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El Salvador


POPULATION: 6,344,722 (2016 estimate)

  • 86.3% mestizo (mix of indigenous and Spanish)
  • 12.7% European
  • 0.23% indigenous
  • 0.13% Afro-descendant (black)
  • 0.64% other


  • 8,123 sq mi
  • mountainous country with two parallel ranges bordering a central plateau, southern coastal plain, a scattered chain of more than 20 volcanoes stretches across the land from west to east


The Pipil Indians, descendants of the Aztecs migrated to the region in the 11th century. In 1525, Pedro de Alvarado, a lieutenant of Cortés's, conquered El Salvador.

El Salvador, with the other countries of Central America, declared its independence from Spain on Sept. 15, 1821, and was part of a federation of Central American states until that union dissolved in 1838. For decades after its independence, El Salvador experienced numerous revolutions and wars against other Central American republics.



Executive branch: El Salvador elects its head of state (the president) directly through general election. The winner is decided by absolute majority. The presidential period is five years. Consecutive re-election is not permitted, though previously elected presidents may run for a second, non-consecutive term.

Legislative branch: The Salvadoran legislature is made up of 84 deputies (representatives), all of whom are elected by direct popular vote to serve three-year terms and are eligible for immediate re-election. Of these, 64 are elected in 14 multi-seat constituencies, corresponding to the country's 14 departments, which return between 3 and 16 deputies each. The remaining 20 deputies are selected on the basis of a single national constituency.

Judiciary Branch: The highest court is the Supreme Court of El Salvador, consisting of 4 different chambers, 3 courts of appeal and a constitutional court. Judges are elected by the Legislative Assembly for single, 9-year terms with renewal of one-third of judges every 3 years. Below the Supreme Court are intermediate appeals courts, with cases heard by panels of three judges. Below them are the civil and criminal courts of first instance, with cases heard by one judge, but sentencing is carried out by three judges. At the lowest level are justices of the peace, dealing with cases involving smaller amounts of money or personal disputes. There is also a Supreme Court for elections.


El Salvador is divided into 14 departments, which in turn are subdivided into 262 municipalities (mayors are elected every 3 years).



  • $45.98 billion
  • $7,600 per capita

Major Exports:

  • Knit T-shirts ($803M)     
  • Electrical Capacitors ($295M)
  • Knit Sweaters ($252M)
  • Knit Socks and Hosiery ($240M)
  • Coffee ($239M)


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 of around $2.9 billion. Remittances have increased steadily in the last decade and reached an all-time high of $2.9 billion in 2005—approximately 17.1% of gross national product (GNP). As of April 2004, net international reserves stood at $1.9 billion.

In recent years inflation has fallen to single digit levels, and total exports have grown substantially.



From the1930s to the 1970s, authoritarian governments employed political repression and limited reform to maintain power, despite the trappings of democracy.

In 1932, there was a Salvadoran peasant uprising headed by Farabundo Martí, Chief Feliciano Ama from the Izalco tribe and Chief Francisco Sanchez from Juaya, Izalco subdivision. Government retaliation, commonly referred to as La Matanza (the 'slaughter'), followed after the days of protest. In this 'Matanza', approximately 40,000 indigenous people and political opponents were murdered, imprisoned or exiled. (It was no longer safe to be indigenous in El Salvador; that is why the indigenous population today is so low. The indigenous assimilated into the mestizo majority.)

Until 1980, all but one Salvadoran temporary president was an army officer. Periodic presidential elections were seldom free or fair.

In 1969, El Salvador invaded Honduras after Honduran landowners deported several thousand Salvadorans. The four-day war became known as the “football war” because it broke out during a soccer game between the two countries.

In 1980, a 12-year civil war, which cost about 75,000 lives, began, bringing with it years of severe repression: forced disappearances, torture, assassinations and massacres. The bloodiest massacres were the Rio Sumpul (200 killed) and El Mozote (900 killed). The war--funded to the tune of $1million per day by the Reagen Adminstration in the US--ended with the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992. The FMLN rebel group became a legitimate political party and quickly took the mayorships of several large municipalities, including the nation's capital. In 2009 the people elected FMLN candidate Maurcio Funes as president--the first time in the 150-year history of El Salvador that anyone other than the elite-aligned right-wing would rule the nation. The FMLN also won the subsequent presidential election in 2014. 


  • Land rights

  • Free speech

  • Environmental rights

  • LGBTQ rights


  • Human rights defenders

  • Journalists

  • LGBTQ rights defenders

  • Environmental rights defenders


  • Assassination

  • Death threats

  • Forced disappearance

  • Surveillance

  • Criminalization of social protest