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

Area 153/257

total: 21,041 sq km

land: 20,721 sq km

water: 320 sq km

Area - comparative

about the same size as New Jersey

Land boundaries

total: 590 km

border countries (2): Guatemala 199 km, Honduras 391 km


307 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 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


mean elevation:

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

agricultural land: 74.7%

arable land 33.1%; permanent crops 10.9%; permanent pasture 30.7%

forest: 13.6%

other: 11.7% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

452 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

25.23 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 1.84 cu km/yr (22%/14%/64%)

per capita: 301.9 cu m/yr (2007)

Natural hazards

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

volcanism: significant volcanic activity; San Salvador (elev. 1,893 m), which last erupted in 1917, has the potential to cause major harm to the country's capital, which lies just below the volcano's slopes; San Miguel (elev. 2,130 m), which last erupted in 2002, is one of the most active volcanoes in the country; other historically active volcanoes include Conchaguita, Ilopango, Izalco, and Santa Ana

Environment - current issues

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

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Geography - note

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

People and Society


noun: Salvadoran(s)

adjective: Salvadoran

Ethnic groups

mestizo 86.3%, white 12.7%, Amerindian 0.2% (includes Lenca, Kakawira, Nahua-Pipil), black 0.1%, other 0.6% (2007 est.)


Spanish (official), Nawat (among some Amerindians)


Roman Catholic 57.1%, Protestant 21.2%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.9%, Mormon 0.7%, other religions 2.3%, none 16.8% (2003 est.)

Population 110/238

6,141,350 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 27.31% (male 860,122/female 816,855)

15-24 years: 20.71% (male 638,989/female 632,741)

25-54 years: 38.1% (male 1,077,378/female 1,262,585)

55-64 years: 6.8% (male 186,570/female 230,839)

65 years and over: 7.09% (male 192,713/female 242,558) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 54.3%

youth dependency ratio: 41.7%

elderly dependency ratio: 12.6%

potential support ratio: 7.9% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 26.1 years

male: 24.6 years

female: 27.6 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 178/233

0.25% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 115/224

16.46 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 172/225

5.69 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 209/222

-8.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)


urban population: 66.7% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 1.4% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

SAN SALVADOR (capital) 1.098 million (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.85 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.81 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female

total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth


note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2008 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 81/184

54 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 98/224

total: 17.86 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 19.94 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 15.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 119/224

total population: 74.42 years

male: 71.14 years

female: 77.86 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 138/224

1.91 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate


note: percent of women aged 15-44 (2008)

Health expenditures 91/191

6.9% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

1.6 physicians/1,000 population (2008)

Hospital bed density

1.1 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source


urban: 97.5% of population

rural: 86.5% of population

total: 93.8% of population


urban: 2.5% of population

rural: 13.5% of population

total: 6.2% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access


urban: 82.4% of population

rural: 60% of population

total: 75% of population


urban: 17.6% of population

rural: 40% of population

total: 25% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.53% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

20,900 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

400 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 51/191

20.1% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 78/138

6.6% (2008)

Education expenditures 129/173

3.4% of GDP (2011)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 12 years

male: 12 years

female: 12 years (2012)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 89/134

total: 12.4%

male: 11.8%

female: 13.6% (2013 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

etymology: name is an abbreviation of the original Spanish conquistador designation for the area "Provincia de Nuestro Senor Jesus Cristo, el Salvador del Mundo" (Province of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World), which became simply "El Salvador" (The Savior)

Government type



name: San Salvador

geographic coordinates: 13.42° N, 89.12° W

time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

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


15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)


many previous; latest drafted 16 December 1983, enacted 23 December 1983; amended many times, last in 2014 (2015)

Legal system

civil law system with minor common law influence; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Salvador SANCHEZ CEREN (since 1 June 2014); Vice President Salvador Oscar ORTIZ (since 1 June 2014); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Salvador SANCHEZ CEREN (since 1 June 2014); Vice President Salvador Oscar ORTIZ (since 1 June 2014)

cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president

elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a single 5-year term; election last held on 2 February 2014, with a runoff on 9 March 2014 (next to be held in February 2019)

election results: Salvador SANCHEZ CEREN elected president; percent of vote: first-round results - Salvador SANCHEZ CEREN (FMLN) 48.9%, Norman QUIJANO (ARENA) 39%, Antonio SACA (CN) 11.4%, other 0.7%; second-round results - Salvador SANCHEZ CEREN 50.1%, Norman QUIJANO 49.9%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (84 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies and a single nationwide constituency by proportional representation vote to serve 3-year terms)

elections: last held on 1 March 2015 (next to be held in March 2018)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - ARENA 35, FMLN 31, GANA 11, PCN 6, PDC 1

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court or Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) (consists of 15 judges assigned to constitutional, civil, penal, and administrative conflict divisions)

judge selection and term of office: judges elected by the Legislative Assembly on the recommendation of the National Council of the Judicature, an independent body elected by the Legislative Assembly; judges elected for a 9-year term, with renewal of one-third of judges every 3 years; consecutive re-election is allowed

subordinate courts: Appellate Courts; Courts of First Instance; Courts of Peace

Political parties and leaders

Christian Democratic Party or PDC [Rodolfo Antonio PARKER Soto]

Democratic Change (Cambio Democratico) or CD [Douglas AVILES] (formerly United Democratic Center or CDU)

Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front or FMLN [Medardo GONZALEZ]

Great Alliance for National Unity or GANA [Jose Andres ROVIRA Caneles]

National Conciliation Party or PCN [Manuel RODRIGUEZ]

Nationalist Republican Alliance or ARENA [Jorge VELADO]

Political pressure groups and leaders

labor organizations:

Electrical Industry Union of El Salvador or SIES

Federation of the Construction Industry, Similar Transport and other activities, or FESINCONTRANS

National Confederation of Salvadoran Workers or CNTS

National Trade Union Federation of Salvadoran Workers or FENASTRAS

National Union of Salvadoran Workers or UNTS

Port Industry Union of El Salvador or SIPES

Salvadoran Workers Central or CTS

Union of Judiciary Workers or SITTOJ

Union of Workers of the Ministry of Treasury or SITRAMI

Workers Union of Electrical Corporation or STCEL

business organizations:

American Chamber of Commerce in El Salvador

National Association of Private Enterprise or ANEP

Salvadoran Chamber of Commerce

Salvadoran Chamber of the Construction Industry or CASALCO

Salvadoran Industrial Association or ASI

International organization participation

BCIE, CACM, CD, CELAC, FAO, G-11, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, MINUSTAH, NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, Pacific Alliance (observer), PCA, Petrocaribe, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIFIL, Union Latina, UNISFA, UNMISS, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and blue with the national coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms features a round emblem encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN LA AMERICA CENTRAL; the banner is based on the former blue-white-blue flag of the Federal Republic of Central America; the blue bands symbolize the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, while the white band represents the land between the two bodies of water, as well as peace and prosperity

note: similar to the flag of Nicaragua, which has a different coat of arms centered in the white band - it features a triangle encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE NICARAGUA on top and AMERICA CENTRAL on the bottom; also similar to the flag of Honduras, which has five blue stars arranged in an X pattern centered in the white band

National symbol(s)

turquoise-browed motmot (bird); national colors: blue, white

National anthem

name: "Himno Nacional de El Salvador" (National Anthem of El Salvador)

lyrics/music: Juan Jose CANAS/Juan ABERLE

note: officially adopted 1953, in use since 1879; at 4:20 minutes the anthem of El Salvador is one of the world's longest


Economy - overview

The smallest country in Central America geographically, El Salvador has the fourth largest economy in the region. With the global recession, real GDP contracted in 2009 and economic growth has since remained low, averaging less than 2% from 2010 to 2014, but recovered somewhat in 2015. Remittances accounted for 17% of GDP in 2014 and were received by about a third of all households.

In 2006, El Salvador was the first country to ratify the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which has bolstered the export of processed foods, sugar, and ethanol, and supported investment in the apparel sector amid increased Asian competition. In September 2015, El Salvador kicked off a five-year $277 million second compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) - a United States Government agency aimed at stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty - to improve El Salvador's competitiveness and productivity in international markets..

The Salvadoran Government maintained fiscal discipline during post-war reconstruction and reconstruction following earthquakes in 2001 and hurricanes in 1998 and 2005, but El Salvador's public debt, estimated at 65% of GDP in 2015, has been growing over the last several years. Total external debt was nearly 60% of GDP in 2015.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 108/230

$52.88 billion (2015 est.)

$51.7 billion (2014 est.)

$50.71 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$25.65 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 132/225

2.3% (2015 est.)

2% (2014 est.)

1.8% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 145/230

$8,300 (2015 est.)

$8,100 (2014 est.)

$8,000 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 145/179

11% of GDP (2015 est.)

8.8% of GDP (2014 est.)

8.5% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 92.3%

government consumption: 11.9%

investment in fixed capital: 12.6%

investment in inventories: 0.1%

exports of goods and services: 27%

imports of goods and services: -43.9%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 10.7%

industry: 25.5%

services: 63.8% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

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


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

Industrial production growth rate 108/202

2.2% (2015 est.)

Labor force 107/233

2.774 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 21%

industry: 20%

services: 58% (2011 est.)

Unemployment rate 67/207

6.1% (2015 est.)

6.2% (2014 est.)

note: data are official rates; but underemployment is high

Population below poverty line

36.5% (2010 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1%

highest 10%: 37% (2009 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 29/144

46.9 (2007)

52.5 (2001)


revenues: $5.133 billion

expenditures: $5.938 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 159/219

20% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 117/220

-3.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 54/176

64.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

62.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

note: El Salvador's total public debt includes non-financial public sector debt, financial public sector debt, and central bank debt

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 9/226

-0.9% (2015 est.)

1.1% (2014 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 127/184

6.1% (31 December 2015 est.)

5.99% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 116/192

$3.017 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$2.92 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 106/193

$11.45 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$10.87 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 94/191

$13.22 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$12.26 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 73/121

$10.74 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

$5.474 billion (31 December 2011)

$4.227 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance 109/197

-$678 million (2015 est.)

-$1.194 billion (2014 est.)

Exports 111/224

$4.489 billion (2015 est.)

$4.256 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

offshore assembly exports, coffee, sugar, textiles and apparel, gold, ethanol, chemicals, electricity, iron and steel manufactures

Exports - partners

US 46.5%, Honduras 14.2%, Guatemala 13.4%, Nicaragua 6.4%, Costa Rica 4.6% (2014)

Imports 101/223

$9.213 billion (2015 est.)

$9.463 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

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

Imports - partners

US 41%, Guatemala 9.5%, China 7.3%, Mexico 7%, Honduras 5.3% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 111/170

$2.66 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$2.693 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 97/206

$15.14 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$14.05 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 92/120

$9.708 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$9.358 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad 85/105

$727.3 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$857.3 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Exchange rates

note: the US dollar is used as a medium of exchange and circulates freely in the economy


Electricity - production 113/220

6.18 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 110/219

5.665 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 81/218

78 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - imports 89/219

163 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 119/214

1.507 million kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 146/214

53.1% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 88/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 73/214

31.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 18/212

15.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 131/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 120/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 75/214

9,940 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 130/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 101/214

11,600 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 103/212

45,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 100/214

2,939 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 90/213

36,510 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 183/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 140/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 95/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 193/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 135/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 119/212

6.375 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 79/219

total subscriptions: 950,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 15 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 90/217

total: 9.2 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 150 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: multiple mobile-cellular providers are expanding services rapidly and in 2011 teledensity exceeded 135 per 100 persons; growth in fixed-line services has slowed in the face of mobile-cellular competition

domestic: nationwide microwave radio relay system

international: country code - 503; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to Central American Microwave System (2011)

Broadcast media

multiple privately owned national terrestrial TV networks, supplemented by cable TV networks that carry international channels; hundreds of commercial radio broadcast stations and 1 government-owned radio broadcast station (2007)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 52, FM 144, shortwave 0 (2005)

Television broadcast stations

5 (1997)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 113/232

24,070 (2012)

Internet users 102/217

total: 1.7 million

percent of population: 27.3% (2014 est.)


Airports 74/236

68 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 5

over 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 2

under 914 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 63

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 11

under 914 m: 51 (2013)


2 (2013)

Railways 122/136

total: 12.5 km

narrow gauge: 12.5 km 0.914-m gauge (2014)

Roadways 148/223

total: 6,918 km

paved: 3,247 km (includes 341 km of expressways)

unpaved: 3,671 km (2010)


(Rio Lempa is partially navigable by small craft) (2011)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Puerto Cutuco

oil terminal(s): Acajutla offshore terminal

Military and Security

Military branches

Salvadoran Armed Forces (Fuerza Armada de El Salvador, FAES): Salvadoran Army (Ejercito de El Salvador, ES), Salvadoran Navy (Fuerza Naval de El Slavador, FNES), Salvadoran Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Salvadorena, FAS) (2013)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for selective compulsory military service; 16-22 years of age for voluntary male or female service; service obligation is 12 months, with 11 months for officers and NCOs (2012)

Military expenditures 101/132

0.99% of GDP (2012)

1.11% of GDP (2011)

0.99% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the delimitation of "bolsones" (disputed areas) along the El Salvador-Honduras boundary, in 1992, with final agreement by the parties in 2006 after an Organization of American States survey and a further ICJ ruling in 2003; the 1992 ICJ ruling advised a tripartite resolution to a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Fonseca advocating Honduran access to the Pacific; El Salvador continues to claim tiny Conejo Island, not identified in the ICJ decision, off Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca

Illicit drugs

transshipment point for cocaine; small amounts of marijuana produced for local consumption; significant use of cocaine