El Salvador

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República de El Salvador
Republic of El Salvador
Flag of El Salvador
El Salvador's coat of arms
flag coat of arms
Motto : Dios, Unión, Libertad
(Spanish for God, unity, freedom )
Official language Spanish
capital city San Salvador
State and form of government presidential republic
Head of state , also head of government President Nayib Bukele
area 21,041 km²
population 6.5 million ( 109th ) (2019; estimate)
Population density 310 inhabitants per km²
Population development + 0.5% (Estimate for 2019)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
Human Development Index 0.673 ( 124th ) (2019)
currency US dollar (USD)

Bitcoin (BTC)
( Colón expiring)

independence April 13, 1838 (by the Central American Confederation )
National anthem Saludemos la Patria orgullosos
Time zone UTC − 6
License Plate IT
ISO 3166 SV , SLV, 222
Internet TLD .sv
Phone code +503
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El Salvador (German pronunciation [ ɛl zalvaˈdoːɐ̯ ], Spanish pronunciation [ el salβaˈðoɾ ]; Spanish "the Redeemer", "the Savior ") is a state in Central America . It borders on Guatemala in the northwest , Honduras in the northeast and lies on the Pacific . El Salvador is the smallest country in the Central America region , has the highest population density and is located in an earthquake area .


With an area of ​​21,041 km², El Salvador is roughly the size of Hesse . The coastline to the Pacific and the Gulf of Fonseca in the south extends over a length of 307 km. As the only country in Central America , El Salvador has no direct access to the Caribbean Sea .

El Salvador is characterized by a chain of volcanoes that roughly divides the country into three regions: the southern coastal strip, the central plateaus and valleys, and the northern mountains. The highest mountain is El Pital (2730 m) on the border with Honduras. The highest volcano is the Santa Ana in the west with a height of 2365 m. The longest river is the Río Lempa with a total length of 422 km, of which 320 km on national territory.

The largest cities are (as of January 1, 2005): San Salvador (525,990 inhabitants), Soyapango (329,708 inhabitants), Santa Ana (176,661 inhabitants), San Miguel (161,880 inhabitants), Mejicanos (160,317 inhabitants), Santa Tecla (124,694 inhabitants ) and Apopa (112,158 inhabitants).

See also: List of cities in El Salvador

Population and languages

El Salvador
San Salvador
Basilica Sagrado Corazon de Jesus
Population pyramid El Salvador 2016

About 90% of the population are mestizo , 9% of European descent and 1% indigenous. Until the 1930s, around 20% of the population belonged to indigenous peoples. In the Matanza period from 1932 onwards, speaking indigenous languages ​​and wearing traditional clothing became a survival risk. The indigenous people were forced to deny their identity and language. In El Salvador today there are no longer any indigenous languages ​​that are passed on from parents to their children.

One of the most important languages ​​used to be Nawat , which is spoken by very few people today. In the ethnic sense, around 200,000 people are still classified as Pipil , and a few thousand as Lenca and Cacaopera, whose languages ​​have already died out. In the 2007 census, only 11,488 people identified themselves as indigenous people , 97 people named Nawat as their mother tongue, most of them in the municipalities of Santo Domingo de Guzmán and Cuisnahuat , both in the Sonsonate department . With the extinction of the Nawat, El Salvador would be the second country on the American mainland after Uruguay where indigenous languages ​​are no longer spoken.

Population growth in El Salvador

Due to the traumatic experiences of the indigenous people, it can be assumed that there are still some speakers who do not disclose their indigenous language skills. In the past few decades, immigrants from Guatemala have also brought the Maya language of the Kekchí with them, although the actual number of speakers in El Salvador is difficult to estimate.

48% of El Salvador's population live below the poverty line .

In 2008 there were 1.1 million immigrants from El Salvador in the United States . They represent the sixth largest group of immigrants there. El Salvador itself has only a very low proportion of foreigners and is predominantly a country of emigration. In 2017, 0.7% of the population was born abroad.

According to a survey by the US polling institute Gallup in December 2012, the people of the country were among the happiest people on earth. In contrast, a survey by Diálogo Interamericano published in the newspaper La prensa grafica in 2014 showed that one in four Salvadorans wants to emigrate, particularly because of the rampant crime. 40% of men and 31% of women between the ages of 18 and 30 consider such a move.

Bless you

With 2.0 children per woman, El Salvador has the lowest birth rate in Central America after Costa Rica (as of 2019). The life expectancy was in 2015 at around 69 years for men and about 78 years for women. The healthy life expectancy is about 59 years for men and 65 years for women. There are around 25,000 people infected with HIV in El Salvador , including around 9,000 women. This corresponds to around 0.6% of the population over the age of 15. In 2016, 24.6% of the population were severely overweight ( obese ).

The number of doctors in 2018 was 28.7 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants.

Ban on the application of agrochemicals

El Salvador is one of only two countries in the world that have banned the use of certain agrochemicals nationwide and without exception. The reason is an extreme accumulation of a particular type of fatal kidney failure among farm workers. After a resolution in this regard by the Conference of Central American Health Ministers in March 2013 showed no consequences, the country single-handedly enforced the ban in September this year. The ban applies to glyphosate , the most important trade name Roundup , as well as paraquat and endosulfan . The problem of the deadly combination of heavy metals with pesticides is known all over the American Pacific coast, as well as from India and Sri Lanka , the latter also banning glyphosate.

Total ban on abortion

El Salvador has one of the toughest abortion laws in the world. It criminalizes all forms of abortion as a violent crime. This applies even to rape , ectopic pregnancies or severe deformities of the fetuses . Doctors are required to report women suspected of having an abortion. Critics complain that women who have not attempted an abortion but suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth risk being sentenced to long prison terms for abortion.


The number of students per teacher is high. Illiteracy is widespread in rural areas. In El Salvador, the median school attendance increased from 3.7 years in 1990 to 6.5 years in 2015. The secondary school comprises three school years . The country has the following public and private universities and colleges:

  • Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas" (UCA) in Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad (private)
  • Universidad de El Salvador in San Salvador, Santa Ana, San Miguel, San Vicente and San Luis Talpa (public, founded 1841)
  • Universidad Don Bosco (private, Salesians Don Bosco )
  • Universidad Católica de El Salvador in Santa Ana
  • Universidad "Francisco Gavidia" in San Salvador (private)
  • Universidad Politécnica de El Salvador (private)
  • Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador (private)
  • University "Dr. José Matías Delgado "(UJMD) in La Libertad (private)
  • Escuela Superior de Economía y Negocios, (ESEN), Nuevo Cuscatlán, La Libertad (private)


Jesus Christ on the globe: The Monumento al divino Salvador del mundo ("Monument to the Holy Redeemer of the World") in San Salvador is a landmark of the country.

50% of the population are Catholics , another 31% Protestants . The latter profess to a large number of different Protestant denominations , which were initially spread by European and, since the 20th century, increasingly also by North American missionaries. Most of them belong to the fast growing evangelical communities. Its growth began in the 1980s when Catholic priests and lay people, especially supporters of liberation theology , criticized the government and called for social reforms. According to the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador, Gregorio Cardinal Rosa Chávez , “a Catholic was suspect at the time” for the authorities. Most Protestants live in the cities. In some cities, 40% of the population is Protestant. Around 10% of the population today state that they are non-denominational .

Successor to the Archbishop of San Salvador , Óscar Romero , who was murdered in 1980 , was the Salesian Arturo Rivera y Damas (1923-1994). In 1995 Pope John Paul II appointed Fernando Sáenz Lacalle as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Salvador . In December 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed José Luis Escobar Alas as his successor. In addition to the Archdiocese of San Salvador, there are currently seven other dioceses in El Salvador: Chalatenango , San Miguel , Santa Ana , Santiago de Maria , San Vicente , Sonsonate and Zacatecoluca .


On September 15, 1821, El Salvador gained independence from the former colonial power Spain and then belonged to the Central American Confederation ( Confederación de Centroamérica ) until it finally broke up in 1839 .

In 1882 the government of El Salvador abolished the last remaining indigenous common land by law and thus enabled the expansion of the coffee plantations. By 1900, 90% of the country's goods were in the hands of 0.01% of the population. Most of the peasants were landless and lived in extreme poverty .

In 1930 the country's defense minister, General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez , took power in a coup . In 1932 Martínez had an uprising led by the chairman of the newly founded Communist Party of El Salvador , Agustín Farabundo Martí , of predominantly indigenous Pipil farmers in the west of the country, bloodily suppressed. In addition to Farabundo, around 30,000 people were killed. La Matanza - "the massacre" is considered to be the end of the existence of the indigenous peoples of El Salvador. It is said that people were killed simply because of the distinguishing feature that they spoke Nahuatl (Pipil) or wore "Indian" clothing.

In 1939 the active right to vote for women over 25 years (if married) or over 30 years (if single) was introduced. The ballot was voluntary for women, but compulsory for men. From 1959, all Salvadorans over the age of 18 had the right to vote, regardless of gender.

In 1969 there was a war with Honduras , the so-called "Hundred Hour War", which went down in history as the " Football War" . This was triggered by tensions over agricultural workers from El Salvador, who the Honduras government had long held responsible for the economic problems. The war lasted four days from July 14, 1969 to July 18, 1969 (100 hours), killing 3,000 people and injuring 6,000. The conflict was settled through a peace agreement with the mediation of the Organization of American States .

Since 1970 there was the Maoist guerrilla FPL under Salvador Cayetano Carpio (Comandante Marcial). In the presidential elections on February 20, 1972, the two candidates for the opposition alliance José Napoleón Duarte from the Partido Demócrata Cristiano (PDC) and Guillermo Manuel Ungo from the Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario (MNR) were obviously cheated out of their majority. On March 2, 1972, the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP) shot and killed two soldiers from the Guardia Nacional in San Salvador. Members from PDC contexts were assigned to the ERP. In the climate of mistrust, the influence of the paramilitary organization ORDEN could not be eliminated. On March 25, 1972, Duarte was arrested and tortured, losing three fingers. He was accused of high treason and sentenced to death. In response to international pressure, President Arturo Armando Molina promised him exile and deported him to Venezuela.

In October 1979, the Salvadoran military feared a similar fate following the overthrow of Nicaraguan President Somoza . Therefore, the president of the military party, Partido de Conciliación Nacional , Carlos Humberto Romero was killed on a trip to the USA and a politically very broad junta was formed, headed by the former opposition leader José Napoleón Duarte and which initially also belonged to the MNR. Despite high economic growth rates , the economic problems worsened for large parts of the population. Reasons for this were inter alia. the mechanization of agriculture as a result of the Green Revolution and land evictions caused by the construction of extensive hydroelectric reservoirs. These phenomena should be alleviated by a land transfer authority (ISTA) or at least given a quasi-legal framework. In 1983 a constitution was enacted which, in Article 105, restricted land ownership to 245 hectares. The surplus land should be transferred to cooperatives with compensation. Parts of El Salvador's 14 landowning families attempted to halt land reform with terrorism by death squads . The murder of Archbishop Óscar Romero , one of the most prominent critics of the military regime, on March 24, 1980, became publicized around the world. In this " dirty war " many church, political or unionized people fell victim to death squads.

The brutal repression of the military regime drove the opposition into armed resistance. From 1980 to 1991 a civil war broke out in El Salvador , which caused around 70,000 deaths, mainly among the civilian population, thousands of disabled people and destruction amounting to billions. The armed forces of the guerrilla consisted of individual associations of communists, Christians and trade unionists who joined together to form a Marxist- oriented association of revolutionary movements, the FMLN . The US government supported the military dictatorship in El Salvador . In addition to military advisers, the United States supplied the junta on a large scale with military equipment, even after government soldiers trained by US soldiers committed one of the worst atrocities in Latin American history with the El Mozote massacre .

The social contrast between the small part of the population, who owned most of the resources, and the impoverished majority of the population ultimately persisted even after the end of the civil war.

After the Chapultepec Peace Agreement , the FMLN rebel army was demobilized in 1992. It was also decided to halve the army and to create civil, democratic institutions committed to human rights. The fulfillment of the peace agreement was monitored internationally and nationally.

Decisive for the successful implementation was the fact that the peace agreement had neither winners nor vanquished and favorable foreign policy frameworks such as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the East-West conflict prevailed. Since the end of the civil war, the political landscape has evolved from an authoritarian system to a democratic state. Until 2009, presidents and governments were always appointed by the right-wing conservative ARENA , but the FMLN was initially able to gain considerable influence in local elections. In 2009 she finally won first the parliamentary elections and later the presidential elections with 51% of the vote.

The general amnesty ordered after the peace agreement was lifted in July 2016.


The social problems persisted after the end of the civil war. As in other Latin American countries, there is a large wealth gap within civil society that is not comparable to that of Europe . Due to rampant gang crime, El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Although the murder rate in 2016 fell compared to the previous year with 6,656 homicides, there were still 5278 homicides, which corresponded to a rate of around 80 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. The rate fell again in 2017 and 2018.

The right-wing conservative ARENA ( A lianza Re publicana Na cionalista de El Salvador) and the FMLN ( F rente Farabundo M artí para la L iberación N acional), which emerged from the left-wing former guerrilla, have formed a two-party system in the Salvadoran parliament (Asamblea Legislativa ) since the end of the civil war de la República de El Salvador). Until the election of Nayib Bukele in 2019, they alternated between the presidents .

Corruption hinders the proper functioning of democratic institutions and the full respect of civil rights for all residents of the country.

In July 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that an amnesty law passed in 1993 that penalized human rights violations committed during the civil war was unconstitutional. In its ruling, the court found that the government had a duty to investigate war crimes and seek redress.

Political indices

Political indices published by non-governmental organizations
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 68.9 out of 120 93 of 178 Stability of the country: Warning
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 6.15 out of 10 71 of 167 Incomplete democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = complete democracy
Freedom in the World Index 66 of 100 --- Freedom status: partially free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 30.49 out of 100 82 of 180 Recognizable problems for the freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 36 of 100 104 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020

Presidential elections

Nayib Bukele ( GANA ), President since June 2019

The 2019 presidential election took place on February 3rd. The initial outsider Nayib Bukele ( GANA ), ex-mayor of San Salvador, won with 53.8% of the votes in front of entrepreneur Carlos Calleja ( ARENA ), ex-foreign minister Hugo Martínez ( FMLN ) and entrepreneur Josué Alvarado (VAMOS). This election result means a new beginning outside of the previous two-party system.

Sánchez Cerén could not run for president again due to the legal limitation of one term of office.

Results of previous presidential elections
Political party 2014 (candidate) 2014 (earnings%) 2009 (candidate) 2009 (earnings%) 2004 (candidate) 2004 (earnings%)
FMLN Salvador Sánchez Cerén 50.11 Mauricio Funes 51 Shafik Handal 36
ARENA Norman Quijano 49.89 Rodrigo Avila 49 Antonio Saca 57

Elections to the Asamblea Nacional

The penultimate parliamentary elections took place in March 2018. In the previous parliamentary elections in March 2015 for the legislative assembly of El Salvador , the arena received the most votes with 38.77% (35 seats), followed by the FMLN with 37.28% (31 seats) and the “Gran Alianza de Unidad Nacional” "(GANA) (9.26%, 11 seats). In addition, the conservative “Partido de Concertación Nacional” (PCN) with 6.77% (6 seats) and the Christian-democratic “Partido Demócrata Cristiano” (PDC) with 2.47% (1 seat) are represented in parliament.

Results of previous parliamentary elections
Political party 2015 (%) 2015 (seats) 2012 (%) 2012 (seats) 2009 (%) 2009 (seats)
ARENA 38.77 35 36.74 33 38.55 32
FMLN 37.28 31 33.96 31 42.60 35
GANA 09.26 11 08.87 11 - -
PCN 06.77 06th 07.35 07th 08.79 11
PDC 02.47 01 02.55 01 06.63 05
CD - 00 01.98 01 02.12 01

Note: ARENA in 2012 together with the “Partido de la Esperanza” (PES). CD stands for the party "Cambio Democrático".

In the parliamentary elections on February 28, 2021, the Nuevas Ideas party, led by President Nayib Bukele and founded in 2018, won two thirds of the seats (56 of 84).

Foreign policy

In Latin America , El Salvador is one of the countries with very close foreign policy ties to the United States. The USA is the largest trade and investment partner and the remittances from the very large Salvadoran community in the USA represent 17% of the gross national income . The security cooperation between the two countries also has a very important component. In contrast to the politically left-wing alliance of the ALBA states , the country would like to expand free trade and cooperate with the USA in the process. El Salvador is considered to be an important force in the expansion of regional integration and free trade systems and the General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System SICA is based in San Salvador. In Central America, El Salvador, together with Guatemala and Honduras, forms the so-called “Northern Triangle”, which is committed to deepened cooperation in the fields of justice, economics and politics, with the aim of comprehensive integration to increase general prosperity in all three countries. This alliance is strongly encouraged and supported by the United States, also with regard to its own security and migration policy interests. El Salvador is also an observer state in the Pacific Alliance , in which the country sees potential for its future economic development.

The European Union and its member states enjoy a good reputation in El Salvador and are considered a role model for economic and political integration in Central America. Due to the great geographic distance, however, relations with the USA are in the shadows. An association agreement between the countries of Central America and the EU has existed since 2007, the trade part of which has been in effect since October 1, 2013. Also because of the overweight USA, El Salvador is interested in deepening the relationship with the EU.

The country had close ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan) for a long time and was one of the few remaining countries that did not recognize the People's Republic of China . In 2018 diplomatic relations with the Republic of China were broken off and established with the People's Republic of China.


The armed forces of El Salvador is the Fuerza Armada de El Salvador . They had around 22,000 soldiers in 2019 and a budget of $ 270 million in 2021, which corresponds to 1.2% of GDP.


As a result of the 1992 peace treaty, many former members of guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitary organizations became unemployed. Around 1,000,000 weapons were in circulation, so the security situation in the country remains precarious.

El Salvador has the highest rate of violent homicides in the world and has been ahead of Honduras since 2014. In 2015, 105 people per 100,000 population were killed in homicides. (For comparison: the worldwide rate is 6.2 per 100,000.) The risk of violent crime is extremely high, and the inhibition threshold when using firearms or stabbing weapons is low. Organized gang crime is very high in El Salvador . These gangs were originally recruited from returnees among the 1 to 2 million Salvadoran migrants who immigrated to the Los Angeles area after the Civil War and lived there illegally. The United States' International Development Agency put the number of prisoners transferred to Central America from 1998 to 2005 at around 40,000, largely without consultation with the governments. The United States Department of Homeland Security put the number of criminals transferred to El Salvador between 2001 and 2010 at 40,429. Many of them found neither family structures nor social conditions that would have made their integration possible. The gangs that were formed from the returnees or that already existed in Los Angeles beforehand, such as B. the Mara Salvatrucha (also MS-13 ), which was declared an international criminal organization by the US Congress and has its headquarters in El Salvador, and the rival M-18 belong (estimated) 25,000 children and young people. As an entrance exam, a circle is formed in which the new member has to stand and is then beaten up.

Drug use increased significantly after the war. Youth gangs in army strength rule entire city districts, especially in the Mejicanos district of the capital, but also in the country and extort protection money. The child prostitution is increasing. Family life was badly damaged after the war, and the fathers often migrated to the USA. Work in drug trafficking often appears to be the only occupation for returnees. For more than 60,000 young men and adolescents, gang crime is evidently the only way to meet their basic needs. This does not include the families that are financially trapped in these structures.

The escalation occurred in 2003, for which many observers blamed the populism election of the conservative ARENA party and the hard-hand policy ( Mano dura ) it proclaimed . The gang members were persecuted as terrorists. The use of tattoos to express affiliation with gangs such as M-13 or M-18 was criminalized. 12-year-old children were also punished. 20,000 people were arrested within a year, but most of them had to be released in 2004 when the underlying law was declared unconstitutional. After rumors in 2004 that al-Qaeda was infiltrating gang M-13 , US security services set up special working groups for El Salvador and sent additional liaison personnel to the area to assist local forces in fighting the gangs. The ARENA party also continues to call for the struggle to be militarized.

In March 2012, detained gang leaders signed an OAS- supported standstill agreement with the government that reduced homicides by 60%. Since 2013 the maras have stopped carrying weapons and drug trafficking in some parts of the city. In this situation, in October 2012, the United States Treasury Department placed M-13 on the list of transnational terrorist organizations. The exact reasons for this are unknown: The Obama administration had not committed itself to a clear line on gang crime. In 2013 USAID started a US $ 42 million program to combat gang crime, particularly from the M-13, through a mixture of “repression and prevention”. Since the armed repression of gang crime by state organs was also intensified in neighboring Honduras , there were fears that the gangs there would break into Salvadoran soil.

The emigration of unaccompanied young people to the USA has been increasing again since summer 2013. From October 2013 to June 2014, 57,525 unaccompanied Salvadoran youths - around 0.8% of the total Salvadoran population - crossed the US border and were detained there. From May to June this corresponds to an increase of around 23%.

Since the second half of 2013, there have been particularly frequent attacks on people, some of them resulting in death, after they had withdrawn money from banks or ATMs. The big cities of San Salvador , Santa Ana and San Miguel as well as the departments of La Paz , La Libertad and Sonsonate must be regarded as particularly dangerous . We strongly advise against using public buses. (As of August 10, 2014)

The murder rate rose in 2014 compared to 2013 by 57% from 2,492 official homicides to 3,912, including 39 police officers. In March 2015, the homicide rate reached a ten-year high: 481 people were killed that month. At the beginning of April 2015 alone, there were 73 killings in three days. Experts see the collapse of a ceasefire between rival gangs as the reason for the record.

There was another escalation in the summer of 2015. The murder rate reached 677 in June (more than 22 on a daily average), in the first half of the year there were 2,865 murders, i.e. over 50 percent more than in the previous year, in the entire year even 6,656 125 murders were recorded in August 2015. The targeted killing of police officers, often in their free time, also reached a record level with 41 cases in 2015. The army was used more and more for police tasks; around 300 gang members were killed between January and August 2015. The plans for social prevention and the dialogue within the framework of the “National Council for Security and Civil Coexistence” were thus pushed into the background. In 2015 (as in 2019) 13,000 people were held in the overcrowded prisons, in which there were numerous murders.

Some officials were involved in the activities of the gangs. The FMLN leadership has accused the Arena party of a campaign of destabilization. You try to stir up unrest in the armed forces. The authorities intensified their fight against gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 in 2016 and were criticized by human rights activists for the increasingly deadly clashes between security forces and suspected gang members.

Administrative structure

The country is divided into 14 provinces ( departments ):

province capital city Population 2017
Honduras Guatemala Ahuachapán Santa Ana La Libertad Sonsonate La Paz Usulatán San Vicente La Unión San Miguel Cabañas Cuscatlán San Salvador Chalatenango MorazánMap of the provinces of El Salvador
About this picture
1 Ahuachapán Ahuachapán 0.363,500
2 Cabañas Sensuntepeque 0.167,600
3 Chalatenango Chalatenango 0.204,900
4th Cuscatlán Cojutepeque 0.266.200
5 La Libertad Santa Tecla 0.803,800
6th La Paz Zacatecoluca 0.362,600
7th La Unión La Unión 0.268,400
8th Morazan San Francisco Gotera 0.203,800
9 San Miguel San Miguel 0.499,900
10 San Salvador San Salvador 1,786,400
11 San Vicente San Vicente 0.589,300
12th Santa Ana Santa Ana 0.184,100
13th Sonata Sonata 0.506,500
14th Usulutan Usulutan 0.374,900 Map of the provinces of El Salvador

Each department is in turn subdivided into Municipios . These are subdivided into cantones and these in turn into caseríos .


Coffee farmers in El Salvador: Coffee is one of the country's main exports


In January 2001, the US dollar was introduced as the official national currency. The previous currency, the Colón , was still valid, but practically no longer appeared. On June 8, 2021, with the votes of the ruling party Nuevas Ideas of President Nayib Bukele, Parliament passed a law introducing the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as an additional official national currency. This process is unique in the world. A period of 90 days has been set for the central bank and the financial market regulator to implement the changeover. The law came into force on September 7, 2021. The use of Bitcoin is therefore not mandatory. Merchants have to accept Bitcoin as a means of payment if they are technically able to do so. Taxes can also be paid with Bitcoin. No capital gains tax is levied on exchanging Bitcoin. There is no fixed exchange rate to the US dollar, the market decides. Those who download the government-supported Chivo cyberwallet app for the first time receive a starting credit worth 30 US dollars (around 25 euros), roughly three times the average daily earnings. The government has also had around 200 Chivo ATMs installed. One of the main concerns in El Salvador about the use of Bitcoin is that the short-term volatility of the Bitcoin exchange rate could create problems for those who withdraw their salaries in Bitcoin. JPMorgan also fears that increased daily usage and decreased liquidity could overload the entire Bitcoin network.

General economic development

The monthly minimum wage is $ 300 per person in the commercial, industrial and service sectors (as of 2018).

The year 2001 was a "disaster year" for El Salvador as a result of the earthquake, the historic drop in coffee prices and the terrorist attack of September 11th in the USA (which handles around 60% of foreign trade).

The gross domestic product (GDP) for 2017 is estimated at 28.0 billion US dollars. In purchasing power parity, GDP is US $ 57 billion or US $ 8,900 per inhabitant. In the crisis of 2009 it shrank by 3.1%, in 2010 the growth rate was 1.4%, and in the following years around 1.5 to 2%. The low growth is more than absorbed by the population growth. Various liberal economic reforms have been carried out in El Salvador in recent years. In the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index , the country improved from 112th place in 2012 to 73rd place in 2018. Economic growth rose to 2.4% by 2017. In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, El Salvador ranks 108th out of 137 countries (as of 2017-2018). In 2017, the country ranks 66th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .

It is true that the industrialization of El Salvador is advanced compared to other Central American countries. The main export goods are still coffee , sugar , shrimp , cotton , gold and chemicals , but increasingly textiles , which are manufactured by around 80,000 employees in tax-exempt companies. Some of the 23,000 coffee producers are heavily indebted as a result of the drop in prices.

Mainly machines, food, textiles, vehicles and crude oil are imported. 66% of exports go to the USA, 46% of imports come from there. The largest source of foreign exchange, however, is the remittances of the approximately 2.6 million Salvadorans living legally or illegally abroad - mostly in the USA. In 1978 80% of foreign exchange income came from the export of agricultural goods, today 70% of the income comes from remittances from Salvadorans living abroad ($ 3.3 billion in 2006). After a sharp decline in 2009 caused by the crisis, in April 2011 alone US $ 309 million were transferred back home from Salvadorans living in the USA.

The 2008/2009 crisis led to a job loss of around 3%, most of which affected men. In 2009, only around 18% of the workforce worked in the agricultural sector (most of it coffee), furthermore 17% in the processing industry (mostly in the textile and food industry), 29% in trade, tourism and restaurants, 11% in education , Health system and in social services. According to estimates by the ILO, 40% of young people between the ages of 14 and 17 work in unskilled or dangerous jobs. 110,000 children aged 5 to 14 are supposed to work, mostly in agriculture. At the same time, some branches of the Salvadoran industry and service economy have recruiting difficulties due to a lack of English and machine operation skills.

For 60 years El Salvador has experimented with several development models, none of which have produced the desired results. The UN Development Program ( UNDP ) therefore proposes in its new report on human development the introduction of a model that has the well-being of the people as the primary goal. This report, entitled “De la pobreza y el consumismo al bienestar de la gente. According to Propuestas para un nuevo modelo de desarrollo, “the country cannot develop and will continue to perform poorly unless it breaks with the current model. The study shows that all previous economic models (agricultural exports, import substitution through industrialization, promotion of textile exports and foreign investments) always assumed low wages for workers as the country's most important bonus on international markets and thus underemployment as the predominant form of subsistence for the majority of the population. There is hardly any investment in agriculture. Smallholder agriculture in particular is losing ground compared to plantations.

According to the doctrine of the Harvard School , the infrastructure (roads, ports, power grid) must be developed as a priority in order to attract foreign capital. But even after the conclusion of the Central American Free Trade Area ( CAFTA ) agreement with the USA in 2006, the volume of foreign direct investment has barely increased. From 2004 to 2009 the number of jobs in the manufacturing industry fell by approx. 10%, those in the construction sector from 2007 to 2009 by approx. 30%. Only since the 2008/2009 crisis have more investments been made in the service sector, e. B. in tourism, finance and call centers.

Status: January 2011 (Source: CIA World Factbook)

Currently, more than half of the working population is underemployed (44.3%) or unemployed (7%). The unemployment rate among young people is about twice as high as among adults. According to giz data, around 38% of the population live below the poverty line of 2 US dollars a day.

The economy grew by an annual average of only 2.76% between 1960 and 2009, which is less than in all other Central American countries except Nicaragua. The gross domestic product increased by an average of 1.1% annually. With such a low growth rate, it would take the country 29 years to match Costa Rica's current per capita income .

The savings and investment rates are low due to the high propensity to consume. In recent years the country has consumed more than it produced, e.g. B. In 2009, for every $ 100 produced, $ 102.4 worth of goods and services were consumed. In this ranking, El Salvador ranks third in the world. State support money has a redistributive effect to the disadvantage of the poorest. The 10% poorest get together only 6.2% of the state transfer payments (subsidies for public transport, electricity and gas prices), while the 10% richest receive a total of 11.2% of the transfer payments.

The largest union is the CNTS - Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores Salvadoreños with 58,748 members.

Key figures

All GDP values ​​are given in US dollars ( purchasing power parity ).

year 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
(purchasing power parity)
10.10 billion 11.91 billion 15.39 billion 23.42 billion 29.60 billion 37.34 billion 40.00 billion 42.63 billion 44.03 billion 42.97 billion 44.09 billion 46.00 billion 47.73 billion 49.39 billion 51.00 billion 52.73 billion 54.67 billion 57.00 billion
GDP per capita
(purchasing power parity)
2.143 2,431 2,930 4.175 5,042 6,193 6,600 7,013 7.206 6,999 7.158 7,431 7,673 7,903 8,120 8,357 8,623 8,948
GDP growth
−8.6% 0.6% 4.8% 6.4% 2.2% 3.6% 3.9% 3.8% 1.3% −3.1% 1.4% 2.2% 1.9% 1.8% 1.4% 2.3% 2.4% 2.4%
(in percent)
17.4% 22.3% 28.3% 10.0% 2.3% 4.7% 4.0% 4.6% 7.3% 0.5% 1.2% 5.1% 1.7% 0.8% 1.1% −0.7% 0.6% 1.0%
Public debt
(as a percentage of GDP)
... ... ... 26% 27% 39% 39% 38% 39% 48% 50% 50% 55% 55% 57% 58% 59% 59%

State budget

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures of 6.318 billion US dollars , compared to income of 5.443 billion US dollars. This resulted in a budget deficit of 3.3% of GDP .
The national debt in 2016 was $ 16.0 billion, or 59.9% of GDP, and the trend is rising.

In 2006 the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was in the following areas:


Visual arts

Noé Canjura went to Mexico early on, where he was influenced by Diego Rivera and later by Gauguin . He spent the second half of his life in France, where he was guided by the work of the French realists of the 19th century and the baroque realists. The internationally best known living painter of El Salvador is César Menéndez (* 1954).

In Concepción de Ataco , many of the house walls are decorated with wall paintings.


The people of El Salvador are predominantly mestizo . Their culture reflects this Mayan legacy . In addition, a completely new type of music scene has emerged, which stages a mixture of Central American rhythms and European influences. The so-called Nueva Cancion developed about 50 years ago. The texts often express displeasure with some political and economic developments. El Salvador has the Orquesta Digital de Carlos Anaya , which performs both classical and modern pop music in digital form as instrumental versions, and a national choir.



Radio Nacional de El Salvador is the oldest radio station in the country.


  • Klaas Dykmann: El Salvador. Human rights in sight: the dispute from the beginning of the civil war to the amnesty law. LIT, Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-8258-4194-4 .
  • Hauke ​​Hartmann: The human rights policy under President Carter: moral claims, strategic interests and the El Salvador case. Campus, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2004, ISBN 3-593-37508-7 .
  • Daniela Ingruber: Peace work in El Salvador. A critical inventory. Brandes & Apsel, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-86099-289-9 .
  • Aldo Lauria-Santiago, Leigh Binford (Ed.): Landscapes of Struggle: Politics, Society, and Community in El Salvador: Politics, Society and Community in El Salvador. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh 2004, ISBN 0-8229-4224-0 .
  • Michael Krämer: El Salvador. From war to low intensity peace. 2nd Edition. ISP, Cologne 1995, ISBN 3-929008-09-2 .
  • Mary Kreutzer, Thomas Schmidinger: Defeats of Peace. Talks and meetings in Guatemala and El Salvador. Verlag Monika Wahler 2002, ISBN 3-9808498-0-5 .
  • Jan Suter: prosperity and crisis in a coffee republic. Modernization, social change and political upheaval in El Salvador, 1910–1945. Vervuert 1996.
  • Virginia Q. Tilley: Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation, and Power in El Salvador. University of New Mexico Press 2005.
  • Heidrun Zinecker: El Salvador after the civil war. Ambivalences of a difficult peace. Frankfurt am Main, Campus 2004, ISBN 3-593-37459-5 .

Gallery of locations in El Salvador

Web links

Commons : El Salvador  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikimedia Atlas: El Salvador  - geographical and historical maps
Wiktionary: El Salvador  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

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Coordinates: 14 °  N , 89 °  W