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

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean


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: 442 m
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)

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


6,156,670 (July 2016 est.)


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.)

Demographic profile

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. It is well into its demographic transition, experiencing slower population growth, a decline in its number of youths, and the gradual aging of its population. The increased use of family planning has substantially lowered El Salvador's fertility rate, from approximately 6 children per woman in the 1970s to replacement level today. A 2008 national family planning survey showed that female sterilization remained the most common contraception method in El Salvador - its sterilization rate is among the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean - but that the use of injectable contraceptives is growing. Fertility differences between rich and poor and urban and rural women are narrowing.
Salvadorans fled during the 1979 to 1992 civil war mainly to the United States but also to Canada and to neighboring Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Emigration to the United States increased again in the 1990s and 2000s as a result of deteriorating economic conditions, natural disasters (Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and earthquakes in 2001), and family reunification. At least 20% of El Salvador's population lives abroad. The remittances they send home account for close to 20% of GDP, are the second largest source of external income after exports, and have helped reduce poverty.

Age structure

0-14 years: 26.58% (male 839,392/female 797,323)
15-24 years: 20.51% (male 635,100/female 627,648)
25-54 years: 38.66% (male 1,098,619/female 1,281,822)
55-64 years: 6.96% (male 190,386/female 238,206)
65 years and over: 7.28% (male 197,945/female 250,229) (2016 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: 26.6 years
male: 25.1 years
female: 28.1 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

0.25% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

16.3 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

5.7 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

-8.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Population distribution

athough it is the smallest country in land area in Central America, El Salvador has a population that is 18 times larger than Belize; at least 20% of the population lives abroad; high population density country-wide, with particular concentration around the capital of San Salvador


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: 0.86 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.8 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Child labor - children ages 5-14

total number: 179,303
percentage: 4%
note: data represent children ages 5-17 (2007 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

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

Infant mortality rate

total: 17.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.4 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 15.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Health expenditures

6.8% of GDP (2014)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 74.7 years
male: 71.4 years
female: 78.1 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.89 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

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

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

0.51% (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

19,800 (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

400 (2015 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever
note: active local transmission of Zika virus by Aedes species mosquitoes has been identified in this country (as of August 2016); it poses an important risk (a large number of cases possible) among US citizens if bitten by an infective mosquito; other less common ways to get Zika are through sex, via blood transfusion, or during pregnancy, in which the pregnant woman passes Zika virus to her fetus (2016)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

20.1% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

5% (2014)

Education expenditures

3.4% of GDP (2014)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 88%
male: 90.4%
female: 86% (2015 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2014)

Mother's mean age at first birth

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

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

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

presidential republic


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 (2016)

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

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Claudia Ivette CANJURA de Centeno (since 17 June 2016)
chancery: 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 595-7517
FAX: [1] (202) 232-1928
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Brentwood (NY), Chicago, Coral Gables (FL), Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas (NV), Los Angeles, McAllen (TX), New York, Nogales (AZ), San Francisco, Seattle, Tucson (AZ), Washington, DC, Woodbridge (VA), Woodstock (GA)
consulate(s): Elizabeth (NJ), Newark (NJ)

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Jean MANES (since January 2016)
embassy: Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, San Salvador
mailing address: Unit 3450, APO AA 34023; 3450 San Salvador Place, Washington, DC 20521-3450
telephone: [503] 2501-2999
FAX: [503] 2501-2150

National symbol(s)

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

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 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,

In 2006, El Salvador was the first country to ratify the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement, which has bolstered the export of processed foods, sugar, and ethanol, and supported investment in the apparel sector amid increased Asian c

The Salvadoran Government maintained fiscal discipline during post-war reconstruction and rebuilding 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 l

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$54.79 billion (2016 est.)
$53.5 billion (2015 est.)
$52.22 billion (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$26.61 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

2.4% (2016 est.)
2.5% (2015 est.)
1.4% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$8,900 (2016 est.)
$8,700 (2015 est.)
$8,600 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

Gross national saving

12.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
10.4% of GDP (2015 est.)
8.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 91.5%
government consumption: 12.3%
investment in fixed capital: 14.4%
investment in inventories: -0.1%
exports of goods and services: 26.2%
imports of goods and services: -44.3% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 10.6%
industry: 25.3%
services: 64.1% (2016 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

2.4% (2016 est.)

Labor force

2.788 million (2016 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 21%
industry: 20%
services: 58% (2011 est.)

Unemployment rate

5.5% (2016 est.)
5.5% (2015 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

46.9 (2007)
52.5 (2001)


revenues: $5.443 billion
expenditures: $6.318 billion (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

20.5% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-3.3% of GDP (2016 est.)

Public debt

64.9% of GDP (2016 est.)
65.4% of GDP (2015 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)

1.1% (2016 est.)
-0.7% (2015 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate

6.3% (31 December 2016 est.)
6.13% (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$3.377 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$3.253 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money

$11.99 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$11.61 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$14.35 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$13.28 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

$10.74 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$5.474 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$4.227 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance

-$549 million (2016 est.)
-$920 million (2015 est.)


$4.556 billion (2016 est.)
$4.381 billion (2015 est.)

Exports - commodities

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

Exports - partners

US 47.1%, Honduras 13.9%, Guatemala 13.6%, Nicaragua 6.6%, Costa Rica 4.5% (2015)


$9.444 billion (2016 est.)
$9.321 billion (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities

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

Imports - partners

US 39.4%, Guatemala 9.6%, China 8.1%, Mexico 7.4%, Honduras 5.7% (2015)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$3.201 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$2.787 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Debt - external

$14.9 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$14.67 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home

$10.56 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$10.11 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad

$811.8 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$951.8 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Exchange rates

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


Electricity - access

population without electricity: 400,000
electrification - total population: 94%
electrification - urban areas: 98%
electrification - rural areas: 86% (2013)

Electricity - production

6.1 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

5.7 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

200 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - imports

600 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

1.7 million kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

53.1% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

31.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

15.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

220 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

9,940 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

45,000 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

226.4 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

43,530 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

6.5 million Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 944,266
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 15 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 9.334 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 152 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: multiple mobile-cellular providers are expanding services rapidly; 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 (2015)

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)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 1.653 million
percent of population: 26.9% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 36
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 2,597,649
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 13,873,884 mt-km (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

YS (2016)


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)


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


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 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

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

Refugees and internally displaced persons

IDPs: 289,000 (2015)

Illicit drugs

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