El Salvador 

Flag of El Salvador

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


Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and Honduras

Geographic coordinates:

13 50 N, 88 55 W


total: 21,040 sq km
land: 20,720 sq km
water: 320 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 545 km
border countries: Guatemala 203 km, Honduras 342 km


307 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 200 nm


tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands


mostly mountains with narrow coastal belt and central plateau

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro El Pital 2,730 m

Natural resources:

hydropower, geothermal power, petroleum, arable land

Land use:

arable land: 31.37%
permanent crops: 11.88%
other: 56.75% (2005)

Irrigated land:

450 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

known as the Land of Volcanoes; frequent and sometimes destructive earthquakes and volcanic activity; extremely susceptible to hurricanes

Environment - current issues:

deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution; contamination of soils from disposal of toxic wastes

Geography - note:

smallest Central American country and only one without a coastline on Caribbean Sea


6,822,378 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 36.3% (male 1,265,080/female 1,212,216)
15-64 years: 58.5% (male 1,900,372/female 2,092,251)
65 years and over: 5.2% (male 156,292/female 196,167) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 21.8 years
male: 20.7 years
female: 22.9 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.72% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

26.61 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

5.78 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-3.61 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 24.39 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 27.27 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 21.37 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 71.49 years
male: 67.88 years
female: 75.28 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

3.12 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.7% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

29,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

2,200 (2003 est.)


noun: Salvadoran(s)
adjective: Salvadoran

Ethnic groups:

mestizo 90%, white 9%, Amerindian 1%


Roman Catholic 83%, other 17%
note: there is extensive activity by Protestant groups throughout the country; by the end of 1992, there were an estimated 1 million Protestant evangelicals in El Salvador


Spanish, Nahua (among some Amerindians)


definition: age 10 and over can read and write
total population: 80.2%
male: 82.8%
female: 77.7% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of El Salvador
conventional short form: El Salvador
local long form: Republica de El Salvador
local short form: El Salvador

Government type:



San Salvador

Administrative divisions:

14 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Ahuachapan, Cabanas, Chalatenango, Cuscatlan, La Libertad, La Paz, La Union, Morazan, San Miguel, San Salvador, San Vicente, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, Usulutan


15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)


23 December 1983

Legal system:

based on civil and Roman law with traces of common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (84 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve three-year terms)
elections: last held 12 March 2006 (next to be held in March 2009)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - ARENA 34, FMLN 32, PCN 10, PDC 6, CD 2

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (judges are selected by the Legislative Assembly)

Economy - overview:

The smallest country in Central America, El Salvador has the third largest economy, but growth has been minimal in recent years. Hoping to stimulate the sluggish economy, the government is striving to open new export markets, encourage foreign investment, and modernize the tax and healthcare systems. Implementation in 2006 of the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, which El Salvador was the first to ratify, is viewed as a key policy to help achieve these objectives. The trade deficit has been offset by annual remittances from Salvadorans living abroad - 16.6% of GDP in 2005 - and external aid. With the adoption of the US dollar as its currency in 2001, El Salvador has lost control over monetary policy and must concentrate on maintaining a disciplined fiscal policy.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$34.15 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$16.52 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

2.9% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$5,100 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 11.5%
industry: 23.6%
services: 64.9% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

2.81 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 17.1%
industry: 17.1%
services: 65.8% (2003 est.)

Unemployment rate:

6.5% official rate; but the economy has much underemployment (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

34.6% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 1.4%
highest 10%: 39.3% (2001)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

52.5 (2001)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

4.3% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

15.8% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $2.26 billion
expenditures: $3.34 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2006 est.)

Public debt:

40.8% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

coffee, sugar, corn, rice, beans, oilseed, cotton, sorghum; beef, dairy products; shrimp


food processing, beverages, petroleum, chemicals, fertilizer, textiles, furniture, light metals

Industrial production growth rate:

0.7% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

4.48 billion kWh (2005)

Electricity - consumption:

4.768 billion kWh (2005)

Electricity - exports:

91 million kWh (2004)

Electricity - imports:

473 million kWh (2004)

Oil - consumption:

33,863 bbl/day (2005 est.)

Current account balance:

-$858 million (2005 est.)


$3.586 billion (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

offshore assembly exports, coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals, electricity

Exports - partners:

US 65.6%, Guatemala 11.8%, Honduras 6.3% (2004)


$6.678 billion (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

raw materials, consumer goods, capital goods, fuels, foodstuffs, petroleum, electricity

Imports - partners:

US 46.3%, Guatemala 8.1%, Mexico 6% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$2.003 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$8.273 billion (30 June 2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$125 million of which, $53 million from US (2003)

Currency (code):

US dollar (USD)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

887,800 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

1,832,600 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: NA
domestic: nationwide microwave radio relay system
international: country code - 503; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to Central American Microwave System

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 61 (plus 24 repeaters), FM 30, shortwave 0 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

5 (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

4,404 (2005)

Internet users:

587,500 (2005)


76 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 4
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 72
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 15
under 914 m: 56 (2005)


1 (2005)


total: 283 km
narrow gauge: 283 km 0.914-m gauge
note: length of operational route reduced from 562 km to 283 km by disuse and lack of maintenance (2004)


total: 10,029 km
paved: 1,986 km
unpaved: 8,043 km (1999)


Rio Lempa partially navigable (2004)

Ports and terminals:

Acajutla, Puerto Cutuco

Military branches:

Army, Navy (FNES), Air Force (FAS)

Disputes - international:

in 1992, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the delimitation of "bolsones" (disputed areas) along the El Salvador-Honduras boundary, but despite Organization of American States (OAS) intervention and a further ICJ ruling in 2003, full demarcation of the border remains stalled; the 1992 ICJ ruling advised a tripartite resolution to a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Fonseca advocating Honduran access to the Pacific; El Salvador continues to claim tiny Conejo Island, not identified in the ICJ decision, off Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca

Illicit drugs:

transshipment point for cocaine; small amounts of marijuana produced for local consumption; domestic cocaine abuse on the rise