U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: El Salvador, April 1997 
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.

OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of El Salvador



Area: 21,476 sq. km. (8,260 sq. mi.); about the size of Massachusetts.
Cities: Capital--San Salvador (pop. 1.4 million). Other cities-San 
Miguel, Ahuachapan, Santa Ana, Sonsonate.
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.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Salvadoran(s).
Population (1996): 5.8 million.
Annual growth rate (1996): 2.2%.
Ethnic groups: Mestizo 98%, indigenous 1%, Caucasian 1%.
Religion: Largely Roman Catholic, with growing Protestant groups 
throughout the country.
Language: Spanish.
Education: Free through ninth grade. Attendance (grades 1 - 9)--82%. 
Literacy--75% among adults.
Health: Infant mortality rate (1993)--41/1,000. Life expectancy (1993 --
males 64 years, females 65 years.
Work force (approximately 2 million): Agriculture--27%, services--21%, 
commerce--20%, manufacturing--19%, construction--7%, transportation and 
communication--4%, other--2%.


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: Nationalist Republican 
Alliance (ARENA), Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), 
National Conciliation Party (PCN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), 
Social Christian Renovation Party (PRSC), Democratic Convergence (CD), 
Unity Movement (MU), Democratic Party (PD).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

ECONOMY (1996)

GDP: $10.9 billion.
Annual growth rate: 4.0%.
Per capita income: $1,974.
Agriculture (14% of GDP): Products--coffee, sugar, livestock, corn, 
poultry, sorghum. Arable, cultivated, or pasture land--67%.
Industry (22% of GDP): Types--food and beverage processing, textiles, 
footwear and clothing, chemical products, petroleum products, 
Trade: Exports--$1.83 billion: coffee, sugar, textiles and shrimp.
Major markets--U.S. 49%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 26%, 
European Union (EU) 18%. Imports--$3.27 billion: consumer goods, 
foodstuffs, capital goods, raw industrial materials, petroleum.
Major suppliers--U.S. 51%, CACM 15%, EU 10%, Mexico 4.7%, Venezuela
Exchange rate (1996 avg.): 8.7 colones = U.S. $1.


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--though Protestant groups are growing--and 
Spanish is the language spoken by virtually all inhabitants. The capital 
city of San Salvador has about 1.4 million people; an estimated 49% of 
El Salvador's population lives in rural areas.

Before the Spanish conquest, the area that is now El Salvador was made 
up of two large Indian states and several principalities. The indigenous 
inhabitants were the Pipils, a tribe of nomadic Nahua people long 
established in Central Mexico. Early in their history, they became one 
of the few Mesoamerican Indian groups to abolish human sacrifice. 
Otherwise, their culture was similar to that of their Aztec neighbors. 
Remains of Nahua culture are still found at ruins such as Tazumal (near 
Chalchuapa), San Andres (northeast of Armenia), and Joya De Ceren (north 
of Colon).

The first Spanish attempt to subjugate this area failed in 1524, when 
Pedro de Alvarado was forced to retreat by Pipil warriors. In 1525, he 
returned and succeeded in bringing the district under control of the 
Captaincy General of Guatemala, which retained its authority until 1821 
despite an abortive revolution in 1811.

Independence 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. Guatemalan troops sent 
to enforce the union were driven out of El Salvador in June 1822. El 
Salvador, fearing incorporation into Mexico, petitioned the U.S. 
Government for statehood.

But in 1823, a revolution in Mexico ousted Emperor Augustin Iturbide, 
and a new Mexican congress voted to allow the Central American provinces 
to decide their own fate. That year, 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 1900-1930 was relative stability achieved. The economic elite 
ruled the country in conjunction with the military, and the power 
structure was controlled by a relatively small number of wealthy 
landowners, known as the 14 Families. The economy, based on coffee-
growing, prospered or suffered as the world coffee price fluctuated.

From 1932--the year of Gen. Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez's coup 
following his brutal suppression of rural resistance--until 1980, all 
but one Salvadoran President was an army officer. Periodic presidential 
elections were seldom free or fair.

From Military to Civilian Rule 
From the 1930s to the 1970s, authoritarian governments employed 
political repression and limited reform to maintain power, despite the 
trappings of democracy. During the 1970s, the political situation began 
to unravel. In the 1972 presidential election, the opponents of military 
rule united under Jose Napoleon Duarte, leader of the Christian 
Democratic Party (PDC). Amid widespread fraud, Duarte's broad-based 
reform movement was defeated. Subsequent protests and an attempted coup 
were crushed, and Duarte exiled. These events eroded hope of reform 
through democratic means and persuaded those opposed to the government 
that armed insurrection was the only way to achieve change. As a 
consequence, leftist groups capitalizing upon social discontent gained 

By 1979, leftist guerrilla warfare had broken out in the cities and the 
countryside, launching what became a 12-year civil war. A cycle of 
violence took hold as rightist vigilante death squads in turn killed 
thousands. The poorly trained Salvadoran Armed Forces (ESAF) also 
engaged in repression and indiscriminate killings. After the collapse of 
the Somoza regime in Nicaragua that year, the new Sandinista government 
provided large amounts of arms and munitions to five Salvadoran 
guerrilla groups.

On October 15, 1979, reform-minded military officers and civilian 
leaders ousted the right-wing government of Gen. Carlos Humberto Romero 
(1977-79) and formed a revolutionary junta. PDC leader Duarte joined the 
junta in March 1980, leading the provisional government until the 
elections of March 1982. The junta initiated a land reform program and 
nationalized the banks and the marketing of coffee and sugar. Political 
parties were allowed to function again, and on March 28, 1982, 
Salvadorans elected a new constituent assembly. Following that election, 
authority was peacefully transferred to Alvaro Magana, the provisional 
president selected by the assembly.

The 1983 constitution, drafted by the assembly, strengthened individual 
rights; established safeguards against excessive provisional detention 
and unreasonable searches; established a republican, pluralistic form of 
government; strengthened the legislative branch; and enhanced judicial 
independence. It also codified labor rights, particularly for 
agricultural workers. The newly initiated reforms, though, did not 
satisfy the guerrilla movements, which had unified under Cuban auspices-
-while each retained their autonomous status--as the Farabundo Marti 
National Liberation Front (FMLN).

Duarte won the 1984 presidential election against rightist Roberto 
D'Aubuisson of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) with 54% of 
the vote and became the first freely elected president of El Salvador in 
more than 50 years.

In 1989, ARENA's Alfredo Cristiani won the presidential election with 
54% of the vote. His inauguration on June 1, 1989, marked the first time 
in decades that power had passed peacefully from one freely elected 
civilian leader to another.

Ending the Civil War Upon his inauguration in June 1989, President 
Cristiani called for direct dialogue to end the decade of conflict 
between the government and guerrillas. An unmediated dialogue process 
involving monthly meetings between the two sides was initiated in 
September 1989, lasting until the FMLN launched a bloody, nationwide 
offensive in November that year.

In early 1990, following a request from the Central American presidents, 
the United Nations became involved in an effort to mediate direct talks 
between the two sides. After a year of little progress, the government 
and the FMLN accepted an invitation from the UN Secretary General to 
meet in New York City. On September 25, 1991, the two sides signed the 
New York City Accord. It concentrated the negotiating process into one 
phase and created the Committee for the Consolidation of the Peace 
(COPAZ), made up of representatives of the government, FMLN, and 
political parties, with Catholic Church and UN observers.

On December 31, 1991, the government and the FMLN initialed a peace 
agreement under the auspices of then Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar. 
The final agreement, called the Accords of Chapultepec, was signed in 
Mexico City on January 16, 1992. A nine-month cease-fire took effect 
February 1, 1992, and was never broken. A ceremony held on December 15, 
1992, marked the official end of the conflict, concurrent with the 
demobilization of the last elements of the FMLN military structure and 
the FMLN's inception as a political party.


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 five-year term. Members of the 
assembly, also elected by universal suffrage, serve for three-year 
terms. The country has an independent judiciary and Supreme Court.

In March 1994, the first post-civil war elections were held with FMLN 
participation, featuring simultaneous presidential, legislative, and 
municipal races. ARENA won 39 seats in the Legislative Assembly, the 
FMLN 21 seats, the PDC 18, the National Conciliation Party (PCN) four, 
and the Democractic Convergence (CD) and Unity Movement (MU) one each. 
(The FMLN and PDC caucuses subsequently split.) ARENA presidential 
candidate Armando Calderon Sol faced FMLN-CD coalition candidate Ruben 
Zamora in a runoff in April and won with 68% of the vote. UN observers 
declared the elections free and fair. Armando Calderon Sol of the ARENA 
party began his five-year term as President on June 1, 1994, and cannot 
succeed himself.

The March 1997 legislative and municipal elections were conducted in a 
free and transparent manner, depite the fact that important electoral 
reforms agreed to three years earlier were not in place, and voter 
turnout barely reached 40%. The FMLN and opposition coalitions scored 
impressive gains in both the assembly and throughout the country's 262 
municipalities, capturing the mayoral seats in six of 14 departmental 
capitals, including San Salvador. In the 1997-2000 assembly ARENA will 
have 28 deputies, the FMLN 27, the PCN 11, and the PDC 7. Several small 
centrist parties and coalitions will split the remaining 11 seats.

Political Parties 
ARENA is El Salvador's leading political party. It was created in 1982 
by Roberto D'Aubuisson and other ultra-rightists, including some members 
of the military. His electoral fortunes were diminished by credible 
reports that he was involved in organized political violence. Following 
the 1984 presidential election, ARENA began reaching out to more 
moderate individuals and groups, particularly in the private sector.

By 1989, ARENA had attracted the support of business groups, and Alfredo 
Cristiani won the presidency. Despite sincere efforts at reform, 
Duarte's PDC administration had failed to either end the insurgency or 
improve the economy. Allegations of corruption, 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 standard-bearer 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 remains the country's single largest and best 
organized political party.

In December 1992 the FMLN became a political party, composed of the 
political factions of the wartime guerrilla movement, and maintained a 
united front during the 1994 electoral campaign. The FMLN also came in 
second in the legislative assembly races. Internal political 
differences, however, among the FMLN's constituent parties led to the 
breakaway of two of the FMLN's original five factions after the 1994 
elections. Despite the defections, the FMLN was able to consolidate its 
remaining factions and present itself as a viable option to ARENA. It is 
the second-largest block in the new assembly and due to its strategic 
control of the mayorships of many departmental cities, over 50% of 
Salvadorans have an FMLN or coalition-led municipal government.

The right wing of the National Conciliation Party (PCN), which ruled the 
country in alliance with the military from the 1960s until 1979, 
maintains a small but steady electoral base. Its fortunes were recently 
boosted by the addition of high-profile ARENA defectors and a 
reinvigorated electoral showing in the assembly. Several other smaller 
parties represented in Legislative Assembly in El Salvador fight for the 
political center with limited success. The PDC, which had won more 
municipal elections in 1994 than did the FMLN, continued to splinter. 
Following the 1994 election, those opposed to the then party leadership 
formed the Social Christian Renovation Party (PRSC). Subsequently, the 
remaining PDC leadership split into two factions that battled each other 
in court and before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal for most of 1996. The 
CD, which had been the principal party of the left before the peace 
accords, and the MU, a party based in the Salvadoran evangelical 
movement, combined with the FMLN to elect a coalition candidate as mayor 
of San Salvador.

Compliance With the Peace Accords 
While many aspects of the accords have been largely implemented, 
important components such as judicial reform remain incomplete. The 
peace process set up under the Chapultepec Accords has been monitored by 
the United Nations since 1991.

Human Rights 
During the 12-year civil war, human rights violations by both left- and 
right-wing forces 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 judiciary reforms. Thereafter, 
the Legislative Assembly granted amnesty for 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. servicemen.

The peace accords also required the establishment of the Ad Hoc 
Commission to evaluate the human rights record of the ESAF officer 
corps. In 1993, the last of the 103 officers identified by this 
commission as responsible for human rights violations were retired, and 
the UN observer mission declared the government in compliance with the 
Ad Hoc Commission recommendations.

Also in 1993, the Government of El Salvador and the UN established the 
Joint Group to investigate whether illegal, armed, politically-motivated 
groups continued to exist after the signing of the peace accords. The 
group reported its findings in 1994 stating that death squads were no 
longer active but that violence was still being used to obtain political 
ends. The group recommended a special National Civilian Police (PNC) 
unit be created to investigate political and organized crime and that 
further reforms be made in the judicial system. The government created 
the PNC's Organized Crime Investigation Unit (DICO) and took other steps 
in response to the report, although not all the group's recommendations 
have been implemented.

The peace accords provided for the establishment of a Human Rights 
Ombudsman's Office. Victoria Velasquez de Aviles succeeded Carlos Molina 
Fonseca as Ombudsman in 1995.

Military Reform 
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 and National Guard were abolished, and military 
intelligence functions were transferred to civilian control. By 1993--
nine 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 early 1997, ESAF strength stood at less than 17,000 
(including uniformed and non-uniformed personnel). 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. Clear 
institutional guidance from the Minister of Defense proscribing the 
military from any political involvement in the electoral process was 
clearly followed in the March 1997 elections.

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 late 1996, the 
PNC had over 10,500 officers. The United States, through the Department 
of Justice's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance 
Program (ICITAP), has led international support for the PNC and the 
National Public Security Academy (ANSP), providing over $28 million in 
non-lethal equipment and training since 1992.

The PNC faces many challenges in building a completely new police force. 
With common crime rising dramatically since the end of the war, over 110 
PNC officers had been killed in the line of duty by late 1996. PNC 
officers have also arrested a number of their own in connection with 
various high-profile crimes.

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. The process of replacing incompetent judges in the lower 
courts, and of strengthening the attorney general's 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.

Land Transfers 
Over 35,000 eligible beneficiaries from among the former guerrillas and 
soliders who fought the war received land under the Peace Accord-
mandated land transfer program which ended in January 1997. The majority 
of them have also 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.

Principal Government Officials 
President--Armando CALDERON Sol 
Vice President--Enrique BORGO Bustamante 
Minister of Foreign Relations--Ramon GONZALEZ Giner 
Ambassador to the United States--Ana Cristina SOL 
Representative to the OAS--Mauricio GRANILLO 
Representative to the UN--Ricardo Guillermo CASTENEDA Cornejo

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.


The Salvadoran economy continues to benefit from a commitment to a free 
economy and careful fiscal management. The impact of the civil war on El 
Salvador's economy was devastating; from 1979 to 1990, 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 launched by the Cristiani government in July 1989, 
including the privatization of the banking system, reduction of import 
duties, and elimination of price controls on virtually all consumer 
products. The successor government of President Calderon Sol has 
continued market liberalization, further reducing tariffs and enhancing 
the investment climate through measures such as improved enforcement of 
intellectual property rights. Perhaps its most significant achievement 
has been the opening of the telecommunications and electrical sector to 
competition, a step that establishes the framework for the privatization 
of the telephone and electric companies set to begin in 1997.

The post-war boom in the Salvadoran economy began to fade in July 1995 
after an abrupt shift in monetary policy was followed by a June increase 
in the value added tax (VAT) and price hikes in basic public services. 
The slowdown lingered into the new year and the Volume Index of Economic 
Activity (IVAE) declined throughout the first half of 1996, led by a 
dismal performance in the retail sector. Inflation remained stubbornly 
higher than expected, reaching a 10% annual rate by July 1996. The slump 
contributed to a larger-than-expected government deficit. Tax revenues 
were down from early projections and expenditures were up, due to an 
increase in teachers' salaries and government downsizing at the end of 
1995 that required payment of a special severance package. Virtually 
every sector lobbied for a sectoral stimulus package, including tariff 
protection, tax cuts, and special credit lines. The government took 
considerable criticism for its perceived neglect, but steadfastly 
refused to intervene and spend the economy back to health.

The outlook improved toward the end of 1996. Key indicators, such as 
industrial electrical consumption, cement consumption, and air cargo 
traffic were all up. The IVAE index began to move up, but more 
importantly, the retail sector showed improved performance in the third 
and fourth quarters. Prices of basic foodstuffs fell in September and 
October. Inflation for the year was projected at 9% and real GDP growth 
was estimated at 4%.

In mid-1995, the government of El Salvador flirted briefly with the idea 
of switching to a dollar economy, going a step further than the fixed 
exchange rate proposed by the President. The government took a number 
administrative steps that substantially increased the liquidity in the 
economy and helped fuel 1995's boom. Following intense pressure from the 
World Bank, the government made the political decision to abandon the 
dollarization idea in early 1996. Subsequent tightening of the monetary 
policy by the Central Bank contributed to the onset of what the 
government called deceleration.

Fiscal policy has been the biggest challenge for the Salvadoran 
Government. The 1992 peace accords signed committed the government to 
heavy expenditures for transition programs and social services. Although 
international aid has been 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 estimated to have contributed 54% of total tax revenues in 
1996; collections in the first nine months of the year were up 21% over 
1995, in part due to the rate increase, but also to improved collection 

A multiple exchange rate regime that had been used to conserve foreign 
exchange was phased out during 1990 and replaced by a free-floating 
rate. The colon depreciated from five to the dollar in 1989 to eight in 
1991, and in 1993 was informally pegged at 8.75 colones to the dollar. 
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 $85 million, with the 
total estimated at more than $1 billion for 1996. As of August 1996, net 
international reserves equalled roughly four months of imports.

Foreign Debt and Assistance 
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. As a result, total debt service decreased by 
16% over 1992. Total external debt went down from $2.245 billion in 1994 
to approximately $2.2 billion in 1995 and did not rise significantly in 
1996. Debt service fell correspondingly from 3.3% of GDP in 1994 to 3.0% 
in 1996. El Salvador has eliminated all payment arrears, and its debt 
burden is considered moderate.

The Government of El Salvador has been successful in obtaining 
significant new credits from the international financial institutions. 
Among the most significant loans are a second structural adjustment loan 
from the World Bank for $52.5 million, another World Bank loan of $40 
million for agricultural reform, a $20 million loan from the Central 
American Bank for Economic Integration to be used to repair roads and a 
$60 million Inter-American Development Bank loan for poverty alleviation 
projects. Although official figures show relatively small and 
diminishing aid flows, the total is probably larger. Significant amounts 
come in through non-governmental organizations and are channeled to 
groups not generally included in official statistics, such as political 
parties, unions, and churches. Total non-United States Government aid 
could be as high as $800 million in 1995 and 1996.

El Salvador historically has been the most industrialized nation in 
Central America, though a decade of war eroded this position. In 1995, 
manufacturing accounted for 22% of GDP. The industrial sector has 
shifted since 1993 from a primarily domestic orientation to include free 
zone (maquiladora) manufacturing for export. Maquila exports have led 
the growth in the export sector and in the last three years have made an 
important contribution to the Salvadoran economy.

El Salvador's balance of payments continued to show a net surplus. 
Exports in 1996 grew 11% while imports declined, narrowing El Salvador's 
almost 2-to-1 trade deficit. As in the previous year, the large trade 
deficit ($1.5 billion) was offset by foreign aid and family remittances. 
Private foreign capital continued to flow in, though mostly as short-
term import financing and not at the levels of previous years. The 
Central American Common Market (CACM) continued its dynamic reactivation 
process, now with most regional commerce duty-free. In September 1996, 
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras opened free trade talks with 
Mexico. Although tariff cuts that were expected in July 1996 were 
delayed until 1997, the Government of El Salvador is committed to a free 
and open economy. President Calderon Sol has indicated that he expects 
to implement a tariff regime between 0 and 6% for all traded goods by 

Total U.S. exports to El Salvador reached $1.7 billion in 1995, while El 
Salvador exported $844 million to the U.S. Salvadoran exports to the 
U.S. are expected to grow in 1996 to $895 million. U.S. exports are 
projected at $1.68 million. 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. Over 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 State maintains a Country Commercial Guide for U.S. 
businesses seeking detailed information on business opportunities in El 

Agriculture and Land Reform 
Before 1980, a small economic elite owned most of the land in El 
Salvador and controlled a highly successful agricultural industry. About 
70% of farmers were sharecroppers or laborers on large plantations. Many 
farm workers were under- or unemployed and impoverished.

The civilian-military junta which came to power in 1979 instituted an 
ambitious land reform program to redress the inequities of the past, 
respond to the legitimate grievances of the rural poor, and promote more 
broadly based growth in the agricultural sector. The ultimate goal was 
to develop a rural middle class with a stake in a peaceful and 
prosperous future for El Salvador.

At least 525,000 people--more than 12% of El Salvador's population at 
the time and perhaps 25% of the rural poor--benefited from agrarian 
reform, and more than 22% of El Salvador's total farmland was 
transferred to those who previously worked the land but did not own it. 
But when agrarian reform ended in 1990, about 150,000 landless families 
still had not benefited from the reform actions.

The 1992 peace accords made provisions for land transfers to all 
qualified ex-combatants of both the FMLN and ESAF, as well as to 
landless peasants living in former conflict areas. The United States 
undertook to provide $300 million for a national reconstruction plan. 
This included $60 million for land purchases and $17 million for 
agricultural credits. USAID remains actively involved in providing 
technical training, access to credit and other financial services for 
many of the land beneficiaries.


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 
(PARLACEN); and the Central American Integration System (SICA). It 
actively participates in the Central American Security Commission 
(CASC), which seeks to promote regional arms control. 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.

In July 1969, El Salvador and Honduras fought the 100-hour Soccer War 
over disputed border areas and friction resulting from the 300,000 
Salvadorans 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 two countries. The two countries formally 
signed a peace treaty on October 30, 1980, which put the border dispute 
before the International Court of Justice.

In September 1992, the court issued a 400-page ruling, awarding much of 
the disputed land to Honduras. Although there have been tensions between 
citizens on both sides of the border, the two countries have worked to 
maintain stability, and signed an agreement in November 1996 to 
establish a framework for negotiating the final disposition of citizens 
and property in the affected areas. El Salvador and Honduras share 
normal diplomatic and trade relations.

U.S.-Salvadoran Relations 
U.S.-Salvadoran relations remain close and cordial. U.S. policy toward 
El Salvador seeks to promote:

The complete implementation of the peace accords; 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.

In FY1996, U.S. Government assistance to El Salvador was about $60 
million, including $10 million of PL-480 (food assistance). Bilateral 
aid in general has declined since the end of the war. The Salvadoran 
government relies increasingly on loans from international lending 
institutions to finance special projects.

In February 1996, Secretary of State Warren Christopher visited El 
Salvador to sign an agreement providing $10 million to complete the Land 
Transfer Program. In his address to the Legislative Assembly the 
Secretary reiterated U.S. support for hemispheric commitments to 
sustainable development and free trade. Continued U.S. and international 
engagement has been instrumental in keeping the Salvadoran peace process 
on track.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials 
Ambassador--Anne W. Patterson 
Deputy Chief of Mission--John C. Dawson 
USAID Mission Chief--Kenneth Ellis 
Political Counselor--Gregory Sprow 
Economic Counselor--Christopher Lynch 
Public Affairs Officer--Cynthia Farrell-Johnson

The U.S. embassy in El Salvador is located at Final Blvd. Santa Elena, 
Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad (tel.: 503-278-4444; fax: 503-278-6011).

Private sector U.S. ties to El Salvador are dynamic and growing. 
Approximately 9,000 American citizens live and work full-time in El 
Salvador. Most are private businesspersons and their families, but a 
small and rapidly expanding 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 

The American Chamber of Commerce in El Salvador is located at 87 Avenida 
Norte No. 720, Apto. A, Colonia Escalon, San Salvador, El Salvador 
(tel.: 503-223-3292; fax: 503-224-6856).


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;(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


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate 
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: 
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). 
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will 
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-
8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. 
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is 
required). The CABB also carries international security information from 
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of 
Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication 
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a 
safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, 
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-
7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250. 

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648) 

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is 
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see Principal 
Government Officials listing in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous 
areas, are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a 
country (see Principal U.S. Embassy Officials listing in this 
publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an 

Further Electronic Information: 

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's 
World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov/; this site has a link to 
the DOSFAN Gopher Research Collection, which also is accessible at 

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual basis 
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information. 


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