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Country facts

Area: 21,040 sq km
Population: 6.07 million (2011 est)
Capital city: San Salvador (1.8 million)
People: Mestizo 90%, Caucasian 9%, Indigenous 1%
Languages: The official language is Spanish.
Religion(s): Predominantly Roman Catholic (86%)
Currency: The American Dollar is the official currency in El Salvador. Although some prices are still quoted in the Salvadorean Colon, payment is expected in dollars. The exchange rate is fixed at US$1.00 = 8.75 Salvadorean Colón.
Major political parties: Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), National Conciliation Party (PCN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC). The recently formed GANA Party is an offshoot of ARENA.
Government: El Salvador has a republican system of government consisting of 3 separate and independent branches: the Executive Branch, headed by the President; the Legislative Branch; and the Judicial Branch headed by the Supreme Court.
Head of State: President Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena sworn in 1 June 2009.
Prime Minister/Premier: Not applicable
Foreign Minister: Hugo Martinez
Membership of international groups/organisations: El Salvador is a member of the United Nations and several of its specialised agencies; the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Central American Common Market (CACM), The Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) and the Central American Integration System (SICA) whose General Secretariat is based in El Salvador. El Salvador has also been chosen as for the Headquarters of the Puebla-Panama Plan (PPP). It actively participates in the Central American Security Commission (CASC) which seeks to promote regional arms control. El Salvador is a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and is pursuing regional free trade agreements. El Salvador has joined its 6 Central American neighbours in signing the Alliance for Sustainable Development known as the Conjunta Centro-America – USA or CONCAUSA to promote sustainable economic development in the region. El Salvador was the first Central American country to ratify the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the USA on 18 December 2004. Together with its neighbours, El Salvador has successfully negotiated a Political Dialogue and Co-operation Agreement with the EU, which was signed in Rome on 15 December 2004. El Salvador was one of the first members to join the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1957.

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In El Salvador the quality of and access to healthcare are directly tied to income levels. Adequate health care is available to those able to pay the high cost. Health care for the urban and rural poor is limited.

Health services are not readily accessible to a majority of the population. In the more isolated regions of El Salvador, there are almost no physicians. Government clinics often lack adequate personnel, equipment and medicines.

Life expectancy: Male: 70.16 years, female 76.87 years (2011 est.)
Infant mortality rate: Male 22.3693 deaths/1,000 live births, female 18.15 deaths/1,000 live briths (2011 est.)

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Basic economic facts

Nominal GDP: US$ 21.2 billion (2010)
Nominal GDP per head: US$ 3,618 (2010)
Annual growth: 0.7% (2010 CIA World Factbook)
Inflation: 1.2% (2010 est CIA World Factbook)
Major industries: Food processing, beverages, petroleum, chemicals fertilizer, textiles.
Export partners: US 43.5%, Guatemala 14.2%, Honduras 13.6%, Nicaragua 5.6% (2011 CIA world
Import partners: US 32.1%, Guatemala, 11.5%, Mexico 8.2%, , China 4.8% (2011 CIA world factbook)

El Salvador's economy has undergone a transformation, moving from an agricultural economy, centred around coffee production, to a largely services-based economy focusing on commerce and financial services. In the past 10 years manufacturing has also grown, thanks mainly to the development of the industries dealing with offshore assembly for re-export. Inflation is increasing. Economic growth is forecast to decline in 2009 due to the global slowdown and to El Salvador's dependence on US exports and remittances from the US. El Salvador leads the region in remittances per capita with income equivalent to nearly all export income.

Salvadorian authorities are aware that it is not convenient for the country to have an excessive dependence on remittances and the US market. The deterioration of the fiscal situation is now the main source of macroeconomic concern. The Government is now depending on foreign assistance loans to fill its budgetary gaps.

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300-600 El Salvador forms part of the Mayan Empire.
1524 Spanish adventurer Pedro de Alvarado conquers El Salvador.
1540 Indigenous resistance finally crushed and El Salvador becomes a Spanish colony.
1821 El Salvador gains independence from Spain but joins the Mexican empire.
1823 El Salvador becomes part of the United Provinces of Central America, which also encompass Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
1840 El Salvador becomes fully independent following the dissolution of the United Provinces of Central America.
1859 President Gerardo Barrios introduces coffee growing.
1932 Some 30,000 are killed during the suppression of a peasant uprising led by Agustine Farabundo Marti. Right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN) comes to power in the wake of a military coup.
1969 On 14 July war broke out on the Honduras-El Salvador border ostensibly caused by a disputed result in a soccer match between the 2 countries. After 3 days, around 2,000 deaths and a complete rupture of diplomatic relations, the Organisation of American States (OAS) negotiated a cease-fire.
Only in 1992 did both sides accept an International Court of Justice ruling demarcating the border in its current location.
1977 Guerrilla activities by the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) intensify amidst reports of increased human rights violations by government troops and death squads. General Carlos Romero elected President.
1979-81 Around 30,000 people are killed by army-backed right-wing death squads.
1979 General Romero ousted in coup by reformist officers who install a military- civilian junta, but this fails to curb army backed political violence.
1980 Archbishop of San Salvador and human rights campaigner Oscar Romero assassinated; Jose Napoleon Duarte becomes the first civilian president since 1931.
1981 France and Mexico recognise the FMLN as a legitimate political force but the US continues to assist the Salvadorian Government whose army continues to back right-wing death squads.
1982 Extreme right-wing National Republican Alliance (ARENA) wins parliamentary elections, held in an atmosphere of considerable iolence. Duarte wins presidential election. Duarte begins quest for negotiated settlement with FMLN.
1989 FMLN attacks intensify; another ARENA candidate, Alfredo Cristiani, voted president in elections widely believed to have been rigged.
1992 Government and FMLN sign United Nations sponsored peace accord; FMLN recognised as political party.
1993 Government declares amnesty for those implicated by UN-sponsored commission on human rights atrocities.
1994 ARENA candidate Armando Calderon Sol elected president.
1997 FMLN makes good progress in parliamentary elections; leftist Hector Silva elected Mayor of San Salvador.
1999 ARENA candidate Francisco Flores beats former guerrilla Facundo Guardado in presidential election.
2001 January, February – massive earthquakes kill 1,200 people and leave a million homeless.
2004 21 March Presidential Elections Antonio Saca of the ARENA party wins in the first round with 57.51% of the votes (a second round not therefore being required). The main opposition FMLN party, led by Schafik Handal, trailed at 35.9%
2004 1 June inauguration of new Salvadorean President Elias Antonio Saca.
2006 (24 January), Schafik Handel, the 75-year old leader of the opposition FMLN party dies of a heart attack.
2006 (17 March), Violeta de Menjivar from the FMLN party was declared the winner of the San Salvador Mayoral election, the first woman to hold the post.
2009 (18 January), FMLN win 35 seats in the legislative elections. The governing ARENA party lose 3 seats, but Norman Quijano wins the San Salvador mayoral election, the first time in 12 years a ARENA candidate has held the post.
2009 (15 March) Maurico Funes of the left-wing FMLN party emerged victorious in the largely peaceful and free Presidential elections. Funes garnered 51.3% of the vote compared with 48.3% for the governing party's candidate, RodrigoÁvila
2009 (1 June) Maurico Funes sworn in as President. One of Funes’ first acts as President was to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba, thereby officially re-establishing relations broken off since 1961.

BBC News Country Timeline: El Salvador (

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Relations with neighbours


In July 1969, El Salvador and Honduras fought the 100-hour Soccer War over disputed border areas and friction resulting from the 300,000 Salvadoreans who had emigrated to Honduras in search of land and employment. The catalyst was nationalistic feelings aroused by a series of soccer matches between the 2 countries. The 2 countries formally signed a peace treaty on 30 October 1980 which put the border dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In September 1992 the Court issued a 400-page ruling awarding much of the disputed land to Honduras.

Alleged Salvadorean refusal to give effect to the ICJ’s judgement on the delimitation of the boundaries between the 2 countries, is an ongoing irritant and has led to Honduras raising the issue with the UN Security Council. In December 2003 the ICJ declined El Salvador's application for a revision of its 1992 ruling. El Salvador continues to claim tiny Conejo Island, not identified in the ICJ decision, off Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca.

Relations with the international community

See Membership of International Organisations above.

Moves towards regional economic integration in Central America are continuing. During the early part of 2004, the five Central American countries concluded negotiations with the USA on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Known in Spanish as the TLC (Tratado de Libre Comercio), the agreement was signed by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. El Salvador was the first country to ratify the agreement (18 December 2004), followed by Honduras (3 March 2005), Guatemala (10 March 2005) and Dominican Republic and Nicaragua in the Autumn of 2005. This leaves Costa Rica as the only country still to ratify. Violent protests greeted ratification in Honduras and Guatemala. During 2004 and early 2005 several Central American countries signed bilateral border agreements to simplify customs procedures for goods (and tourists) passing from one country to another. El Salvador has also strengthened its ties with the Northern Triangle economies (Guatemala and Honduras) by eliminating trade barriers and improving custom processes. In May 2010 El Salvador and Central America signed an Association Agreement with the European Union.

Relations with the UK

Diplomatic representation

In May 2011 the Foreign Secretary announced that a new British Embassy would be opening in El Salvador. The Embassy is due to open in 2012. Until then HM Ambassador to Guatemala is accredited as non-resident Ambassador to El Salvador.

Recent inward visits

-- February 2008: Minister for Environment Carlos José Guerrero Contreras visited to develop relations between UK and El Salvador in the field of climate change.
-- January 2010: Minister of Environment, Herman Rosa Chavez visited the UK and met with members of the Government, media and think tank representatives.
-- October 2011: A delegation of El Salvadoran parliamentarians visited the UK and met with NGOs and climate change representatives, sponsored by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
-- November 2011: Foreign Minister Hugo Roger Martínez and Minister for Environment Herman Rosa Chávez visited London to take place in a SICA Forum, co-hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Recent outward visits

A delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union representing both House of Commons and House of Lords visited in June 2006. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Director Americas visited in December 2011 and launched UK trade initiatives in El Salvador.

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The smallest country in Central America, El Salvador is bordered by Honduras to the north and east and by Guatemala to the west. It has a 307km coastline on the Pacific and is the only country in the region not to have a Caribbean shore. Known as the land of volcanoes – with the attendant seismic activity – the terrain is mountainous with a narrow coastal belt and central plateau. In the west of the country, the Santa Ana volcano is active.

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Trade and investment with the UK

The main UK investors are Shell, Unilever and HSBC. In 2009 UK exports to El Salvador amounted to £13 million. This comprised mainly chemicals and related products, general machinery and transport equipment, plastics, inorganic chemicals and dairy products (Salvadorian Central Bank of Reserve).

During the same period, El Salvador exported £5 million worth of goods to the UK. These comprised articles of apparel and clothing, coffee, tea, cocoa, spices, plastics, clothing and beverages(Salvadorian Central Bank of Reserve).

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: El Salvador (

UK development assistance

The UK provides aid to El Salvador through the multilateral agencies, in particular the EU and the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB).
UK emergency relief contributions totalled £1.6 million as part of the international effort following the major earthquakes in El Salvador in January and February 2001
The EU provided a package of €4m of assistance to the region, including El Salvador, following the devastating rains of 2011 caused by Tropical Depression 12-E.

In 2010 the British Embassy in Guatemala assisted the visit of the Salvadorian Minister to the UK and supported a training scheme for his team focusing on climate change. The Embassy has also supported a programmed aimed at reinstating former gang members into society, and is currently supporting a programme of community policing training.

For more information on the current projects being funded by the UK in El Salvador, visit the British Embassy Guatemala City project pages. (

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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 run-off 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.

At the close of 1989, an end to the civil war seemed remote. Yet in April 1990, representatives of both the FMLN and the government, under the chairmanship of the UN, met and talked in Geneva in the first of a series of negotiations that would lead to peace. A lengthy and problem-ridden negotiating process resulted in a UN-brokered agreement, the Chapultepec Accords, signed on 16 January 1992, followed on 1 February by a formal cease-fire. On 15 December 1992, the day the FMLN registered as a formal political party, the civil war was formally ended. National elections took place in March 1994. The 3 major contending parties were ARENA, the FMLN and the PDC. In the first round of voting in the presidential elections, these parties gained 49%, 25% and 16% of the votes cast, respectively. Following a run off contest in April, Armando Calderon Sol, the ARENA candidate was elected President with 68.2% of the votes cast and was sworn in as President on 1 June 1994. ARENA candidate Francisco Guillermo Flores Perez became president in 1999 after beating former guerrilla Facundo Guardado. The last Presidential elections took place on 21 March 2004. Antonio Saca of the ruling ARENA party won by an overwhelming majority with 57.51% of the vote. The main opposition FMLN party, trailed with 35.9%. The other 2 contending parties - PDC-PDU Coalition and PCN failed to secure the 3% required to retain their legitimacy as political parties. Elections for the Legislative Assembly took place in March 2006. The governing ARENA party won 34 of the 84 seats, whilst the leftist FMLN won 32.

On 24 January 2006, Schafik Handel, the 75-year old leader of the opposition FMLN party died of a heart attack.
Elections for the Legislative Assembly took place in January 2009. The governing ARENA party won 32of the 84 seats, whilst the leftist FMLN won 35.

The Presidential election on 15 March 2009 was won by Mauricio Funes, of the FMLN party, in a closely run contest. Funes secured just over 51% of the vote, whilst Rodrigo Avila, candidate for the governing ARENA party, gained approximately 48% of the vote.

Maurico Funes was sworn in on 1 June 2009 as the first President from the leftist FMLN party since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992. In his inauguration address Funes promised to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and he announced the $474 million Anticrisis Plan, a set of measures meant to stabilise the Salvadoran economy and stimulate job creation.

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Last Updated: January 2012

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