shelter. The Ilamatepec Volcano, located approximately 50 kilometers west of San Salvador, erupted briefly on October 1, 2005, casting rocks and volcanic ash onto neighboring regions and producing two confirmed deaths. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated much of El Salvador on January 13, 2001. A second earthquake on February 13, 2001, measured 6.6 on the Richter scale, and caused significant additional damage and loss of life. Reconstruction efforts continue and the country is returning to normal. Additional information in Spanish about earthquakes (sismos) in El Salvador can be found on the Government of El Salvador's web page at http://www.snet.gob.sv/.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating El Salvador laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in El Salvador are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website athttp://www.travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in El Salvador are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within El Salvador. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador is located at Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur, Urbanizacion Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, telephone 011-503-278-4444, fax 011-503-278-6020, e-mail: [email protected] The Embassy's web site can be accessed at http://elsalvador.usembassy.gov. The Consular Section is open for U.S. citizens services from 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. weekdays, excluding U.S. and Salvadoran holidays. After business hours, the Embassy can be contacted by telephone at 011-503-501-2316 or 011-503-501-2253.

For any questions concerning U.S. visas for either temporary travel to or permanent residence in the U.S., please contact the regional U.S. Visa Information Center. From El Salvador, the Visa Information Center may be reached by calling 900-6011 or by purchasing a VISAS-USA calling card from any place that sells Telefonica phone cards. Calling instructions are on the back of the card. Calls using the 900 number cost approximately 2 dollars and 15 cents per minute and will be charged to the caller's telephone bill. The Telefonica phone card costs 15 dollars and permits a seven-minute call. From the U.S., the Visa Information Center can be contacted by dialing 818-755-8425 and charging the call to a Visa or MasterCard credit card.

International Adoption

July 2005

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note:

The local adoption process typically takes between 18 to 36 months to complete. The Supreme Court of El Salvador advises that the granting of guardianships to prospective foreign adoptive parents for the purpose of allowing children to leave El Salvador for eventual adoption abroad is prohibited.

Patterns of Immigration of Adopted Orphans to the U.S.:

Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

Fiscal Year Number of Immigrant Visas Issued

FY 2004: 16
FY 2003: 6
FY 2002: 13
FY 2001: 4
FY 2000: 9

Adoption Authority in El Salvador:

There are several Salvadoran governmental bodies involved in the adoption process. These include the Family Courts and the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR). The Procuraduria is responsible for family welfare law in El Salvador. The Instituto Salvadoreño Para el Desarrollo Integral de la Niñez Adolescencia (ISNA) is responsible for the care of orphans and other children in government custody. Representatives from ISNA and the PGR oversee international adoptions in El Salvador's adoption central authority called the Oficina Para Adopciones (OPA). Information regarding Salvadoran laws and procedures for the purposes of adoption may be obtained by contacting:

Oficina Para Adopciones
Jefe de Sección de Adopciones
Procuraduría General
de la República
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador
Phone (503) 222-4444
or (503) 222-4133

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents:

Adopting parents must be 25 years of age and married for five years. There must be a minimum of 15 years age difference between the adopting parents and child. Parents adopting a child under one year of age cannot be older than 45. Single individuals may adopt in El Salvador.

Residential Requirements:

Under Article 176 of the Family Code, adoptive parents who wish to adopt a particular child who is not related to them must be prepared to reside with the child in El Salvador for at least one year prior to finalization of the adoption. Although personnel at the US Embassy San Salvador are familiar with many cases where this requirement has not been applied in the past, the Government of El Salvador is now requiring the residency in many situations.

Those on service projects are no exception to this restriction. Situations have occurred when an U.S. citizen is on a service project in El Salvador and seeks to adopt a particular child who appears to be eligible for adoption. Even if the child is adoptable, it is not unusual for that adoptive parent to be determined eligible to adopt "any child other than" the one that motivated the commencement of the adoption process.

Time Frame:

Salvadoran adoption procedures can take 18 to 36 months to complete. This does not include the time necessary for the U.S. Embassy to complete its own investigation, as required by immigration regulations. Due to the high incidence of fraud in adoption cases in El Salvador, an investigation of each adoption is necessary to ensure that the child is an orphan as defined by U.S. immigration law, and that the birth mother is aware that the child is being adopted irrevocably and will be taken from the country. Investigation times vary depending upon the complexity of each case.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys:

The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador has a list of agencies known to work in El Salvador that can be made available upon request. The Department of State does not assume any responsibility for the quality of services provided by these private adoption agencies or their employees. Please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family for a list of agencies.

Adoption Fees in El Salvador:

Reliable information is not available at this time regarding costs for adoptions processed under the new family code. In the past, adoptions cost approximately $10,000. U.S. citizens adopting a child in El Salvador are encouraged to report any exorbitant fees to the U.S. Embassy or the Department of State.

Documents Required for Adoption in El Salvador:

All supporting documents should be translated into Spanish authenticated by a Salvadoran Consulate or Embassy.

  • Power of Attorney for the Salvadoran lawyer to represent the adopting parents;
  • Certified birth certificate for the adopting parents;
  • Certified marriage certificate for the adopting parents;
  • Police clearance for the adopting parents' municipality;
  • Documentation of the adopting parents' financial situation, (salary statements, bank accounts);
  • Home study by an authorized agency. The home study should include general information on the applicants; their family history and social life; personal characteristics; family circumstances; reason for adopting; economic situation; and living conditions, as well as medical history;
  • Psychological report (one per adoptive parent);
  • Health certificate for the adopting parents and the adopted child;
  • Certification issued by the public or state institution of protection for the child or the family;
  • Photocopy of the identity card and certified birth certificate of the Salvadoran attorney;
  • Photographs of the adopting parents, adopted child, attorneys, and residence of the adopting parents;
  • Hospital records of the adopted child, issued by the hospital where the child was born;
  • Exact address of the biological parents.

Authenticating U.S. Documents to be Used Abroad:

All U.S. documents submitted to the El Salvador government/court must be authenticated. Visit the State Department website at travel.state.gov for additional information about authentication procedures.

El Salvadoran Embassy and Consulates in the United States:

Embassy of El Salvador
Consular Section
2308 California St. NW
Washington, D.C., 20008
Tel: (202) 265-9671
Fax; 202-234-3834
[email protected]
http://www.elsalvador.org/home.nsf/home

The Salvadoran Embassy also has consulates general in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and Dallas. Contact information for these consulates general can be found at the Web address listed above. U.S. Immigration Requirements:

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy in El Salvador:

The Consular Section is located at:

Final Boulevard Santa Elena
Antiguo Cuscatlan
La Libertad, El Salvador
Tel: +503-278-4444
Fax: +503-278-5522
Email: [email protected]
http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov/

Additional Information:

Specific questions about adoption in El Salvador may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4 th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-404-4747.

views updated

El Salvador

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of El Salvador
Region: North & Central America
Population: 6,122,515
Language(s): Spanish, Nahua
Literacy Rate: 71.5%
Academic Year: February-October
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 2.5%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 473
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,191,052
  Secondary: 143,588
  Higher: 112,266
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 97%
  Secondary: 34%
  Higher: 18%
Teachers: Secondary: 9,255
  Higher: 5,910
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 96%
  Secondary: 36%
  Higher: 18%



History & Background


The republic of El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, with a total area of 21,041 square kilometers (8,124.59 mi.). It is bounded on the northwest by Guatemala, on the north and east by Honduras, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. The local government is divided into 14 departments and 262 municipalities including cities, towns, and villages. The capital is San Salvador. The median age in the country declined from nineteen in 1950 to seventeen in 1975, and 41.3 percent were projected to be under the age of fifteen by 2001. The population for the year 2000 was 5.5 million. El Salvador is not only Central America's smallest country, but it is also the most densely populated country in the Western Hemisphere, with an average population of approximately 298 people per square kilometer. Most of the land is devoted to agriculture and the population is concentrated in industrial and agricultural areas centered on San Salvador, which attracts people on account of better job opportunities and higher salaries. The population is divided into: Mestizo 90 percent; Indigenous 50 percent; and European descendants 5 percent.

Spanish is the national language. The daily use of Indigenous languages has faded out. There has been some academic interest in preserving the old Nahua language of the Pipils, but Nahua is not spoken in the street, except in a few Indian villages in Morazán and Chalatenango. El Salvador is predominantly Roman Catholic, but a number of other churches are also represented.

Cuscatlán, the original name of El Salvador, dates to as early as 2000 B.C. The Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century. El Salvador was dominated by the Pipils, who were descendants of Nahua and Aztec (two Mexican tribes). The Pipils came to central El Salvador in the eleventh century. In 1540, Pedro de Alvarado conquered Cuscatlán and the region came under Spanish control. It was designated a province of Nueva España and placed under the direct control of the Capitanía General de Guatemala.

The Dominican order arrived first to the Provincia de San Salvador, later the Franciscans, and later still the Mercenary Orders. Churches and convents created by faith and the commitment of the religious orders were founded in the sixteenth century. Their prosperity was concentrated on agricultural labor and the teaching of arts and informal skills. It was during this period that the first public library, school, and university were created.

Education during this period began with the convent schools. The convents in the Provincia de San Salvador were more modest than those in the Capitanía General de Guatemala, but they used the same methods and educational tendencies. The frailes received from the Indigenous people a series of histories, chronicles, and historical narratives that have disappeared because of fires or earthquakes. During the Colonial period the schools were only for the Spanish children. The Indigenous received instruction, but this was limited to the teaching of Catholicism in their native languages. Later this instruction was improved, but in the classroom they were never recognized as being in the same category as the white students.

The first school was founded in 1548 by Lic. Francisco Marroquín. From the beginning, the education of the male was more important than that of the female; her instruction was considered not only less important, but dangerous. Although many women from privileged families enjoyed better conditions, colonial women's lives were mainly committed to difficult and inferior jobs. The convents began the liberation of women. For the first time in their history, women received instruction in reading, writing, and in improving their minds along Christian precepts. An example of women educated during this period are: Juana de Maldonado, Juana de Arévalo, Ana Guerra de Jesus, Catarina de Jesus, Isabel de Bustamante y Naba, María Ana de León, Lucía Villacorta de Cañas, Josefa de Barahona, Antonia Fagoaga y Aguilar, Felipa de Aranzamendi, and Manuela Antonia de Arce.

Independence from Spain came on September 15, 1821. On July 1, 1823, El Salvador joined Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica to form the Provincias Unidas de Centro América. However, regional and ideological conflicts beset the union, which was finally dissolved in 1840. In the following year, El Salvador adopted a constitution as a sovereign independent nation. The republic was formally proclaimed on January 25, 1859.

Turbulence, political instability, and frequent presidential changes characterized Salvadoran history during the second half of the nineteenth century. The land had been settled in large landholdings. The Indigenous were pushed off their land or ejidos (community land) and were forced to work on the Spanish plantations for miserable wages or no wages at all. Anastasio Aquino, chief of Nonualcos, led an unsuccessful Indigenous rebellion in 1833 with the idea that "Land is for those who work it." A hundred years later, Feliciano Ama, the last chief of Nonualcos, led another rebellion called La Matanza (The Massacre).

Relative stability was evident in the area of education from 1900 to 1942, but so was turmoil. The dictatorship of Gral. Maximiliano Hernández Martínez brought a period of constant military rule for almost 13 years. During this period, 95 percent of El Salvador's income came from coffee exports. Union activity in the industrial sector during the 1920s brought strikes and demands for better wages, but when coffee prices plummeted following the stock market crash of 1929 the situation between union workers and the landowners became unbearable. Landowners, no longer tolerating union activities, incited the government to take action. In January 1932, Agustin Farabundo Marti, the founder of the Central American Socialist Party, led an uprising of peasants and the Indigenous people. Under Hernández Martínez, the military responded by systematically killing 30,000 people. Farabundo Martí and other leaders were arrested and executed by firing squad. Martí's name is preserved in the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

In the 1960s, Colonel Julio Adalberto Rivera became president, creating a favorable political environment for constitutional reform, the creation of the Common Central American Market, improved civil rights organizations for workers (including teachers), and a new educational system. The minister of education was Walter Beneke, who was responsible for the Educational Reform. For the first time, televised instruction was used in the classroom. Students throughout the country were able to obtain the same instruction for the entire curriculum. Originally, this system was overseen by experts in this pedagogical technology, but by 1972 this system was increasingly run by native personnel. General student ability and reading scores increased, although there was little difference between television and non-television classes. Behavioral objectives were introduced and students showed increased skills in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

The students under this program were enthusiastic, but teacher enthusiasm waned somewhat after the initial uncritical acceptance. Teacher attitudes toward their profession as a whole and its attendant problems remained poor. Student aspirations became increasingly high, perhaps unrealistically so, but educational reform was working, as evidenced by the percentage of students going on to higher education. At the same time, Liberation Theology created an environment for preference to the poor. The social conflicts of the 1970s and 1980s cannot be explained plausibly just by population density and the socio-political balance between town and country, since the education of the masses played a significant role. Rural unions, which often originated from the cooperatives and communal associations sponsored by the church, posed little ostensible threat to the established order. That is, until the rural unions' support of the Preferential Option for the Poor brought about a rise in violence.

The era of Popular Education occurred in 1980-1992. The Civil War affected the mental health of children who were born and raised during the twelve years of the war, and exposed them to different levels of violence. Children from industrial neighborhoods who came from displaced villages reported higher war experiences and lower mental health, while children who experienced the highest personal-social effects of the war showed the poorest mental health and they were most likely to have difficulty in imagining the future. Popular education focused on children and women and their potential for societal change, and proved to be particularly relevant for women. By using popular education, the insurgent movement sought to fill the education gap created because most combatants and civilians were peasants, few of who had much opportunity for schooling in the communities where they grew up. The most sustained experiences of popular education occurred in FMLN-controlled zones of the country. Popular education was as much a political and organizational process as an educational process. The focus of the Christian-based communities was to work toward their conception of social justice and political change. Its work can be summarized as: Christian-based communities in the 1970s; refugee camps on the Honduran border in the 1980s; and repopulated communities in FMLN-controlled zones from 1980 to 1992.


Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The Constitution adopted in 1983 rested in the executive power of the president, who appointed a cabinet to help run the country. The minister of education was responsible for all matters related to education. The Constitution of El Salvador declared that elementary education was free and compulsory for all children between the ages of seven and fifteen. In 1960, the compulsory education was extended three years more than had been the case under the old educational system, with students having to complete nine years of schooling. The public school system was controlled by the government. The curriculum for elementary and secondary levels was uniform throughout the country. The provision of education, however, suffered from rural-urban dichotomy. A number of national education plans developed by the ministry of education have recognized the inequality between the rural and urban education systems, but none have succeeded in bringing rural education up to the urban level.

Educational SystemOverview

The aims of the educational program designed in the 1960s differed significantly from the previous educational system; the objectives were democratization, introduction of technology into the classroom, and the preparation of students for achieving social and economic development. Democratization led to the rapid expansion of schools. During the 1960s, the government was able to open as many schools as possible under the program Una escuela por día (One school per day). This expansion was based on the idea that education is not a privilege, but a right of every Salvadoran. As a result, there were significant increases in enrollments at the elementary level, which reduced illiteracy rates from 72.0 percent in 1930 to 49.0 percent by 1988, and 28.5 percent by 1995.


Preprimary & Primary Education

The educational system begins with the preschool or "kindergarten," most of which are located in cities rather than rural areas. The children, ranging in age from five to six years old, receive instruction for two years, three hours per day, and five days per week. Most of these schools are under government supervision, although there are private preschools. The main objectives are to prepare the children for entry into elementary school, to inculcate in them good work habits, and to develop oral and listening comprehension skills.

The school calendar runs from February to the end of October, five hours per day, Monday through Friday. Graduation takes place on November 5th. Elementary education begins at the age of seven and last for nine years. From the seventh grade, students receive classes in English as a second language as a part of the curriculum; it remains a requirement throughout the rest of their elementary school years. Curriculum stresses the teaching of formal Spanish grammar as well the fundamentals of science and mathematics, and six hours are devoted to sports and cultural activities.

Most primary schools are not coeducational. However, the majority of classes in grades seven to nine are mixed. Both men and women are teachers at this level. Student-teacher ratios are high in public schools. With an insufficient number of teachers, classrooms are over-crowded. In 1993, there were 3,961 primary schools with an enrollment of 1,042,256 primary students. In order to best utilize the buildings, there are two groups of students: one group attends in the morning from 7:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; the other attends from 1:00-5:00 p.m. Some schools have adult evening classes from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Among school-age children, the total student enrollment in 1980 was 65 percent; in 1993, 70 percent; and by 1995 it had risen to 79 percent in public primary schools.

Only about 8 percent of the country's total enrollment in middle secondary education was rural children; the majority of the illiterate population reside in rural areas. The high degree of rural illiteracy reflects several factors, at the most basic level, the number of teachers and schools provided for rural areas. In the 1980s, only 15 percent of the nation's teachers served in rural areas, although these areas accounted for 64 percent of the primary schools. Of the primary schools available to rural children, approximately 70 percent offered education only below grade four or five. By contrast, 90 percent of the urban primary schools offered grade five and above.

There was a high attrition rate in school attendance in rural areas as students left school to earn wages or work at home. Although school attendance generally began at about the age of eight or nine, approximately 70 percent of all male workers began employment before the age of fifteen, many by age ten or earlier, thus permitting only one or two years of schooling. Many girls also dropped out of school at an early age in order to assume domestic responsibilities, such as caring for younger siblings, working in the fields, or tending animals. Therefore, only 20 percent of the rural school-age children reached grade six, and only a few percent reached grade nine. Efforts to improve this situation in the rural agricultural areas were somewhat discouraging, in part because of the political tension during the Civil War and post-war period. In some situations, teachers, mainly women, faced threats if they supported political change. Many rural landowners seemed to prefer an uneducated rural population on the grounds that better-educated workers would expect better wages and be more likely to organize and lobby the government for reform, particularly land reform.

In the 1960s, Educational Reform integrated the middle school into elementary education. Aimed at preparing students for the secondary level, the curriculum, different from grades seven to nine, consists of history, geography, mathematics or algebra, science, English, physics, computer programming (available only at private schools), sports and cultural activities. Students who pass gain the primary school certificate and are allowed to progress to secondary educational institutions.


Secondary Education


Secondary education, for children from the age of sixteen, lasts for three years. Of children in the relevant age group, only 21 percent were enrolled in secondary schools in 1996. The curriculum at the secondary level was developed by the government to be uniform throughout the country. The provision of the secondary level suffers from the same rural-urban dichotomy as the public school system. Only a small percentage of students reach grade twelve and receive their bachillerato (equivalent to a high school diploma). Secondary-level enrollment among the rural population is about 8 percent of the country's total enrollment in secondary education; in grades ten through twelve it drops to about 1 percent. Although both men and women teach at this level, the majority are men. The school year runs from February through November. In general, the curriculum prepares students for either employment or further study. At the secondary level there are different programs: academic or general, technical, pedagogical, and commercial.


Academic Secondary Study: The academic secondary study has two programs, physics/mathematics and chemistry/biology. All students are expected to take the same courses in the first year and carry about 30 instructional hours. In the second year, students start taking different courses according to their program. For example, the science/mathematics program students would take the same classes as other students, and later add specialty classes such as vocational physics/mathematics, and, for science students, the instructional classes include vocational chemistry and advanced biology. In the third year, the number of courses is reduced, but the vocational classes are increased. For example, seventeen hours per week are dedicated to the specialty. Also, all students in the third year take the following common courses: letters, demography, English, and physics/mathematics. After completion of the three-year cycle of secondary education, students sit an examination administered by the government; those who pass are awarded a high school certificate. These programs are offered specially in private schools or Catholic colleges for upper class students. Most of the students continue to the university level.


Commercial Secondary Study: This program consists of three years of instruction. The curriculum at this level is vocational and is aimed at preparing students for employment or further vocational training programs. The program focuses on three areas of study: economics, business administration, and accounting. The certificate is earned after three years upon passing the final examination. The students either enter the labor market or a postsecondary institution. The curriculum of the commercial secondary studies is computer science, economics, accounting, typing and shorthand, among others. The total instruction hours per week are 30.


Technical Secondary Study: Technical secondary study is only offered to low income students at the National Institutes. There are three programs: general mechanics, general electrics, and auto mechanic. All these programs are based on three years of attendance, from Monday to Friday, 40 hours per week. In the first year, all students are expected to take the same courses. There are no electives until the second year, when each program introduces special courses according to each specialty. After completing the three years cycle of secondary education, the students take the government-administered examination.

Pedagogic Secondary Study: This program is offered for students who want to be preschool or elementary teachers. If they want to specialize in secondary education they need to attend the university level. The curriculum in this program is focused on pedagogy, children's literature, psychology, sociology, philosophy, methodology, and teaching techniques. After the second year, students spend a great of deal of time working on the practical, supervised by teachers. At the end of the third year, students take two examinations, on science and pedagogical material, administered by the government. Those who pass are awarded the diploma of education. Those who fail may take the examinations again.


Transitional Education: The aim of the Technological Institute is to make the transition from study to work simple and to make education relevant to the social and economic needs of the country. It also targets students who cannot afford tuition at the university level. Study at this institute, located in Santa Tecla, lasts for two years, 40 hours per week. The program offers technical industry, civil engineering, architecture, mechanics, and decoration courses.


Higher Education


There are three public and twelve private universities. The most important universities are the University of El Salvador authorized in 1841 and The Central America University (UCA) in San Salvador. After the war, the participation of women became very significant. In 1993, some 77,369 students were enrolled at universities and other higher-level institutions; approximately 51 percent of these students were female. Attaining a university education is still the key to status in Salvadoran society. For students from low-income families, the University of El Salvador, with its enrollment averaging 30,000 students, offers them the best opportunity. The enrollment age is between 19 and 23. The National University requires an admission examination, and offers all fields of study; the Central America University specializes in the humanities. Between 1950 and 1980, the country's urban population grew from 18 percent to 44 percent of the total, an average increase by regional standards; that of the city of San Salvador increased from 116,000 to 700,000 (this, too, by no means exceptional in Central America). Both men and women teach at this level, and there is strong competition between their numbers. The school year is divided in two semesters (circles) and runs from January to December. After completing the requirement for their specialty, students write and defend a dissertation. Successful completion enables them to earn the Licenciatura (Master's degree).

Teaching Profession

Traditionally, teachers were recruited from the high school level, but, after 1930, they were recruited from the graduating classes of the Escuelas Normales (teacher training schools). After 1965, under Educational Reform, the Escuelas Normales developed into part of the secondary educational system. Most of the teachers for universities and higher levels hold a Master's degree or doctorate.


Summary

By the late 1990s, El Salvador was financially stable and had recovered from the economic crisis of the 1980s. However, there are many challenges to be met in the future. For example, for the vast majority of rural residents, unemployment, under-employment, and extremely low wages combine to keep the standard of living low and the quality of life barely tolerable. The educational system has emphasized elementary and secondary education in urban areas. Even the ministers of education have recognized the inequality between rural and urban education, but none have succeeded in bringing rural education up to the urban level. The earthquakes of January 13 and February 13, 2001 destroyed many rural schools. It is imperative that the government builds more schools and improves the lack of adequate facilities, equipment, and personnel in rural areas. According to the Opicina de Referencia de Población (PRB), the population in El Salvador is estimated to reach twelve million by the year 2030. The departments with the most population are: San Salvador with 2,240 people per square kilometer, La Libertad with 413 people per square kilometer, and Sonsonate with 367 people per square kilometer; compared with 97 people per square kilometer in Chalatenango. El Salvador needs to create a politically aware population in order to reorganize. High levels of poverty, agricultural stagnation, environmental damage, and increasing social crime and violence are all issues that the country urgently needs to confront.


Bibliography

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Browning, David. "History of El Salvador." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations Americas. Detroit-New York: Worldmark Press, Ltd., 1997.

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Marta A. Umanzor

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EL SALVADOR

Republic of El Salvador

Major City:
San Salvador

Other Cities:
Acajutla, Ahuachapán, Cojutepeque, La Libertad, La Unión, Nueva San Salvador, San Miguel, San Vicente, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, Zacatecoluca

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated March 1992. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

EL SALVADOR , the smallest of the Central American republics, shares with its neighbors a history marked by frequent uprisings and unremitting political discontent. Years of power struggles, and their resultant abuses of human rights, created such international concern and pressure in the late 1970s that a provisional government was accepted to initiate political and economic reforms. Under a new constitution, formulated in 1983, support of democratic premises and policies was established. In January 1992, a peace accord was signed between the Salvadoran government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The pact ended a 12-year civil war between the two parties.

What is now El Salvador was once two large Indian states and several principalities whose inhabitants were Pipils, a nomadic Nahua tribe similar to the Aztecs. The area was claimed for Spain in 1525 by Pedro de Alvarado, and remained a Spanish colony until 1821 under the captaincy general of Guatemala. In 1823, it became one of the five states of the Federal Republic of Central America and, when this federation was dissolved 15 years later, El Salvador began its existence as an independent republic.

MAJOR CITY

San Salvador

San Salvador, the capital and principal city of the Republic of El Salvador, is located in the "Valley of the Hammocks" at the foot of San Salvador volcano (6,398 feet high), about 19 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is built on the volcanic belt which parallels the coast and, over the centuries, the city has suffered from such recurrent and severe earthquakes that it has had to be rebuilt frequently. Public buildings are constructed to resist shock, but an earthquake (measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale) rocked San Salvador October 10, 1986, killing 1400, injuring approximately 21,000, and heavily damaging the downtown area and the San Jacinto residential neighborhood. Two hundred aftershocks wrought additional destruction, and a state of emergency was declared. Among the buildings hit were all but one of the city's hospitals, and the U.S. Embassy on Avenida Norte.

The climate here is semitropical with distinct rainy and dry seasons, but no extreme seasonal temperature variations occur.

San Salvador is the economic, political, and cultural center of the country. It is an old city, established in 1524, and has been the country's capital since 1841, except for a three-year period in the mid-19th century. It is the site of a national university, founded almost 150 years ago.

The metropolitan population of San Salvador is 1.5 million, and includes the cities of Soyapongo, San Marcos, and Santa Tecla. While primarily Latin American in culture, many U.S. and Mexican influences are also apparent. Living standards of the Salvadorans belonging to the higher socioeconomic classes (and most foreigners) are comparable to those of the same strata in the U.S., although the standard is achieved at a greater cost. The city has modern, comfortable, fast-growing residential suburbs, several up-to-date shopping centers and supermarkets, and a less modern downtown area.

San Salvador hosts a large foreign colony, including about 3,000 U.S. citizens. Each year more North American tourists "discover" the country. Other principal groups in the city are Germans, Japanese, British, and other Latin Americans. The better educated Salvadoran frequently speaks English; however, local businessmen and officials often prefer to conduct business in Spanish. Almost no English is spoken in the open markets and other food markets in the city.

Education

The local educational system consists largely of private schools; the Spanish curriculum prepares students for entrance into Salvadoran universities. Few American children attend these schools.

School-aged dependents of Americans usually enroll at the American School (Escuela Americana). The institution is not U.S. Government-operated, but receives government support from grants and loans. It is a private, coeducational day school founded in 1946.

Located on a spacious 29-acre campus near San Salvador, Escuela Americana consists of 18 buildings, two cafeterias, three playing fields, four science labs, three computer labs, and two libraries with a total of 35,000 volumes.

Escuela Americana, in session from mid-August to late-June with a month-long recess over the Christmas holidays, maintains six subdivisions from preschool to high school levels. The preschool is for ages four to six; elementary school from grades one through five; junior high, grades six through eight; and the American high school, grades nine through 12.

Escuela Americana not only provides an American education at the elementary and secondary levels, but also serves to demonstrate American educational methods and practices. The schools are headed by an American principal and staffed by American and Salvadoran teachers.

The American high school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and follows a U.S. grading system. The high school curriculum is basically college preparatory. All students, grades one through 12, must study Spanish as a second language. Students also attend some classes that are taught in Spanish. Special efforts are made to help children who enroll without foreign-language capabilities.

The school has a small but active athletic program. Soccerthe national sportis played instead of American football. The school has no swimming pool. Basketball and volleyball are also played at Escuela Americana.

Special educational facilities in El Salvador are limited. Americans rarely attend local universities. Some local teachers offer private lessons in painting, crafts, ballet, and music.

Recreation

Soccer is the most popular spectator sport among Salvadorans, and is played nearly every Wednesday and Sunday in the capital's stadium. Basketball, baseball, and softball also are major attractions, and the usual participant sportsswimming, golf, tennis, squash, fishing, hunting, and boatingare available.

Several interesting scenic and recreational areas are located within El Salvador, but few have attractive overnight accommodations. Public parks in various parts of the country have picnic and swimming facilities, but these are overcrowded on Sundays and holidays.

The most frequently visited places are Ilopango, a large crater lake about 10 miles east of San Salvador, which has both public and private recreational facilities; Coatepeque, a similar lake about 40 miles to the west; and Cerro Verde, a mountain-top park with a spectacular view of the volcano Izalco and surrounding countryside. All are accessible for a day's outing. A government-operated hotel at Cerro Verde opened in 1975.

The beaches near La Libertad, about 23 miles west of San Salvador on the Pacific, are popular, but also can be treacherous because of the strong undertow, unpredictable currents, and the possibilities of sharks close to the shore. Few public facilities are available on these beaches. Some of the beaches have black volcanic sand; some have white sand.

Excellent saltwater fishing is found in a large estuary about 30 miles from San Salvador. Since rented boats are unavailable, most fishing is done on invitation by friends who own boats. A fishing license is not required. Dove and duck are plentiful anytime, with no hunting season or legal limitations. Firearms permits and hunting licenses are required by law.

The National Archaeological Museum has a collection of artifacts recovered from pre-Columbian times. An Indian pyramid at El Tazumal is located not far from the city of Santa Ana, another is near San Andrés where digs have taken place. The most prestigious recent archeological find is Joya de Ceren, an entire city preserved in volcanic ash. The site is still under investigation.

Guatemala City, four to five hours away by car, is the largest capital in Central America. The volcanic highlands region is strikingly beautiful and offers several spots with good, moderately priced hotel accommodations. The country's unchanged Indian culture is fascinating. Ruins from the ancient Mayan civilizations can be seen in El Salvador, Honduras (Copán), and Guatemala (Tikal). Many are accessible by car.

Entertainment

Entertainment facilities in San Salvador are limited to several comfortable cinemas that show American and European films (with Spanish subtitles), in addition to Latin American films and to an interesting and growing schedule of concerts. The Cine Presidente, a large national theater in the Colonia Benito area of the capital, is popular for both movies and concerts. The larger hotels, with dinner clubs and discotheques, are becoming popular. San Salvador has many good restaurants.

The American Society, open to all Americans in San Salvador, organizes luncheons, a Fourth of July picnic, and several other functions during the year. The American Women's Association has been active in various charitable activities; all English-speaking women in the city are eligible for membership.

OTHER CITIES

ACAJUTLA , with a population over 16,000, is situated near the Pacific coast, about 50 miles west of San Salvador. In 1524, the Spanish conquered the Indians and the city became a colonial port. As the country's major port, Acajutla exports coffee, balsam, and sugar. During summer, the city is a beach resort.

AHUACHAPÁN , in western El Salvador, is the capital of the department of the same name. It lies at the foot of La Lagunita volcano on the Río Molino. Its most important product is coffee. There are mineral baths here, drawn from hot springs located below the nearby Malacatiupan Falls. Ahuachapán has an estimated population of 20,000.

COJUTEPEQUE , a city of about 20,600 residents, is 22 miles east of the capital, near Lake Ilopango. It is a trading center; its market products include rice, sugarcane, cotton, and coffee. Known in El Salvador for its cigars and smoked meats, Cojutepeque's landmarks include a Palladian-style church. A large festival is held here every August 29 in honor of St. John.

LA LIBERTAD , located on the Pacific Ocean, is 20 miles south of San Salvador. It is the chief seaport and port of entry for the capital city. La Libertad exports coffee and sugar, and is also a beach resort. Agriculture and fishing are primary economic activities. The population is about 16,000.

LA UNIÓN is approximately 100 miles east of San Salvador on the Gulf of Fonseca, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. It is situated at the foot of the Conchagua volcano. With a population close to 57,000, La Unión is one of the country's major seaports, exporting cotton and livestock, as well as most of the foreign trade products. The city is situated at the southern terminus of a railroad system and is on the Inter-American Highway. La Unión was the scene of severe fighting during the civil war.

NUEVA SAN SALVADOR (formerly called Santa Telca) is located in west-central El Salvador, eight miles west of the capital. It was founded in 1854 after San Salvador was destroyed by an earthquake. When the capital was rebuilt, what is now Nueva San Salvador became a wealthy suburb. It is also in the midst of a coffee-growing region. The beach resort, Los Chorros, is nearby. The Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research is in the city. The estimated population is 120,000.

SAN MIGUEL , a commercial center, is situated about 65 miles east of San Salvador, at the foot of San Miguel volcano (6,057 feet). Founded in 1530, and with a population of more than 182,000, San Miguel produces vegetable oil, leather goods, textiles, rope, tobacco products, pottery, and flour, and has textile and dairy industries. The town's industries suffered disruptions during the early 1980s because of fighting between government troops and leftist guerrillas.

Located in a region of geysers and thermal springs, SAN VICENTE is at the foot of San Vicente volcano (7,155 feet). It is in central El Salvador, approximately 25 miles east of the capital. Originally the ancient Indian village of Tehuacán, the city was founded in 1635. It served as the capital (1834-39) and housed the national university (1854-59). Industries include textile manufacturing and sugar refining. San Vicente's population is over 20,000.

SANTA ANA is the second largest city in El Salvador and an important commercial and industrial center. Located in the northwestern part of the country, 50 miles from San Salvador, the city is also near the Santa Ana volcano which, at 7,828 feet, is the highest in the country. Santa Ana is the commercial and processing center for a region that raises sugarcane, coffee, and cattle. It also produces textiles, leather and wood products, cigars, and pottery. Industries include distilling and food processing. Historic landmarks include the Spanish Gothic cathedral and El Calvario colonial church. The population is approximately 213,000.

SONSONATE , about 40 miles west of San Salvador, is the commercial center of one of the richest agricultural regions in the country. Coffee, sugar, tobacco, and dairy products are produced here. Sonsonate, with a population of roughly 60,000, has two beautiful churches and is surrounded by parks and resorts located near the Izalco volcano. Colorful fiestas may be seen in the neighboring village of Asunción Izalco.

ZACATECOLUCA , in south-central El Salvador, is about 25 miles south of the capital. The city lies at the foot of the San Vicente volcano and has a population of around 26,000. Markets in Zacatecoluca include those for lumber, cement, salt, cotton goods, and baskets. The city was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1932. José Simeón Cañas, who successfully fought to end slavery in Central America, was born here.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Most of El Salvador is situated on a plateau (about 2,000 feet above sea level) on the Pacific slope of the Central American Cordillera. With an area of 8,260 square miles, it is the smallest independent mainland state in the Western Hemisphere. Roughly rectangular in shape, it is bordered on the west by Guatemala, on the north and east by Honduras, on the southeast by the Gulf of Fonseca (which separates El Salvador from Nicaragua), and on the south by the Pacific Ocean.

Mountain ranges running from east to west divide El Salvador into three distinct regions: a hot, narrow Pacific coastal belt on the south; a subtropical central region of valleys and plateaus, where most of the population lives; and a mountainous northern region. Ninety percent of the land is of volcanic origin and many places still bear volcanic scars. Almost all of the arable land is cultivated.

El Salvador's climate is modified by its elevation and, except for the hot, narrow coastal region, is semitropical. The capital city of San Salvador, 19 miles from the Pacific, has a pleasant climate. Daily temperatures here average 73°F and range from 50°F to 90°F. Cool evenings moderate the sometimes uncomfortably hot afternoon peak hours. The country has distinct dry and wet seasons. The dry season (December to April) is dusty, particularly in the country. The hottest time of the year (March and April) precedes the rainy interval. During the wet season (May to November), the rain is not continuous, but usually falls in early evening, and is sometimes accompanied by thunder and strong winds. Rain patterns change during the season, and some June and September mornings are overcast. Occasional two-or three-day rainy spells occur. Mildew and insects can become problems during this season. Annual rainfall in San Salvador averages 66 inches.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have been hazards in the past, and tremors occur periodically. Most tremors are felt during seasonal changes. A major earthquake in October 1986 caused damage to some sections of San Salvador and to other areas of the country. Hurricanes do not threaten El Salvador directly, but a strong Caribbean storm can generate heavy, damaging winds and rains as in 1974 with Hurricane Fifi.

Population

El Salvador is Central America's second most densely populated country, with an estimated 292 inhabitants per square mile. The population figure for 2000 was 5.9 million, of which roughly half was rural. The estimated annual growth rate is 1.85%. Because of unsettled conditions, many Salvadorans now live in neighboring countries and in the United States.

El Salvador's population is remarkably homogeneous with no significant minority. It comprises 90% mestizo, 9% Caucasian, and 1% Amerindian. The indigenous Indian population has been thoroughly assimilated, and only two or three Indian communities with native customs, dress, or dialects survive. Spanish is the national language and Roman Catholicism the predominant religion. Food varies from typically Latin to typically American. Clothing, houses, shopping facilities, and amusements in San Salvador resemble those in the U.S., but the atmosphere is distinctly Latin American.

Government

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

The most recent presidential election, in March 1999, was free and fair, but voter turnout was low (39%). ARENA presidential candidate Francisco Guillermo Flores Perez faced Facundo Guardado of the FMLN party and won with 52% of the votes. Since Flores received just over 50% of the votes, a runoff was not required. Francisco Guillermo Flores Perez of the ARENA party began his 5-year term as president in June 1999, and cannot succeed himself. In the March 2000 legislative races, FMLN won 31 seats in the Legislative Assembly, the ARENA won 29, the National Conciliation Party (PCN) 14, the PDC five, and the Coalition Democratic United Center (CDU) and National Action Party (PAN) won 3 and 2 seats, respectively.

As of March 2002, defections and realignments in the Assembly left ARENA with 29 seats, the FMLN with 26, the PCN, 15, and the FMLN-splinter "Renewal Movement (MR) " 5. The governing ARENA party retains a working majority (43) with its PCN allies. The defection of five FMLN dissidents (MR) also stripped the FMLN of its ability to block qualified (two-thirds) majorities required for major legislation, including approval of international loans and confirmation of supreme court justices. The FMLN retains the capital city of San Salvador, where Hector Silva was re-elected overwhelmingly in 2000. Low voter turnout (35% in 2000) remains a concern.

In accordance with 1992 peace agreements, the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances. Demobilization of Salvadoran military forces generally proceeded on schedule throughout the process. The Treasury Police, National Guard, and National Police were abolished, and military intelligence functions were transferred to civilian control. By 1993--9 months ahead of schedule--the military had cut personnel from a wartime high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF strength stood at less than 15,000, including uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, consisting of personnel in the army, navy, and air force. A purge of military officers accused of human rights abuses and corruption was completed in 1993 in compliance with the Ad Hoc Commission's recommendations. The military's new doctrine, professionalism, and complete withdrawal from political and economic affairs leave it the most respected institution in El Salvador.

The Red Cross, Caritas, the Green Cross, and other privately supported refugee relief organizations are active. Additional organizations, such as professional and university student associations and chambers of commerce, also have active programs in the country.

El Salvador is a member of the United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as the following international bodies: Inter-American Development Bank, International Wheat Council, Organization of American States (OAS), Central American Common Market, International Coffee Organization, and the Latin American Economic System.

The Salvadoran flag consists of three horizontal bands in light blue, white, and light blue, with a coat of arms on the white band.

Arts, Science, Education

In addition to overseeing the school system of El Salvador, the Ministry of Education maintains a Directorate General of Fine Arts, with schools of arts, music, and dance. It also sponsors the National Symphony Orchestra, the National Chorus, and National Theaters in San Salvador and Santa Ana.

The Ministry of Education maintains a national archaeological museum and sponsors several excavations of archaeological and anthropological interest. El Tazumal, located near the town of Chalchuapa in western El Salvador, is the major locale of pre-Columbian civilization in El Salvador. The site is open to visitors and includes a small museum. In San Salvador, the ministry sponsors a recently refurbished and expanded natural history museum and exhibit hall, with exhibits by local artists. Parks, recreational areas, and a zoo complete the city's leisure facilities.

The National Symphony Orchestra and the National Chorus give several concerts a year. The annual ballet season offers opportunities for students and professionals to perform. Several private art galleries exhibit the work of Salvadoran artists, and semiprofessional theater groups offer several plays a year. The Salvadoran Institute of Tourism (ISTU) also sponsors cultural events which include folkloric productions and music and dance festivals, often held outside the capital, as well as annual crafts festivals in Panchimalco and Nahuizalco.

The Salvadoran Cultural Center in San Salvador has a modest library of Spanish and English books. Classes in English and elementary Spanish are offered, and frequent art exhibits and concerts are sponsored here.

Many classes have resumed at El Salvador's National University, which was closed in 1980 because of political unrest. Numerous private universities have arisen with the encouragement and support of the Ministry of Education. The second-largest and oldest of these private institutions is the Jesuit-administered Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas; it offers courses in engineering, economics, administration, and the humanities. The university library has over 40,000 volumes and has embarked on an expansion program financed by the Inter-American Development Bank. Albert Einstein University, founded in 1976, offers courses in engineering and architecture to some 8,500 students. Universidad José Matias Delgado, with over 9,000 students, has courses in law, economics, and communications, and a recently established School for Agricultural Investigation in Santa Ana. The American School in San Salvador offers a two-year program in English. In 1995, an estimated 70% of Salvadorans could read and write.

Commerce and Industry

The Salvadoran economy continues to benefit from a commitment to free markets and careful fiscal management. The impact of the civil war on El Salvador's economy was devastating; from 1979-90, losses from damage to infrastructure and means of production due to guerrilla sabotage as well as from reduced export earnings totaled about $2.2 billion. But since attacks on economic targets ended in 1992, improved investor confidence has led to increased private investment.

Rich soil, moderate climate, and a hard-working and enterprising labor pool comprise El Salvador's greatest assets. Much of the improvement in El Salvador's economy is due to free market policy initiatives carried out by the Cristiani and Calderon Sol governments, including the privatization of the banking system, telecommunications, public pensions, electrical distribution and some electrical generation, reduction of import duties, elimination of price controls on virtually all consumer products, and enhancing the investment climate through measures such as improved enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Natural disasters continue to plaque the Salvadoran economy. The damage caused by Hurricane Mitch to infrastructure and to agricultural production reduced 1998 growth by an estimated 5%. Because of the earthquakes that struck the country in January and February, the economy grew less than 2% in 2001.

Fiscal policy has been the biggest challenge for the Salvadoran Government. The 1992 peace accords committed the government to heavy expenditures for transition programs and social services. Although international aid was generous, the government has focused on improving the collection of its current revenues. A 10% value-added tax, implemented in September 1992, was raised to 13% in July 1995. The VAT is estimated to have contributed 51% of total tax revenues in 1999, due mainly to improved collection techniques.

Large inflows of dollars in the form of family remittances from Salvadorans working in the United States offset a substantial trade deficit and support the exchange rate. The monthly average of remittances reported by the Central Bank is around $150 million, with the total estimated at more than $1.9 billion for 2001. As of December 1999, net international reserves equaled $1.8 billion or roughly 5 months of imports. Having this hard currency buffer to work with, the Salvadoran Government undertook a "monetary integration plan" beginning January 1, 2001, by which the dollar became legal tender along side the colón. No more colónes are to be printed, the economy is expected to be, in practice, fully dollarized, and the Central Reserve Bank dissolved, by late 2003. The FMLN is strongly opposed to the plan, regarding it as unconstitutional, and plans to make it an issue in the 2003 legislative elections.

Transportation

The usual mode of travel to El Salvador is by air. Ilopango International Airport is equipped for jet planes. Service is provided to the U.S. and Central American countries by TACA (Transportes Aéros Centro Americanos), LACSA (Líneas Aéreas Costarricenses), COPA (Compañía Panameña de Aviación), Belize Airways, and SAHSA (Servicio Aéreo de Honduras Sociedad Anonima).

Of the two main seaports in El Salvador, Acajutla is most important because of its all-weather dock facilities. Another port is Cutuco in La Unión. The Atlantic port generally used for surface freight shipments originating on the U.S. coast is Santo Tomás de Castilla, Guatemala, where cargo is loaded directly onto trucks bound for the Salvador customs warehouse.

Frequent bus service is available to all parts of the country, but is seldom used by Americans. In the cities, taxis are commonly used; they do not have meters, but operate on zone charges.

El Salvador's main roads are generally good, and most are paved. Back roads are often difficult and rough on both the passenger and the vehicle. Two principal branches of the Pan-American Highway pass through El Salvadorone crossing along the Pacific, the other at a more northerly point. Narrow roads, poor driving habits, livestock and pedestrians on the roads at night, and badly placed traffic signs constitute driving hazards.

The most practical mode of travel is by private car. Road transportation and a lack of recreational facilities within city areas make a car most desirable. An air-conditioned car, while not essential, makes traveling more enjoyable, especially because of the pollution from diesel vehicles. Driving is on the right.

Nearly all European and Japanese automobile manufacturers are represented in San Salvador. U.S. manufacturers are not well-represented and, for the most part, do not maintain spare parts in stock.

Communications

Telephone and telegraph service is available throughout El Salvador, with direct dialing to most of North America, South America, and Europe. International airmail is dependable; the rates are high for parcel post.

El Salvador's 75 commercial radio stations generally operate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Several FM stations, including one which presents classical music, broadcast in stereo. A guerrilla group operates its own station. Over 90% of the homes have radios. Shortwave reception is good for Voice of America (VOA) and Armed Forces Radio broadcasts. VOA also broadcasts a daily program in Spanish (Buenos Días America) on medium-wave (Radio Centroamericana).

El Salvador has four commercial television channels that transmit in color. Standard U.S. color receivers are used. All channels transmit at least 16 hours per day. Government-owned channels 8 and 10 are used for educational and informational purposes. Salvadoran TV presents many U.S. programs with Spanish soundtracks. TV sets are costly here. Video recorders are widely used, and several cassette clubs offer a wide selection of movies.

San Salvador has four leading newspapers, El Diario de Hoy, Diario Latino, El Mundo, and La Prensa Gráfica. The Santa Ana newspaper is Diario de Occidente. The Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times are home-delivered on an almost-daily basis, and international editions of Time, Newsweek, and European periodicals are sold at newsstands. The Union Church in San Salvador has an extensive lending library of paperbacks; these also can be purchased in the large hotels and from various bookshops.

Health

Many Americans use the Hospital de Diagnostico y Emergencias, a 155-bed general medical and surgical hospital with an emergency room. Standards are below those of U.S. hospitals. More complicated or serious illnesses are normally referred to Gorgas Hospital in the Canal Zone or to U.S. facilities. San Salvador has a good obstetrical center and maternity hospital, a satisfactory pediatric clinic, and an adequate emergency facility and hospital with 25 beds. Medical laboratories here have most of the necessary equipment. Nearly every medical specialization is represented in San Salvador by physicians who have received training in the U.S. or Europe, and who speak English. Satisfactory dental and orthodontic care is available at costs considerably below those in the U.S.

No water purification plant exists in San Salvador. Most water comes from deep wells or springs and is chlorinated; however, contamination is common because of the many cross constructions in the water distribution system. Potable bottled water is available, and tap water, boiled rapidly for 10 minutes, is also safe.

A food sanitation program is conducted by Salvadoran authorities, with routine inspections similar to those recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service, and carried out by trained sanitarians. Qualified veterinarians and sanitarians perform ante mortem and post mortem meat inspections. While modern meat markets have refrigeration facilities, most meat is not refrigerated either at slaughter or in distribution. Some control of poultry processing has improved sanitation, slaughtering, and packaging. San Salvador experiences frequent power failures, and refrigerated items are not always kept at the proper temperature. Caution should be used in buying foods the day after a power failure.

The country has no planned rabies control program as practiced in the U.S. Dogs are not required by law to be vaccinated against rabies, nor must they be leashed. At intervals, attempts are made to eliminate stray dogs.

The most serious health problems in El Salvador are intestinal diseases, including typhoid fever, and amoebic and bacillary dysentery. These diseases are usually caused by careless handling of food and contamination of food and water. Other diseases present are influenza, malaria, dengue fever (in the coastal regions), frequent colds, and hepatitis.

Clothing and Services

Except for the slightly cooler mornings and evenings during November, December, and January, little temperature change occurs in El Salvador. However, a lightweight wardrobe should be augmented with clothing suitable for travel to cooler areas such as Guatemala. Certain Central American ready-made garments (shirts, underwear, and casual trousers) are available and satisfactory. An umbrella is needed for the rainy season. A warm robe and slippers are useful. Clothing, especially leather, can mildew during the rainy season. It is unwise to use light bulbs in closets to counteract mildew, as they are a fire hazard. Electric dehumidifier rods are fireproof, more effective, and are available locally. Portable dehumidifiers are useful for home storage areas.

Cockroaches, grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects can damage clothing and upholstery; regular spraying with insecticides can eliminate nearly all of these problems. San Salvador has a number of satisfactory fumigating companies.

Several local firms make shoes of acceptable quality, but sizes do not follow the U.S. scale. Local cobblers can make leather boots at well below U.S. prices. Imported shoes are sometimes available, but at higher-than-U.S. prices.

Men wear lightweight clothing, such as tropical worsted, throughout the year. During cooler months, heavier suits of lightweight worsted are suitable for evening outdoor parties. Men wear shorts only on the beach and while participating in sports.

Salvadoran society quickly reflects U.S. women's fashion trends. Simple cocktail dresses (long and short) are suitable for most evening functions. Conservative, washable cotton/polyester knits and synthetic-blend dresses should be made of durable material, as the strong sunlight and frequent laundering quickly make even good fabrics look drab. Boutique prices in San Salvador are higher than in the U.S. Slacks are worn extensively in the city and for casual parties. Shorts are worn only at beaches, clubs, and homes, or for private parties.

Washable fabrics are preferable for children's clothes. Boys and girls wear clothing similar to that worn in summer in the U.S. Satisfactory children's shoes are available locally, but the quality is below that of the U.S. and replacements are required more often.

A wide variety of food is available in El Salvador. Cuts of meat often differ from those in the U.S., and quality meat is often higher in price.

Fresh vegetables are available throughout the year. All vegetables should be thoroughly washed, soaked, and peeled, or cooked before they are eaten.

A wide choice of tropical and semi-tropical fruit is available; temperate-zone fruits are imported and expensive. All fruit needs careful washing.

Pasteurized milk and cream are available, but quality is poor. Powdered and canned milk are also sold locally.

Tap water is not potable unless it is boiled. Local firms deliver bottled drinking water weekly, as well as beer, carbonated soft drinks, soda water, and tonic by the case.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Passage, Customs & Duties

El Salvador may be reached by commercial airlines which serve the capital from any part of the U.S., via Washington, DC, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Travel by ship is seldom undertaken, and is not recommended.

A current U.S. passport and a one-entry tourist card are required to enter El Salvador. The tourist card may be obtained from immigration officials for a ten-dollar fee upon arrival in country. Travelers who plan to remain in El Salvador for more than thirty days can apply for a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C. or from a Salvadoran consulate in the United States. Travelers may be asked to present evidence of U.S. employment and adequate finances for their visit at the time of visa application or upon arrival in El Salvador. An exit tax must be paid, either in Salvadoran colones or U.S. dollars, when departing El Salvador from Comalapa International Airport in La Paz. Travelers should be aware that airlines operating out of Comalapa International Airport require U.S. citizens to present a valid U.S. passport when boarding flights bound for the United States. Airlines will not accept Certificates of Naturalization or birth certificates in lieu of a U.S. passport, and information to the contrary should be disregarded. U.S. citizens traveling to El Salvador for any reason without a valid passport should apply for a passport in person at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador before attempting to return to the United States. Citizens applying for passports overseas are reminded that original proof of citizenship and identity is required before a passport can be issued. Photographic proof of identity is especially important for young children because of the high incidence of fraud involving children.

Americans living in or visiting El Salvador are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in the capital city, San Salvador, and obtain updated information on travel and security in El Salvador and neighboring countries. The U.S. Embassy is located at Final Boulevard Santa Elena, Urbanizacion Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, San Salvador; telephone 011-503-278-4444. The Embassy's web site can be accessed at http://www.usinfo.org.sv. The Consular Section provides services for U.S. citizens from 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on normal Embassy work days.

Pets

The following health requirements must be met for the importation of a pet: the animal must be vaccinated against rabies no less than 30 days before arrival in El Salvador, and a certificate from a qualified veterinarian is required, stating that the animal is free from contagious diseases. Shots against distemper, leptospirosis, and gastroenteritis parvo-viral are required. If a bird is imported, the veterinary certificate must show that the bird is free of pullorum and laryngotracheitis; this must be issued within 30 days before arrival of the bird and certified by the nearest Salvadoran consul.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The time in El Salvador is Greenwich Mean Time minus six (the same as Central Time in the United States).

The monetary unit of El Salvador is the colón, but U.S. dollars are widely used.

El Salvador officially uses the metric system of weights and measures but, because of its proximity to the U.S. and the extensive trade between the two countries, U.S. standards are fairly well known and used. Gasoline, for example, is sold by the gallon rather than by the liter, and foods are sold by the pound.

Disaster Preparedness

El Salvador is an earthquake-prone country. There is also the risk of flooding and landslides. An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated much of El Salvador in January 2001. A second earthquake in February 2001 measured 6.6 on the Richter scale and caused significant additional damage and loss of life. The damage was most severe in the southern half of El Salvador between the cities of San Salvador and San Miguel. While reconstruction efforts are underway and the country is returning to normal, experts indicate that it is common for aftershocks to occur for months or longer following a major earthquake. There also is continuing danger from landslides, particularly during the rainy season that runs from May through October. The most recent data on flood and landslide risk can be found on the Government of El Salvador's web page at http://www.rree.gob.sv.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Holy Thursday*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Holy Saturday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

May 1 Salvadoran Labor Day

Aug. Feasts of San Salvador*

Sept.15 Salvadoran Independence

Nov. 1 All Saints' Day

Nov. 2 All Souls' Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

*Variable

RECOMMENDED READING

The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Americas Watch Staff. El Salvador's Decade of Terror: Human Rights Since the Assassination of Archbishop Romero. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.

Bachelis, Faren Maree. El Salvador. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1990.

Barry, Tom. El Salvador: A Country Guide. 2nd ed., Albuquerque, NM: Inter-Hemisphere Education Resource Center, 1991.

Cheney, Glenn Alan. El Salvador: Country in Crisis. 2nd ed., New York: F. Watts, 1990.

Classen, Susan. Vultures & Butterflies: Living the Contradictions. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1992.

Cummins, Ronnie. El Salvador. Milwaukee, WI: G. Stevens Children's Books, 1990.

Diskin, Martin. Reform Without Change in El Salvador: The Political War in the Countryside. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.

Golden, Renny, ed. The Hour of the PoorThe Hour of Women: Salvadoran Women Tell Their Stories. New York: Crossroad NY, 1991.

Haverstock, Nathan A. El Salvador in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1987.

Krauss, Clifford. Inside Central America: Its People, Politics, and History. Summit Books: 1991.

Kufeld, Adam. El Salvador. New York: W.W. Norton, 1990.

Lido-Fuentes, Hector. Weak Foundations: The Economy of El Salvador in the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990.

Prisk, Courtney E., ed. The Comandante Speaks: Memoirs of an El Salvadoran Guerilla Leader. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

Ramos, Arnoldo. El Salvador. New York: W.W. Norton, 1990.

Smyth, Frank. Wayward War: El Salvador & the American Global Vision. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.

Wright, Scott, et al., eds. El Salvador: A Spring Whose Waters Never Run Dry. Washington, DC: PICA, 1990.

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EL SALVADOR

Compiled from the December 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of El Salvador

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-SALVADORAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 21,476 sq. km. (8,260 sq. mi.); about the size of Massachusetts.

Cities: Capital—San Salvador (pop. 1.7 million). Other cities—Santa Ana San Miguel, Soyapango, and La Union.

Terrain: Mountains separate country in to three distinct regions—southern coastal belt, central valleys and plateaus, and northern mountains.

Climate: Semitropical, distinct wet and dry seasons.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Salvadoran(s).

Population: (2000) 6.3 million.

Annual growth rate: (2002) 2.1%.

Ethnic groups: Mestizo 90%, indigenous 1%, Caucasian 9%.

Religion: About 55% Roman Catholic, with significant and growing numbers of Protestant groups.

Language: Spanish.

Education: Free through ninth grade. Attendance (grades 1-9)—85%. Literacy—83.5 nationally; 73.5% in rural areas.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2000)—35/1,000. Life expectancy at birth (2002)—70 years.

Work force: (about 2.4 million) Agriculture—22%; services—18.7%; commerce —27.2%; manufacturing—17.6%; construction—5.4%; transportation and communication—4.6% other—4.5%.


Government

Type: Republic.

Constitution: December 20, 1983.

Independence: September 15, 1821.

Branches: Executive—President and Vice President. Legislative—84-member Legislative Assembly. Judicial—independent (Supreme Court).

Administrative subdivisions: 14 departments.

Political parties: (represented in the Legislature) Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), National Conciliation Party (PCN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), and the United Democratic Center (CDU).

Suffrage: Universal at 18.


Economy (2002)

GDP: $14.3 billion.

Annual growth rate: 2.1%.

Per capita income: $2,189.

Agriculture: (12% of GDP) Products—coffee, sugar, livestock, corn, poultry, and sorghum. Arable, cultivated, or pasture land—64%.

Industry: (22% of GDP) Types—food and beverage processing, textiles, footwear and clothing, chemical products, petroleum products, electronics.

Trade: Exports—$2.9 billion: textiles, diverse manufactures, coffee, sugar, and shrimp. Major markets—U.S. 67%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 24.7%, Panama and Mexico 2.7, Germany 1.2%. Imports—$5.19 billion: consumer goods, foodstuffs, capital goods, raw industrial materials, and petroleum. Major suppliers—U.S. 49.6%, CACM 15.8%, Mexico 5.6%, Panama 3%, Japan 2.6%.


PEOPLE

El Salvador's population numbers about 6.3 million. Almost 90% is of mixed Indian and Spanish extraction. About 1% is indigenous; very few Indians have retained their customs and traditions. The country's people are largely Roman Catholic and Protestant. Spanish is the language spoken by virtually all inhabitants. The capital city of San Salvador has about 1.7 million people; an estimated 42% of El Salvador's population live in rural areas.


HISTORY

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


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

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


Political Landscape

Roberto D'Aubuisson and other hard-line conservatives, including some members of the military, created the Nationalist Republican Alliance party (ARENA) in 1981. D'Aubuisson's electoral fortunes were diminished by credible reports that he was involved in organized political violence. ARENA almost won the election in 1984, with solid private sector and rural farmer support. By 1989, ARENA had attracted the support of business groups. Allegations of corruption by the ruling Christian Democratic party, poor relations with the private sector, and historically low prices for the nation's main agricultural exports also contributed to ARENA victories in the 1988 legislative and 1989 presidential elections.

The 1989-94 Cristiani administration's successes in achieving a peace agreement to end the civil war and in improving the nation's economy helped ARENA—led by former San Salvador mayor Armando Calderon Sol—keep both the presidency and a working majority in the Legislative Assembly in the 1994 elections. ARENA's legislative position was weakened in the 1997 elections, but it recovered its strength, helped by divisions in the opposition, in time for another victory in the 1999 presidential race that brought President Flores to office. A presidential election is scheduled for March 2004.


In March 2003 legislative and municipal elections, ARENA won 27 seats in the Legislative Assembly and 111 mayoral races. FMLN won 31 seats in the Legislative Assembly and 74 mayorships, including most major population centers. The right wing National Conciliation Party (PCN), which ruled the country in alliance with the military from the 1960s until 1979, maintains a mainly rural electoral base and gained 16 seats in the March 2003 legislative election. The formerly powerful Christian Democratic Party (PDC), which held the presidency during the 1980s and still maintains several dozen mayoralties, is now down to five seats in the Legislative Assembly and is no longer a significant electoral force. The fifth party in the Legislative Assembly is the United Democratic Center (CDU), led in the Assembly by the popular former FMLN mayor of San Salvador, Hector Silva. The CDU also holds five seats.


Human Rights and Post-War Reforms

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


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


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


National Civilian Police

The new civilian police force, created to replace the discredited public security forces, deployed its first officers in March 1993, and was present throughout the country by the end of 1994. As of 2002, the PNC has about 16,500 officers. The United States, through the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), has led international support for the PNC and the National Public Security Academy (ANSP), providing about $32 million in nonlethal equipment and training since 1992. The ICITAP programs plans to spend $1 million on assistance to the PNC in 2002. The ICITAP mission is to help the ANSP and the PNC to develop more experience in police techniques and procedures and assist with the development of an efficient operation and administration.


Judiciary

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


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 6/18/03


President: Flores Perez, Francisco

Vice Pres.: Quintanilla, Carlos

Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Urrutia, Loucel, Salvador

Min. of Defense: Varela, Juan Antonio Martinez, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Economy: Lacayo, Miguel

Min. of Education: Marin, Rolando

Min. of Environment & Natural Resources: Jokisch, Walter

Min. of Foreign Relations: De Avila, Maria Eugenia Brizuela

Min. of Governance: Lopez Andreu, Conrado

Min. of Health: Lopez Beltran, Jose

Min. of Labor & Social Welfare: Nieto, Menendez, Jorge Isidoro

Min. of Public Works: Quiros, Jose Angel

Min. of Treasury: Daboub, Juan Jose

Attorney General: Artiga, Belisario

Pres., Central Reserve Bank: Serpas de Portillo, Luz Maria

Ambassador to the US: Leon, Rodriguez, Rene Antonio

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Lagos Pizzati, Victor Manuel



El Salvador maintains an embassy in the United States at 2308 California Street NW, Washington, DC, 20008 (tel: 202-265-9671). There are consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco.


ECONOMY

The Salvadoran economy continues to benefit from a commitment to free markets and careful fiscal management. The impact of the civil war on El Salvador's economy was devastating. From 1979-90, losses from damage to infrastructure and means of production due to guerrilla sabotage as well as from reduced export earnings totaled about $2.2 billion. But since attacks on economic targets ended in 1992, improved investor confidence has led to increased private investment.


Moderate climate and a hard-working and enterprising labor pool comprise El Salvador's greatest assets. Much of the improvement in El Salvador's economy is a result of free market policy initiatives carried out by the ARENA governments, including the privatization of the banking system, telecommunications, public pensions, electrical distribution and some electrical generation, reduction of import duties, elimination of price controls, and enhancing the investment climate through measures such as improved enforcement of intellectual property rights.

One of the biggest challenges in El Salvador has been to manage the decline in the coffee sector, formerly the backbone of the economy, and to develop new growth sectors for a more diversified economy. The collapse of worldwide coffee prices has caused substantial reduction in coffee production and decreased rural employment. While as recently as 1988, coffee exports accounted for more than half of export earnings; in 2002 they were 3.5%. El Salvador has sought to create new export industries through fiscal incentives for Free Trade Zones, and currently there are 15 Free Trade Zones in El Salvador. The largest beneficiary has been the maquila industry, which directly provides 90,000 jobs, and primarily consists of cutting and assembling clothes for export to the United States. The apparel industry has greatly benefited from the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, which allows these goods to enter the United States duty free under certain conditions.


Fiscal policy has been the biggest challenge for the Salvadoran Government. The 1992 peace accords committed the government to heavy expenditures for transition programs and social services. Although international aid was generous, the government has focused on improving the collection of its current revenues. A 10% value-added tax, implemented in September 1992, was raised to 13% in July 1995. The VAT is the biggest source of revenue, accounting for about 58% of total tax revenues in 2002.


Remittances from Salvadorans working in the United States sent to family members are the biggest-single source of foreign income and offset the substantial trade deficit. Remittances transferred through the banking system and, therefore, counted by the Central Bank, have increased steadily in the last decade and reached an all time high of $1.93 billion in 2002—13.6% of GDP. As of February 2003 net international reserves equaled $1.6 billion. Beginning January 1, 2001, the Salvadoran Government approved the "Monetary Integration" law that made the U.S. dollar legal tender along side the colón. Dollars have gradually replaced colóns, which are no longer printed. In practice the economy has become dollarized, with the colon only used in isolated rural areas.

El Salvador obtains concessional loans for development projects from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, the Bank for Central American Integration, and certain other international institutions. Starting in August 1999, El Salvador also has sold bonds in private international financial markets. These sales have been used to fund Salvadoran Government operations. As of February 2003, the Salvadoran Government has sold $2.15 billion in bonds. El Salvador's external debt in early 2003 was about $5.07 billion.


Natural Disasters

El Salvador suffered from two earthquakes at the beginning of 2001 and from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Hurricane Mitch hit El Salvador in late October 1998, generating extreme rainfall of which caused widespread flooding and landslide s. Roughly 65,200 hectares were flooded, and 374 people were either killed or remain missing. The areas that suffered the most were the low-lying coastal zones, particularly in the floodplain of the Lempa and San Miguel Grande Rivers.


Reconstruction from Mitch was still underway when in January and February 2001 the country experienced two devastating earthquakes that left nearly 2,000 people dead or missing, 8,000 injured, and caused severe dislocations across all sectors of Salvadoran society. Nearly 25% of all private homes in the country were either destroyed or badly damaged, and 1.5 million persons were left without housing. Hundreds of public buildings were damaged or destroyed, and sanitation and water systems in many communities put out of service. The total cost of the damage was estimated at between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.


Response

The Hurricane Mitch disaster prompted a tremendous response from the international community governments, nongovernmental organizations, and private citizens alike. The U.S. Government has provided $37.7 million in assistance through USAID and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Defense.


Following the 2001 earthquakes, the U.S. Government responded immediately to the emergency, with military helicopters active in initial rescue operations, delivering emergency supplies, rescue workers, and damage assessment teams to stricken communities all over the country. USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance had a team of experts working with Salvadoran relief authorities immediately after both quakes, and provided assistance totaling more than $14 million. In addition, the Department of Defense provided an initial response valued at more than $11 million. For long-term reconstruction, the international community offered a total aid package of $1.3 billion, more than $168 million of it from the United States.


Manufacturing

El Salvador historically has been the most industrialized nation in Central America, though a decade of war eroded this position. The industrial sector has shifted since 1993 from a primarily domestic orientation to include free zone manufacturing for export. maquila exports have led the growth in the export sector and have made an important contribution to the Salvadoran economy.


Trade

Exports in 2002 grew 4.5% while imports grew 3.3%. As in previous years, the large trade deficit was offset family remittances and to a much lesser degree foreign aid. El Salvador is pursuing an aggressive strategy to increase exports, especially manufactured and nontraditional products, and to attract foreign investment. The negotiation of trade agreements that reduce trade and investment barriers is a central part of this effort. The biggest of these negotiations are the ongoing U.S.-Central American free trade agreement (CAFTA) talks. The CAFTA negotiations are expected to conclude December 2003. El Salvador has already signed free trade agreements with Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Panama, and increased its exports to those countries. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua also are negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada. The five Central American countries are considering creating a Customs Union, and they have already harmonized their customs duties and numerous products.

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


FOREIGN RELATIONS

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


U.S.-SALVADORAN RELATIONS

U.S.-Salvadoran relations remain close and strong. U.S. policy toward El Sal vador seeks to promote the strengthening of El Salvador's democratic institutions, rule of law, judicial reform, and civilian police and national reconciliation and reconstruction, economic opportunity, and growth.


U.S. ties to El Salvador are dynamic and growing. More than 12,000 American citizens live and work full-time in El Salvador. Most are private businesspersons and their families, but a small number of American citizen retirees have been drawn to El Salvador by favorable tax conditions. The embassy's consular section provides the full range of visa, passport, federal benefit, absentee voting, and related citizenship services to this community. The American Chamber of Commerce in El Salvador is located at 87 Avenida Norte No. 720, Apto. A, Colóni a Escalon, San Salvador, El Salvador (tel: 011-503-223-3292; fax: 011-503-224-6856).


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

San Salvador (E), Final Blvd. Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, Unit 3116, APO AA 34023, Tel (503) 278–4444, Fax 278–6011; AID Tel 298–1666, Fax 298–0885; ECO/COM Tel 234-2434, Fax 298–2336; GSO Fax 278–3347; ADM Tel 234–2232, Fax 289–4591; PC Tel 263–8517/8604/03; Fax 263-8420. Website: www.usinfo.org.sv/www.sansalvador.state.gov

AMB: Rose M. Likins
AMB OMS: Carol Scannell
DCM: Philip C. French
POL: Anne E. Pforzheimer
PAO: Catherine Jarvis
ECO/COM: Matthew M. Rooney
CG: James W. Herman
MGT: Andrew W. Oltyan
RSO: Michael W. Poehlitz
GSO: John D. Manuel
FMO: Thomas Doherty
RHRO: Marilyn Sende
IMO: Charles E. Fleenor
DAO: COL Jerry Zayas
AID/DIR: Mark Silverman
MILGP: COL Felix L. Santiago
AGR: Frank A. Coolidge (res. Guatemala)
APHIS/DIR: Dr. Elizabeth Davis (res. Guatemala)
PC: Michael L. Wise
DEA: James Rose
INS: Edward Sotomayor
RIG: Timothy Cox
ICITAP: Louis Cobarruviaz
FAA: Ruben Quinonez (res. Miami)
FAA/CASLO: Mary Lake (res. Miami)
FAA/MIA/FSID: Javier Rodriguez (res. Miami)
IRS: Fred Dulas (res. Mexico City)
LEGATT: Eliasib Ortiz, Jr. (res. Miami)
LAB: Julie Schechter
JUS: Gregory Stevens
USGS: Rafael Rodriguez

Last Modified: Monday, December 15, 2003


Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 202-482-1658
1-(800) USA-TRADE
Fax: 202-482-0464


Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075


TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
December 24, 2003


Country Description: El Salvador has a developing economy. Sixty-two percent of the population is urban, and per capita income was 2,080 U.S. dollars in 2002, according to the World Bank. Tourism facilities are not fully developed. The capital is San Salvador, accessible by El Salvador's International Airport at Comalapa. Both the dollar and colon are now legal tender in El Salvador with a fixed exchange rate of 8.75 colones to the U.S. dollar. Over 90 percent of the currency in circulation is U.S. dollars.


Entry and Exit Requirements: Required to enter the country are a current U.S. passport and either a Salvadoran visa or a one-entry tourist card. The tourist card may be obtained from immigration officials for a ten-dollar fee upon arrival in country. Travelers who plan to remain in El Salvador for more than thirty days can apply in advance for a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C. or from a Salvadoran consulate in the United States. Travelers may be asked to present evidence of U.S. employment and adequate finances for their visit at the time of visa application or upon arrival in El Salvador. An exit tax of 27 dollars and 15 cents must be paid when departing El Salvador from the international airport.


Airlines operating out of El Salvador International Airport require U.S. citizen passengers boarding flights for the United States to have a current U.S. passport. U.S. citizens applying for passports at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador are reminded that proof of citizenship and identity are required before a passport can be issued. Photographic proof of identity is especially important for young children because of the high incidence of fraud involving children. Since the National Passport Center in New Hampshire, and not the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, issues U.S. passports, citizens submitting applications in El Salvador should be prepared to wait approximately one week for receipt of their new passports.

The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador reminds U.S. citizen travelers that their activities in El Salvador are limited to those prescribed by Salvadoran law and the type of visa they are issued. Under Salvadoran law, all foreigners who participate directly or indirectly in the internal political affairs of the country lose the right to remain in El Salvador, regardless of visa status or residency in El Salvador.


In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure. Minors traveling on Salvadoran passports and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party must have the written permission of the absent parent(s) or legal guardian to depart El Salvador. This document must be notarized by a Salvadoran notary. If the absent parent(s) or legal guardian is (are) outside of El Salvador, the document must be notarized by a Salvadoran consul. If a court decree gives custody of the child to one parent, the decree and a passport will allow the custodial parent to depart El Salvador with the child. Although Salvadoran officials generally do not require written permission for non-Salvadoran minors traveling on U.S. or other non-Salvadoran passports, it would be prudent for the parents of minor children traveling on U.S. passports to provide similar documentation if both parents are not traveling with the children.


For additional information on entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of El Salvador at 2308 California Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 387-6511, Internet address http://www.elsalvador.org; or a Salvadoran consulate in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Long Island, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C.


Safety and Security: The criminal threat in El Salvador is critical. Random and organized violent crime is endemic throughout the country. U.S. citizens have not been singled out, but are subject to the same threat as all other persons in El Salvador. Traveling on the roads after dusk is dangerous for security and traffic safety reasons.


The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised, to avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark, and to avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable, even in the capital.


Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital, is risky and is not recommended. The Embassy advises official visitors to use radio dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.


Given political tensions in the country, demonstrations, sit-ins or other related protests may occur at any time and any place, but are most frequent in the capital or on the main access roads. U.S. citizens are cautioned to avoid areas where demonstrations are being held and to follow local news media reports or call the U.S. Embassy for up-to-d ate information.


Many Salvadorans are armed, and shootouts are not uncommon. Foreigners, however, may not carry guns even for their own protection without first procuring a firearms license from Salvadoran officials. Failure to do so will result in detention and confiscation of the firearm, even if it is licensed in the United States.

Mine removal efforts ceased several years ago, but land mines and unexploded ordnance in backcountry regions still pose a threat to off-road tourists, backpackers and campers.


Visitors to the beach areas of El Salvador should use caution when swimming in the Pacific Ocean due to strong undertow currents along much of the coast. Two American citizens drowned in 2002 and another in 2003 while swimming in the Pacific Ocean.


For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.


The Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.


Crime: The U.S. Embassy considers El Salvador a critical crime threat country. Both violent and petty crimes are prevalent throughout El Salvador, and U.S. citizens have been among the victims. Travelers should avoid carrying valuables in public places. Passports and other important documents should not be left in private vehicles. Armed assaults and carjackings take place both in San Salvador and in the interior of the country, but are especially frequent on roads outside the capital where police patrols are scarce. Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the international airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot.

Kidnappings for ransom continue to occur but have decreased in frequency since 2001. U.S. citizens in El Salvador should exercise caution at all times and practice good personal security procedures throughout their stay.


U.S. citizens using banking services should be vigilant and cautious while conducting their financial exchanges either inside local banks or at an automated teller machine. There have been several reports of armed robberies of people who appear to have been followed from the bank after completing their transactions.


Visitors to El Salvador should use caution when climbing volcanoes or hiking in other remote locations. Armed robberies of climbers and hikers are common.


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.


U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: Medical care is limited. Emergency services, even in San Salvador, are very basic. Ambulance services are not staffed by trained personnel and lack life-saving necessities such as oxygen. Physicians in the major hospitals are generally well-trained, often in U.S. hospitals, but nursing and support staff are not up to U.S. standards. State-of-the-art technology for dealing with medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Most hospitals accept credit cards for hospital charges, but not for doctors' fees.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas health care provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.


Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, please consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.


Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning El Salvador is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstances.


Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair to Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor


Road conditions throughout El Salvador are not up to U.S. standards. Major roads are being rebuilt following the earthquakes in 2001. Minibuses, buses and taxis are often poorly maintained. Drivers are often not trained, and generally do not adhere to traffic rules and regulations. The U.S. Embassy recommends that its personnel avoid using minibuses and buses, and use only taxis that are radio-dispatched. Robberies and assaults on buses are commonplace. Further information on traffic and road conditions is available in Spanish from Automovil Club de El Salvador, at telephone number 011-503-221-0557 or via the Internet at http://www.aces.com.sv.

Because of inconsistent enforcement of traffic laws in El Salvador, safe drivers must make an extraordinary effort to drive defensively. Passing on blind corners is commonplace. Salvadoran law requires that the driver of a vehicle that injures or kills another person must be arrested and detained until a judge can determine responsibility for the accident. This law is uniformly enforced.


Visitors to El Salvador may drive on their U.S. license for up to thirty days. After that time they are required to obtain a Salvadoran license.


For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://www.travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning El Salvador driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the El Salvador national tourist organization offices at http://www.elsalvadorturismo.gob.sv/. See also road safety information from other sources in El Salvador at http://www.aces.com.sv.


Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of El Salvador's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 — in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of El Salvador's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.


The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Customs Regulations: El Salvador customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from El Salvador of items such as firearms. Foreigners may not carry guns even for their own protection without first procuring a firearms license from Salvadoran officials. Failure to do so will result in detention and confiscation of the firearm, even if it is licensed in the United States. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington or one of El Salvador's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating El Salvador's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in El Salvador are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. The Salvadoran constitution prohibits foreigners from participating in domestic partisan political activities, including public demonstrations. To do so is a violation of visa status, punishable by detention, fines, and/or deportation.


Special Circumstances: Travelers intending to carry cell phones from the United States should check with their service provider to determine if the service will be available in El Salvador. Credit cards are acceptable for payment in many but not all retail stores and restaurants in major cities. Automatic teller machines with access to major U.S. bank networks are widely available in San Salvador but less prevalent elsewhere in the country.

Disaster Preparedness: El Salvador is an earthquake-prone country. There is also the risk of flooding and landslides during the rainy season (June to November). General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.


An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale devastated much of El Salvador on January 13, 2001. A second earthquake on February 13, 2001, measured 6.6 on the Richter Scale, and caused significant additional damage and loss of life. Reconstruction efforts continue and the country is returning to normal. The most recent data on flood and landslide risk can be found on the Government of El Salvador's web page at http://www.rree.gob.sv.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html, or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and abductions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration and Location: Americans living in or visiting El Salvador are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador and obtain updated information on travel and security in El Salvador and neighboring countries.


The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador is located at Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur, Urbanizacion Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, telephone 011-503-278-4444. The Embassy's website can be accessed at http://elsalvador.usembassy.gov/consular2/. The Consular Section is open for U.S. citizen services from 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. weekdays, excluding U.S. and Salvadoran holidays.


For any questions concerning U.S. visas for either temporary travel to or permanent residence in the U.S., please contact our regional U.S. Visa Information Center by purchasing a VISAS-USA calling card from any place that sells Telefonica phone cards. Calling instructions are on the back of the card. From the U.S., the Center can be called by dialing 818-755-8425 and charging the call to a Visa or MasterCard credit card.

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El Salvador

The State of El Salvador developed around its capital, San Salvador. About fifty miles wide and less than two hundred miles in length along a volcanic chain paralleling the Pacific coast, it is the only state in Central America without a Caribbean shoreline. It is bounded on the south by the Pacific Ocean, on the west and northwest by Guatemala, on the north and east by Honduras, and on the southeast by the Gulf of Fonseca, which it shares with Honduras and Nicaragua. Much of the population lives in valleys at altitudes of between 2,000 and 3,000 feet above sea level. El Salvador's fertile valleys and coastal plain have determined much of its modern history, as agricultural exports have been responsible for both the enrichment of a small landed oligarchy and the impoverishment of the rural masses.

The smallest of the Central American states in area (8,124 square miles), its population of 6.82 million (2006 estimate) makes it the most densely populated country in Latin America (839.8 per square mile) and second only to neighboring Guatemala in total population among the states that formerly comprised the Kingdom of Guatemala. Its population grew especially during the twentieth century, when after rising at a rate of about 1.5 percent in the nineteenth century its annual growth rate increased to more than 3 percent in the twentieth century before moderating to 1.72 percent by 2006 (see Table 1).

THE COLONIAL PERIOD

Although Mayans inhabited El Salvador before its conquest by Pedro de Alvarado in 1524, Nahuatl peoples from Mexico were also important, and the aggressive and industrious Pipil have, at least in the country's mythology, been given credit for Salvadorans' greater tendency toward those traits than other Central Americans.

Throughout most of the colonial period San Salvador was part of the province of Guatemala, within the Kingdom of Guatemala in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. It was subdivided into alcaldías mayores centered on the towns of San Salvador, San Miguel, San Vicente, Santa Ana, and Sonsonate.

In the eighteenth century the rise of indigo production under the impetus of Bourbon economic policy brought changes to El Salvador that would lead to its emergence as a separate political unit. The establishment of the intendancy of San Salvador in 1786, although it remained within the Kingdom of Guatemala, marked the beginning of Salvadoran nationalism, a sentiment encouraged by several of its intendants, who defended and promoted Salvadoran economic interests. Smaller indigo planters chafed under the economic dominance of Guatemalan merchant capitalists, who financed the export trade, whereas the Salvadoran clergy objected both to the anticlericalism of the Bourbons and to the conservative ecclesiastical hierarchy in Guatemala City. They demanded a separate diocese for San Salvador, which remained under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Guatemala.

In Guatemala, earthquakes in 1773 had destroyed the capital city, Antigua Guatemala, resulting in a decision to move to a new site, present-day Guatemala City. Disruption of the kingdom's capital coincided with the rise of Salvadoran indigo as the leading agricultural export of the kingdom and caused many Salvadoran Creoles to favor, unsuccessfully, moving the capital to San Salvador, heightening their rivalry with Guatemala City.

These issues became more acute at the close of the colonial period when severe economic decline troubled the kingdom. Regional separatism and resentment toward conservative Guatemala made San Salvador a hotbed of liberalism in the nineteenth century. An abortive independence attempt in 1811, led by Father José Matías Delgado, reflected that sentiment but was crushed by military force from Guatemala under the command of a new intendant, José de Aycinena, scion of the most powerful Guatemalan merchant family. This defeat intensified Salvadoran resentment toward Guatemala.

INDEPENDENCE TO 1900

Independence from Spain came fairly suddenly on September 15, 1821, when a meeting of notables in Guatemala City endorsed Mexican Agustín de Iturbide's Plan of Iguala. Officials in San Salvador accepted and proclaimed the act on September 21, and on September 29, Salvadoran Creoles met and issued their own declaration of independence from Spain, but they resisted incorporation into Iturbide's Mexican Empire and sought to end El Salvador's subordination to Guatemala. In the resulting military conflict, San Salvador surrendered in 1823 after a long siege by a Mexican-Guatemalan force led by Vicente Filísola, but in the meantime the Mexican Empire itself collapsed. Salvadorans successfully led the movement to declare Central America independent of Mexico, and on July 1, 1823, El Salvador became an autonomous state in the United Provinces of the Center of America.

Estimated population of El Salvador, 1821–2050
Year Population Density (per sq. km)
Source: Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., "Crecimiento de población en Centroamérica durante la primera mitad del siglo de la independencia nacional," Mesoamérica (Antigua, Guatemala: El Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica, 1980), pp. 219-231; James W. Wilkie, ed., Statistical Abstract of Latin America, vol. 28 (1990): 9, 114, 122; "El Salvador Facts and Figures," MSN Encarta, available from http://encarta.msn.com/fact_631504759/El_Salvador_Facts_and_Figures.html.
1821248,00011.8
1850366,00017.4
1900800,00038.0
19501,860,00088.4
19804,525,000215.1
20006,739,000320.3
20066,822,378839.8
20259,107,6081,121.1
205012,039,1491,481.9
Table 1

The deep animosities that developed during the independence process and the strong differences between the liberal and conservative approaches to national development plagued the administration of the new federal president, a Salvadoran military officer named Manuel José Arce, elected under the constitution of 1824. The takeover of the federal government by Guatemalan conservatives led to civil war from 1826 to 1829, principally between El Salvador and Guatemala, although Hondurans and Nicaraguans were also involved. Liberal victory, under the leadership of a Honduran general, Francisco Morazán, restored Salvadoran importance in the Central American federation, and San Salvador became its capital in 1835, after having first moved from Guatemala to Sonsonate in 1834.

The Pipil people of El Salvador, however, resisted development efforts, taxes, and reforms that threatened their lands and customs. Under the leadership of Anastasio Aquino, a violent Indian uprising threatened the stability of the government in 1833. Although Morazán's forces were able to suppress this uprising, it weakened the liberals considerably. On the heels of that revolt came a similar but successful peasant uprising in Guatemala that toppled the liberal government of that state and led to the collapse of the federation when the Guatemalan caudillo Rafael Carrera defeated Morazán decisively at Guatemala City in March 1840. Conservative strength in Nicaragua and Costa Rica sealed the fate of the federation as each of the individual states began to go its separate way. Carrera's iron rule in Guatemala from 1839 to 1865 influenced El Salvador through much of the mid-nineteenth century, curtailing the liberal and unionist strength there. El Salvador was the last of the Central American states to declare itself formally a separate, sovereign republic, in 1856.

The rise of General Gerardo Barrios Espinosa after 1858 marked liberal resurgence in El Salvador. Barrios had commanded the Salvadoran forces in the united Central American effort to drive the U.S. freebooter William Walker from Nicaragua (1856–1857). Upon his return to El Salvador from that campaign, Barrios failed in an 1857 attempt to unseat president Rafael Campo, but the following year he regained influence during the administration of Miguel Santín Castillo. He became acting chief of state in 1858 and again from 1859 to 1860 and president from 1861 to 1863. As president of El Salvador in 1861 he consolidated his political and military strength and began to initiate liberal economic and anticlerical reforms. The immediate result was an invasion by Rafael Carrera in 1863, which Barrios repulsed at Coatepeque on February 24 of that year, but Carrera returned later in the year to defeat Barrios and place the more conservative Francisco Dueñas in power (1863–1871). Nevertheless, many of the economic reforms begun by Barrios continued, and the process of liberalization once more accelerated under the rule of Santiago González (1871–1876) and Rafael Zaldívar (1876–1885).

Liberal Party dominance from 1871 to 1944 brought remarkable changes to El Salvador. Independence from Guatemalan intervention was achieved with the defeat of the invading army and the death of the Guatemalan liberal caudillo Justo Rufino Barrios at Chalchuapa in 1885. Barrios was trying to restore the Central American union under his military leadership, and although El Salvador had traditionally favored union, its antipathy toward Guatemala outweighed unionist sentiment.

The Salvadoran governments that followed concentrated on economic development as they facilitated the expansion of coffee exports by the planter elite at the expense of peasant land and labor. Indigo exports had continued to be important for El Salvador, but the development of aniline coal-tar dyes diminished their importance after 1860. The loose, volcanic soil in the tropical highlands of the country produced high-quality coffee and enabled a few planters to become dominant in economic and political affairs. Under their leadership, El Salvador became highly dependent on international markets for coffee. They modernized the transportation system and capital city, and gained control over more rural land for coffee production. In the early twentieth century this "coffee prosperity" gained El Salvador a reputation as the most progressive of the Central American states. It became the first nation in Central America to have paved highways. With new ports and railways, the city of San Salvador grew impressively in size and economic activity. A stronger military force maintained the liberal oligarchy, often referred to as the "fourteen families," although there were always more than that. Between 1913 and 1927 members of these families, notably the Meléndez and Quiñónez dynasty, presided over governments that were generally more stable than those in the neighboring states.

THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY

Spanish colonialism had left a heritage of a small elite ruling a servile mass, and feudal traditions persisted well into the twentieth century. The principal features of the Salvadoran social structure, however, are especially related to the rise of coffee cultivation and the emergence of a dominant oligarchy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Expansion into other agricultural exports, the rise of manufacturing, and the growth of the military officer corps, especially since 1950, expanded and diversified this elite to more than 250 families. Moreover, the modernization of the economy contributed to the growth in San Salvador of a significant middle class, which played a growing role in the intellectual, political, and cultural development of the country. The vast majority of the population, however, remained poor, uneducated, and lacking in economic opportunity. The widening gulf between urban modernization and rural backwardness, and between rich and poor, is perhaps nowhere so obvious in Latin America as in El Salvador. These serious social and economic inequities worsened in the late twentieth century as rapid population growth exceeded economic growth. Modernization sometimes obscured the growing social inequities that were aggravated by rapid population growth. While San Salvador became a modern urban center, rural poverty and malnutrition soared.

Challenges to the liberal oligarchy began to appear in the 1920s, especially as articulated by the Salvadoran intellectual leader Alberto Masferrer, whose ideas influenced the founding of the Labor Party in 1930. The Communist Party of El Salvador, organized in 1925, reflected more radical opposition, whose most outspoken representative was Agustín Farabundo Martí. The economic hardships occasioned by the international depression following 1929 intensified the problems and encouraged labor organization and agitation. Yet the 1930 victory of the Labor Party candidate, Arturo Araujo, a progressive member of the planter elite, came as a surprise to the oligarchy, who were unprepared to make concessions to social democracy, land reform, and improved health and education along the lines Masferrer had advocated. Following nearly a year of chaotic government and massive labor demonstrations, the army intervened and ousted Araújo in favor of his vice president, General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez of the Liberal Party, on December 2, 1931. Martí and the Communists led a rural revolt in January 1932, but in a struggle that essentially pitted peasant machetes against army machine guns, the result was the massacre of between 10,000 to 30,000 peasants, followed by repression and establishment of a military dictatorship that would last until 1944.

The 1932 massacre, known as La Matanza, was a watershed in Salvadoran history, for it marked the end of a period of relatively tolerant civilian oligarchic rule and the growth of labor organizations. The elite, frightened by the 1932 peasant uprising, became reactionary and relied on a repressive military to defend it from the masses, whose economic situation steadily deteriorated. Even after the end of Hernández Martínez's fascist-style dictatorship in 1944, the military continued to rule the country. The 1932 revolt also marked the end of identifiable indigenous communities and culture in most of El Salvador, for the massacre had especially concentrated on indigenous people. Culturally, the remaining Indians quickly adopted mestizo dress and lifestyles.

El Salvador
Population: 6,948,073 (2007 est.)
Area: 8,124 sq mi
Official language: Spanish
Languages: Spanish, Nahua
National currency: El Salvador has no national currency; the U.S. dollar is used.
Principal religions: Roman Catholic, 57.1%; Protestant, 21.2%
Ethnicity: mestizo 90%, white 9%, Amerindian 1%
Capital: San Salvador (est. pop. 1,424,000 in 2005)
Other urban centers: San Miguel, Santa Ana
Annual rainfall: 72 in
Principal geographical features: Mountains: Sierra Madre range contains El Pital (8,957 ft); many volcanoes scattered throughout the country including Izalco (6,396 ft)
Rivers: Grande de San Miguel, Lempa
Lakes: Cerrón Grande, Coatepeque, Ilopango, Guija
Economy: GDP per capita: $4,900 (2006 est.)
Principal products and exports: Agricultural: coffee, sugar, shrimp
Manufacturing: food processing, textiles
Government: Independence from Spain in 1821. Constitution, 1983. Republic. The president is popularly elected for a 5-year term and is both chief of state and head of government. The legislature is a unicameral Legislative Assembly with 84 seat; its members are elected by direct, popular vote for 3-year terms. 14 departments.
Armed forces: Army: 13,850
Navy: 700
Air force: 950
Paramilitary: 12,000 National Civilian Police
Reserves: 9,900
Transportation: Ports: Acajutla, Puerto Cutuco
Roads: 1,757 mi paved; 5,008 mi unpaved
Airports: 4 paved runway and 61 unpaved runway airports, 1 heliport; international airport at San Salvador
Media: San Salvador's major newspapers include: El Diario de Hoy, El Mundo, and La Prensa Gráfica. 150 radio and 11 television stations, including the government-run Radio Nacional.
Literacy and education: Total literacy rate: 80.2% (2003 est.)
Primary education is free. Nine years are required but truancy is high. There are 15 institutes of higher learning.

Whereas coffee continued to be the primary export of the country, after World War II there was considerable expansion of other agricultural exports, especially cotton, sugar, rice, and beef, as the planter class expanded its holdings along the Pacific coastal plain. This expansion of agricultural exports enriched the elite, but in a period when the population was expanding rapidly it also caused poverty among rural peasants who were forced off their land and into unemployment or jobs paying very low wages. Production of corn, beans, and other staples, forced onto the poorest land, could not keep pace with the expanding population, and in the latter half of the twentieth century, El Salvador became one of the most poorly nourished countries in the world.

Profits from agricultural exports and a growing awareness of the limitations of El Salvador's small area combined with its rapid population growth encouraged investment in manufacturing and service industries in San Salvador from the 1950s forward. The establishment of the Central American Common Market (CACM) in 1960 contributed notably to industrial expansion as trade among the Central American states rose through the following two decades and was especially beneficial to Salvadoran industry. While much of this development came from the same families who had developed agricultural exports, foreign investment and multinational corporations also became important to the Salvadoran economy for the first time.

THE MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY

Following the relatively peaceful overthrow of Hernández Martínez in 1944 by a combination of students, workers, and progressive military officers, a more open political climate returned to El Salvador. Although military men continued to head the government, there was greater tolerance for political parties and labor unions, and the urban middle class became politically active. New parties replaced the long monopoly of the Liberal Party, which now disappeared, having been discredited by its association with the Hernández Martínez dictatorship (1931–1944). The military-dominated Party of Democratic Revolutionary Unification (PRUD), with the support of the coffee elite, maintained power until 1961. Then the new but similar Party of National Conciliation (PCN), dominated by General Julio Rivera, replaced it and ruled until 1979.

Notable during this period, however, was the growth of broader-based popular parties, especially the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) and the National Revolutionary Movement (MNR). Under the dynamic leadership of a U.S.-trained civil engineer, José Napoleón Duarte, the PDC was effective in the 1960s in organizing students and workers and in gaining support from Catholic clergy and laypeople. Duarte won election as mayor of San Salvador in 1964, but the 1969 war with Honduras interrupted the Christian Democratic surge.

The Soccer War, so called because rioting between rival Honduran and Salvadoran fans at a June 1969 World Cup playoff match touched it off, had much more fundamental causes. Border disputes had occurred between the two states since colonial times, but more serious were the trade imbalances in their common market relations. Honduran imports exceeded exports and Salvadoran manufactured goods damaged Honduran infant industries. Most serious, however, was the basic social inequity and overpopulation in El Salvador, causing massive immigration into Honduras. The Salvadoran immigrants threatened Honduran jobs, wages, land, and businesses. Large Honduran landholders led a campaign against Salvadoran immigrants that gained widespread popular support among the Honduran working class, who felt threatened by the Salvadorans. A Honduran agrarian reform law of April 1968 displaced thousands of Salvadoran squatters and increased tensions that led up to the riots.

The war itself, which began on July 14, 1969, when Salvadoran troops invaded Honduras, was brief but costly. The Honduran air force inflicted serious damage to Salvadoran port installations at Acajutla and elsewhere. The Organization of American States (OAS) arranged a cease-fire on July 18 and Salvadoran troops withdrew on August 3, but a peace treaty was not finally agreed upon until 1980. The war was a setback to the Central American economic integration movement. In El Salvador it led to a resurgence of the military, which placed patriotism in support of the war effort ahead of the grim socioeconomic realities of the country.

Returning refugees from Honduras put an even greater strain on El Salvador's land-poor population, and there was widespread opposition to the government by 1972. An opposition coalition, the National Union of Opposition (UNO), with Duarte at the head of the ticket and Guillermo Ungo of the MNR as the vice presidential candidate, appeared to win a majority in the election of that year. Yet the government declared the PCN candidate, Arturo Molina, victorious and drove Duarte and Ungo into exile. Repressive, reactionary rule followed. El Salvador became notorious for human rights violations as the tide of civil disorder and dissent continued to rise.

CIVIL WAR IN THE 1980S

The Sandinista success in ending the Somoza dynasty in neighboring Nicaragua in July 1979 and rising popular opposition to the PCN government of Carlos Humberto Romero (1977–1979) prompted a military coup in October 1979 that sought conciliation with the opposition but was primarily concerned with preserving the power and prestige of the military. Continued military repression led to the resignation of nearly all the civilians on the junta, including Guillermo Ungo, precipitating a new crisis in January 1980. The PDC collaborated with the military to form a new junta, and Duarte became its chief later in the year. Under Duarte's leadership, and with strong U.S. backing, the government tried to restrain military repression and to begin socioeconomic reform, including an agrarian reform plan. But Duarte appeared to be ineffectual and the real power remained with the military chiefs. Political assassinations by the right, including those of outspoken Catholic archbishop Óscar Romero, several PDC leaders, and four U.S. Catholic churchwomen, were common in 1980 and 1981. On the left, guerrilla organizations, headed by the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), launched a civil war against the government. A new political party, the National Republican Alliance (ARENA), consolidated right-wing opposition behind the leadership of the charismatic Major Roberto D'Aubuisson, who had been linked to death squad assassinations, including that of Archbishop Romero.

U.S. military aid to the government became an element of rising importance in the escalating civil war. With U.S. assistance, the junta held a free election for a constituent assembly in 1982. Leftist parties did not participate and the PDC won a plurality, but a coalition of the rightist ARENA and PCN held a commanding majority. The constituent assembly elected D'Aubuisson as its head, but U.S. pressure prevented his selection as provisional president of the country, and under the constitution that was drafted in 1983, Duarte won a decisive victory in the presidential election of 1984. During his five-year term, Duarte could not revive the sagging economy. As a signatory to the Central American Peace Accord of 1987 (the Arias Plan), he agreed to seek peace with the guerrilla forces but made little progress toward that end, and his country continued to be torn by violence and civil war. In June 1988 he entered a hospital in the United States for treatment of stomach cancer (he died in 1990).

The failure of the Christian Democrats to bring peace or economic recovery and widespread charges of corruption among Christian Democratic bureaucrats allowed the consolidated, neoliberal ARENA to win a decisive victory in 1989. An earthquake that destroyed much of San Salvador in 1986 had further eroded PDC strength. Under D'Aubuisson's leadership, ARENA skillfully organized rural and urban voters into a powerful political force, capitalizing on national exhaustion with the violence and fear of the extreme left. The inherent conservatism of a portion of the peasant class was successfully exploited, as D'Aubuisson's 1982 victory in congressional elections had reflected. Moreover, the close association of ARENA leaders with the military gave that party a significant advantage that helps to explain its success in rural areas. ARENA's 1989 presidential candidate—an affable sportsman named Alfredo Cristiani, who was much more acceptable to the U.S. Congress than the tainted D'Aubuisson—thus swept to victory. After tortuous negotiations, the government achieved a peace accord with the FMLN at the end of 1991, signed at Chapultepec, Mexico, on January 16, 1992. Demobilization of armed forces proceeded slowly and was marked by mutual distrust. Outside economic aid brought only limited recovery as the country gradually fell out of the limelight of international attention by the mid-1990s.

Christianity has long played an important role in El Salvador, the Land of the Savior. The strong anticlericalism that characterized the liberal period in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century El Salvador, however greatly weakened the Roman Catholic Church, removing it from its close relationship with the government and reducing the number of clergy in the country, thereby reducing its influence, especially in rural areas. In the mid-to-late twentieth century, though, a rejuvenated Catholic clergy once more became important in mobilizing the Salvadoran people for political change. They were a force in the Christian Democratic Party, but El Salvador was also a place where the theology of liberation was important in the radicalizing of political opinion. From parish priests through the hierarchy, the Catholic Church has played an important part in the struggle to curb the terrible violations of human rights that have afflicted El Salvador, and as a result has often been a victim, as in the murder of six prominent Jesuits at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador on November 16, 1989. At the same time, as in Guatemala, there has been an astonishing increase in converts to Pentecostal Protestant sects in the country, as these groups gained among those who sought religion outside the framework of political controversy. In fact, Protestants have been important in building the more conservative, or apolitical, constituency that is reflected in ARENA's rise to power.

NEOLIBERALISM SINCE 1989

Since 1989 ARENA, committed to a strongly neoliberal agenda of free market reforms and expanded industry and agricultural exports, has dominated El Salvador. Under the Chapultepec Peace Accords of 1992, Cristiani reduced the Salvadoran army to half its former size, created a new civilian peace force, the National Civilian Police (PNC), and established an office to defend human rights in the country. The FMLN thereafter participated politically in elections as the leading opposition party to the ruling ARENA party. Peace came only slowly, however, as continued political violence characterized the decade of the 1990s.

A United Nations Truth Commission in 1993 reported that more than 96 percent of the human rights atrocities committed during the twelve-year civil war were carried out by the Salvadoran military or its paramilitary death squads. Especially notorious was the slaughter of more than a thousand peasants around the village of Mozote in 1981. The Truth Commission report recommended reforms in the military and judiciary and that those guilty of human rights violations be removed from office. The Salvadoran government resisted full implementation of these recommendations and the Assembly gave amnesty from criminal prosecution to most of those implicated in the report. The government did, however, remove many officials from office and in 1994 the Assembly completely replaced the Supreme Court of Justice with new justices. Officers implicated in the murder of six Jesuits at the University of Central America in 1989 went free, but they were discharged from active duty along with hundreds of others.

Armando Calderón Sol continued ARENA's rule of El Salvador from 1994 to 1999 as he presided over El Salvador's difficult recovery from the civil war. With considerable U.S. economic assistance the country had remarkable economic vitality by the end of the century, with substantial expansion of agricultural exports as well as light manufacturing, especially of clothing. By 1995 agriculture accounted for only 14 percent of El Salvador's gross domestic product (GDP), and it was down to 10.3 percent by 2005. Although coffee remained the country's largest export, it occupied a declining percentage of total exports in a more diversified economy. The government privatized banking and other government enterprises, including the pension system, as it pursued the neoliberal agenda. Yet despite considerable economic growth, the standard of living for most Salvadorans remained low as real wages declined amid serious inflation. Moreover, El Salvador continued to have a serious balance of payments deficit, which was only in part made up by remittances from the rising number of Salvadorans living in the United States to their relatives in El Salvador. Illicit drug traffic was another important source of revenue for the country, although its extent cannot be accurately calculated.

The unequal distribution of wealth and widespread poverty stimulated an alarming increase in violent crime in El Salvador. Gangs, such as Los Benedictos, and later Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (also known as MS-13), were notorious for assassinations, kidnappings, and car thefts and were also involved in arms and drug trafficking with organized crime in Central America. Deportation of some of the gang members from the United States back to El Salvador contributed to the increased violence in the country. A United Nations report in 2001 ranked El Salvador 95th among 162 countries for human development on the basis of its poverty, low rate of tax collection, and meager spending on social programs. In the same year a series of devastating earthquakes added to the misery and dislocation in the country. Charges of corruption and misappropriation of funds clouded the massive international relief effort that followed.

In the early twenty-first century, ARENA presidents Francisco Flores Pérez (1999–2004) and Elías Antonio (Tony) Saca González (2004–) continued to promote diversification and pro-business, free market policies, although massive popular protests and strikes forced Flores to abandon plans to privatize the health-care system in 2000. Flores and Saca both cultivated close relations with the United States, where Salvadoran immigrants numbered more than 2.5 million. El Salvador was one of only four Latin American nations to join the U.S.-led coalition that invaded Iraq and by 2006 it was the only one of them that continued to maintain troops there. Saca took the lead in organizing the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), together with the United States and the other Central American states and the Dominican Republic. Despite widespread popular protest against CAFTA, Saca and ARENA believed that it would significantly increase Salvadoran exports. El Salvador also signed separate free trade agreements with Chile, Mexico, and Panama, with negotiations underway for similar agreements with Canada and other American nations. El Salvador adopted the U.S. dollar as its national currency in 2001.

Crime remained a problem for El Salvador as Saca's government faced alarming increases in crime and gang violence, with the murder rate rising from 37 per 100,000 people in 2002 to 45 per 100,000 by 2005. The gangs Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha became especially deadly as unemployment and the U.S. deportation of Salvadoran gang members provided a steady increase in new recruits for these gangs. Saca's hard-line police methods, with U.S. assistance, brought criticism from human rights advocates, as the PNC reportedly ignored paramilitary death squads that targeted gang leaders.

See alsoAlvarado y Mesía, Pedro de; Araujo, Arturo; Arce, Manuel José; Carrera, José Rafael; Central America; Central American Common Market (CACM); Coffee Industry; Cristiani, Alfredo; d'Aubuisson, Roberto; Delgado, José Matías; Duarte Fuentes, José Napoleón; Filísola, Vicente; Gangs; Hernández Martínez, Maximiliano; Income Distribution; Martí, Agustín Farabundo; Masferrer, Alberto; Maya, The; Morazán, Francisco; Nahuatl; North American Free Trade Agreement; Pipiles; Romero, Carlos Humberto; Truth Commissions; Ungo, Guillermo Manuel; United States-Latin American Relations.

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                             Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.