El Salvador, the most densely-populated state on the mainland of the Americas, is a small and highly-industrialised country.

In the 1980s, El Salvador was ravaged by a bitter civil war stoked by gross inequality between the overwhelming majority of the population and a small and wealthy elite that left around 70,000 people dead.

A UN-brokered peace agreement ended the civil war in 1992, ushering in important political reforms, but the country still suffers from the legacy of a divided society.

Violent “mara” street gangs have left El Salvador with one of the world’s highest murder rates.

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President: Nayib Bukele

A youthful political independent, Mr Bukele won the 2019 presidential election on a pledge to create a “new era” for El Salvador.

During his five-year-term he has vowed to take on gang violence and corruption, and foster better relations with the United States.

His predecessor, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, had conducted a left-wing foreign policy and established diplomatic relations with China.


Press freedom is guaranteed under the constitution and there is a lively media scene.

The broadcast media are privately owned and in the hands of a small group of business interests.

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Some key dates in the history of El Salvador:

1540 El Salvador becomes a Spanish colony after indigenous resistance is crushed.

1821 – Independence from Spain.

1823 – 1840 El Salvador forms part of the short-lived United Provinces of Central America, which also includes Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

1859-63 – President Gerardo Barrios introduces coffee growing.

1932 – Some 30,000 people are killed during the suppression of a peasant uprising led by Agustín Farabundo Martí.

1969 – Football War with Honduras; 4,000 die in 100-hour conflict.

1979 1992 – Civil war. Between 1979 and 1981 around 30,000 people are killed by army-backed right-wing death squads.

2009 – Former FMLN rebel movement emerges as largest party in parliamentary elections, and shortly afterwards former rebel Mauricio Funes wins presidential elections.

2012 – A year-long truce between street gangs. It reputedly saves the lives of thousands, but violence rises again in subsequent years.

Related Topics

  • El Salvador

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