Photos of El Salvador

Introduction

Background

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. El Salvador is beset by one of the world's highest homicide rates and pervasive criminal gangs.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

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

Area

total: 21,041 sq km

land: 20,721 sq km

water: 320 sq km

comparison ranking: total 153

Area - comparative

about the same size as New Jersey

Area comparison map:
Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 590 km

border countries (2): Guatemala 199 km; Honduras 391 km

Coastline

307 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands

Terrain

mostly mountains with narrow coastal belt and central plateau

Elevation

highest point: Cerro El Pital 2,730 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

mean elevation: 442 m

Natural resources

hydropower, geothermal power, petroleum, arable land

Land use

agricultural land: 74.7% (2018 est.)

arable land: 33.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 10.9% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 30.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 13.6% (2018 est.)

other: 11.7% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

274 sq km (2020)

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

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 (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 (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

Geography - note

smallest Central American country and only one without a coastline on the Caribbean Sea

People and Society

Population

6,602,370 (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 109

Nationality

noun: Salvadoran(s)

adjective: Salvadoran

Ethnic groups

Mestizo 86.3%, White 12.7%, Indigenous 0.2% (includes Lenca, Kakawira, Nahua-Pipil), Black 0.1%, other 0.6% (2007 est.)

Languages

Spanish (official), Nawat (among some Indigenous)

major-language sample(s):
La Libreta Informativa del Mundo, la fuente indispensable de información básica. (Spanish)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Spanish audio sample:

Religions

Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 36%, other 2%, none 12% (2014 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: 25.4% (male 857,304/female 819,670)

15-64 years: 66.39% (male 2,072,784/female 2,310,573)

65 years and over: 8.21% (2023 est.) (male 232,684/female 309,355)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 51.3

youth dependency ratio: 39

elderly dependency ratio: 12.3

potential support ratio: 8.1 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 29.2 years (2023 est.)

male: 27.7 years

female: 30.7 years

comparison ranking: total 141

Population growth rate

0.46% (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 157

Birth rate

17.5 births/1,000 population (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 88

Death rate

5.9 deaths/1,000 population (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 164

Net migration rate

-7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 216

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

Urbanization

urban population: 75.4% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 1.33% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

1.116 million SAN SALVADOR (capital) (2023)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.9 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female

total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2023 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

20.8 years (2008 est.)

note: data represents median age at first birth among women 25-29

Maternal mortality ratio

43 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 100

Infant mortality rate

total: 11.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2023 est.)

male: 13.6 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 10.2 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 114

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.6 years (2023 est.)

male: 72.2 years

female: 79.3 years

comparison ranking: total population 119

Total fertility rate

2.04 children born/woman (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 104

Gross reproduction rate

0.99 (2023 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 99.6% of population

rural: 94.2% of population

total: 98.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 0.4% of population

rural: 5.8% of population

total: 1.8% of population (2020 est.)

Current health expenditure

9.9% of GDP (2020)

Physicians density

2.87 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

1.2 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 97.1% of population

total: 99.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 2.9% of population

total: 0.8% of population (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2023)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

24.6% (2016)

comparison ranking: 57

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 2.94 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 1.5 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.06 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 1.37 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total 116

Tobacco use

total: 7.9% (2020 est.)

male: 14.1% (2020 est.)

female: 1.7% (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 151

Child marriage

women married by age 15: 4.3%

women married by age 18: 19.7% (2021 est.)

Education expenditures

4.1% of GDP (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 111

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 89.1%

male: 91.3%

female: 87.3% (2019)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 12 years

male: 12 years

female: 12 years (2018)

Environment

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, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Climate

tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands

Land use

agricultural land: 74.7% (2018 est.)

arable land: 33.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 10.9% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 30.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 13.6% (2018 est.)

other: 11.7% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 75.4% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 1.33% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

0.6% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 62

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 158

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 22.15 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 7.17 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 4.71 megatons (2020 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 1,648,996 tons (2010 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 470 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

industrial: 210 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

agricultural: 1.43 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Total renewable water resources

26.27 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of El Salvador

conventional short form: El Salvador

local long form: República 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

Capital

name: San Salvador

geographic coordinates: 13 42 N, 89 12 W

time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: Spanish for "Holy Savior" (referring to Jesus Christ)

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

Independence

15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

Constitution

history: many previous; latest drafted 16 December 1983, enacted 23 December 1983

amendments: proposals require agreement by absolute majority of the Legislative Assembly membership; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote of the Assembly; constitutional articles on basic principles, and citizen rights and freedoms cannot be amended; amended 2003, 2009, 2014

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

citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Acting President Claudia Juana RODRÍGUEZ DE GUEVARA (since 1 December 2023); note - parliament granted a six-month leave of absence to President Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez and Vice President Félix Augusto Antonio ULLOA Garay (to allow them to participate in the 4 February 2024 presidential election) and approved the appointment of Claudia Juana RODRÍGUEZ DE GUEVARA as acting president from 1 December 2023 to 1 June 2024, when election winner Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez will be sworn in for a second term

head of government: Acting President Claudia Juana RODRÍGUEZ DE GUEVARA (since 1 December 2023)

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 4 February 2024 (next to be held in 2029)

election results: 2024: Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez reelected president - Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez (Nuevas Ideas) 84.7%, Manuel FLORES (FMLN) 6.4%, Joel SANCHEZ (ARENA) 5.6%, Luis PARADA (NT) 2%, other 1.3%; note he will be inaugurated on 1 June 2024

2019: Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez elected president - Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez (GANA) 53.1%, Carlos CALLEJA Hakker (ARENA) 31.7%, Hugo MARTINEZ (FMLN) 14.4%, other 0.8%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (84 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies and a single nationwide constituency by open-list proportional representation vote to serve 3-year terms)

elections: last held on 28 February 2021 (next to be held in 2024)

election results: percent of vote by party - NI 66.5%, ARENA 12.2%, FMLN 6.9%, GANA 5.3%, PCN 4.1%, other 5%; seats by party - NI 56, ARENA 14, GANA 5, FMLN 4, other 5; composition - men 61, women 23, percent of women 27.4%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court or Corte Suprema de Justicia (consists of 15 judges, including its president, and 15 substitute judges organized into Constitutional, Civil, Penal, and Administrative Conflict Chambers)

judge selection and term of office: judges elected by the Legislative Assembly on the recommendation of both the National Council of the Judicature, an independent body elected by the Legislative Assembly, and the Bar Association; judges elected for 9-year terms, with renewal of one-third of membership every 3 years; consecutive reelection is allowed

subordinate courts: Appellate Courts; Courts of First Instance; Courts of Peace

Political parties and leaders

Christian Democratic Party or PDC [Reynaldo CARBALLO]
Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front or FMLN [Oscar ORTIZ]
Great Alliance for National Unity or GANA [Nelson GUARDADO]
National Coalition Party or PCN [Manuel RODRIGUEZ]
Nationalist Republican Alliance or ARENA [Erick SALGUERO]
New Ideas (Nuevas Ideas) or NI [Xavier Zablah BUKELE]
Our Time (Nuestro Tiempo) or NT [Juan VALIENTE]
Vamos or V [Josue ALVARADO Flores]

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 Carmen Milena MAYORGA VALERA (since 23 December 2020)

chancery: 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20036

telephone: [1] (202) 595-7500

FAX: [1] (202) 232-3763

email address and website: infoEEUU@rree.gob.sv

consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Brentwood (NY), Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas (NV), Laredo (TX), Los Angeles, McAllen (TX), New York, San Bernardino (CA), San Francisco, Tucson (AZ), Washington (DC), Woodbridge (VA)

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador William H. DUNCAN (since 24 January 2023)

embassy: Final Boulevard Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, San Salvador

mailing address: 3450 San Salvador Place, Washington, DC 20521-3450

telephone: [503] 2501-2999

FAX: [503] 2501-2150

email address and website:
ACSSanSal@state.gov

https://sv.usembassy.gov/

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of cobalt blue (top), white, and cobalt 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; also similar to the flag of Honduras, which has five blue stars arranged in an X pattern centered in the white band

National symbol(s)

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

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

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 1 (cultural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site

Economy

Economic overview

growth-challenged Central American economy buttressed via remittances; dense labor force; fairly aggressive COVID-19 stimulus plan; new and lower banking reserve requirements; earthquake, tropical storm, and crime disruptions; widespread corruption

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$57.371 billion (2021 est.)
$52.024 billion (2020 est.)
$56.657 billion (2019 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 110

Real GDP growth rate

10.28% (2021 est.)
-8.18% (2020 est.)
2.44% (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 30

Real GDP per capita

$9,100 (2021 est.)
$8,300 (2020 est.)
$9,000 (2019 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 148

GDP (official exchange rate)

$27.023 billion (2019 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

3.47% (2021 est.)
-0.37% (2020 est.)
0.08% (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 119

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: B- (2017)

Moody's rating: B3 (2018)

Standard & Poors rating: B- (2018)

note: The year refers to the year in which the current credit rating was first obtained.

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 12% (2017 est.)

industry: 27.7% (2017 est.)

services: 60.3% (2017 est.)

comparison rankings: services 123; industry 96; agriculture 78

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 84.5% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 15.8% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 16.9% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 27.6% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -44.9% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

sugar cane, maize, milk, poultry, sorghum, beans, coconuts, eggs, apples, oranges

Industries

food processing, beverages, petroleum, chemicals, fertilizer, textiles, furniture, light metals

Industrial production growth rate

9.47% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: 32

Labor force

2.658 million (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: 114

Unemployment rate

5.94% (2021 est.)
6.25% (2020 est.)
4.17% (2019 est.)

note: data are official rates; but underemployment is high

comparison ranking: 98

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 13.7% (2021 est.)

male: 11.3%

female: 18.3%

comparison ranking: total 129

Average household expenditures

on food: 26.5% of household expenditures (2018 est.)

on alcohol and tobacco: 0.5% of household expenditures (2018 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.2%

highest 10%: 32.3% (2014 est.)

Remittances

26.06% of GDP (2021 est.)
24.15% of GDP (2020 est.)
21.04% of GDP (2019 est.)

Budget

revenues: $6.448 billion (2019 est.)

expenditures: $7.273 billion (2019 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-2.5% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 113

Public debt

71.41% of GDP (2020 est.)
53.88% of GDP (2019 est.)
52.21% of GDP (2018 est.)

note: El Salvador's total public debt includes non-financial public sector debt, financial public sector debt, and central bank debt

comparison ranking: 58

Taxes and other revenues

18.66% (of GDP) (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 102

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$1.457 billion (2021 est.)
$202.947 million (2020 est.)
-$113.356 million (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 144

Exports

$8.491 billion (2021 est.) note: data are in current year dollars
$6.295 billion (2020 est.) note: data are in current year dollars
$8.057 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

comparison ranking: 114

Exports - partners

United States 40%, Guatemala 15%, Honduras 15%, Nicaragua 6% (2019)

Exports - commodities

clothing, electrical capacitors, plastic lids, sugar, packaged medicines, toilet paper (2021)

Imports

$15.754 billion (2021 est.) note: data are in current year dollars
$10.764 billion (2020 est.) note: data are in current year dollars
$12.469 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

comparison ranking: 98

Imports - partners

United States 30%, China 14%, Guatemala 13%, Mexico 8%, Honduras 6% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, packaged medicines, clothing, broadcasting equipment, natural gas (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$3.426 billion (31 December 2021 est.)
$3.083 billion (31 December 2020 est.)
$4.446 billion (31 December 2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 114

Debt - external

$17.24 billion (2019 est.)
$16.712 billion (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 100

Exchange rates

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

Exchange rates:
1 (2021 est.)
1 (2020 est.)
1 (2019 est.)
1 (2018 est.)
1 (2017 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

population without electricity: (2020) less than 1 million

electrification - total population: 97.8% (2021)

electrification - urban areas: 99.2% (2021)

electrification - rural areas: 94% (2021)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 2.586 million kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 6,443,200,000 kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 158 million kWh (2019 est.)

imports: 1.45 billion kWh (2019 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 795.8 million kWh (2019 est.)

comparison rankings: installed generating capacity 112; transmission/distribution losses 94; imports 65; exports 88; consumption 115

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 28.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 7.5% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 30% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 22.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 12.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Coal

production: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 1,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 1,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 0 metric tons (2019 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 59,100 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 170

Refined petroleum products - exports

347 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 115

Refined petroleum products - imports

49,280 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 82

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

7.632 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 2,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 7.63 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 122

Energy consumption per capita

24.124 million Btu/person (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 131

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 862,717 (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 14 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 74

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 11,071,073 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 175 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 87

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: El Salvador is the smallest country in central America geographically, it has the fourth largest economy in the region; the country’s telecom sector has been restricted by poor infrastructure and unequal income distribution; there have been organizational delays which have slowed the development of telecom services; El Salvador’s fixed-line teledensity is substantially lower than the Latin American and Caribbean average; there has been a significant drop in the number of fixed lines since 2010, particularly in 2017, largely due to the substitution for mobile-only alternatives; about 94% of all telephony lines in the country are on mobile networks; mobile subscriptions are remarkably high considering El Salvador’s economic indicators, being about a third higher than average for Latin America and the Caribbean; the country was one of the last in the region to provide LTE services, mainly due to the inadequate provision of suitable spectrum; the multi-spectrum auction conducted at the end of 2019 has allowed MNOs to improve the reach and quality of their service offerings; El Salvador’s telecom legislation is one of the more liberal in Latin America, encouraging competition in most areas and permitting foreign investment; there are no regulations which promote wholesale broadband; the only effective cross-platform competition in the broadband market comes from the few cable operators; there has been some market consolidation in recent years (2021)

domestic: fixed-line services, roughly 14 per 100, mobile-cellular competition now at 175 subscribers per 100 inhabitants (2021)

international: country code - 503; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to Central American Microwave System (2019)

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 two known government-owned radio broadcast station; transition to digital transmission to begin in 2018 along with adaptation of the Japanese-Brazilian Digital Standard (ISDB-T) (2022)

Internet users

total: 3.969 million (2021 est.)

percent of population: 63% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 110

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 586,000 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 9 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 87

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 13

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 2,545,105 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 10.73 million (2018) mt-km

Airports

27 (2024)

comparison ranking: 125

Railways

total: 12.5 km (2014)

narrow gauge: 12.5 km (2014) 0.914-mm gauge

comparison ranking: total 136

Roadways

total: 9,012 km (2017)

paved: 5,341 km (2017)

unpaved: 3,671 km (2017)

comparison ranking: total 139

Waterways

422 km (2022) (Rio Lempa River is partially navigable by small craft)

comparison ranking: 96

Merchant marine

total: 5 (2023)

by type: other 5

comparison ranking: total 169

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Puerto Cutuco

oil terminal(s): Acajutla offshore terminal

Military and Security

Military and security forces

the Armed Force of El Salvador (La Fuerza Armada de El Salvador, FAES): Army of El Salvador (Ejercito de El Salvador, ES), Navy of El Salvador (Fuerza Naval de El Salvador, FNES), Salvadoran Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Salvadorena, FAS) (2024)

note: the National Civil Police (Policia Nacional Civil, PNC) are under the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety; in 2016, El Salvador created a combined Army commando and PNC unit to combat criminal gang violence

Military expenditures

1.2% of GDP (2022 est.)
1.2% of GDP (2021 est.)
1.2% of GDP (2020 est.)
1.2% of GDP (2019 est.)
1.1% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 109

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 25,000 active military personnel (21,000 Army; 2,000 Navy; 2,000 Air Force) (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the FAES has a mix of mostly older imported platforms, largely from the US (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18-30 years of age for selective compulsory military service; 16-22 years of age for voluntary military service for men and women; service obligation is 12 months, with 11 months for officers and non-commissioned officers (2023)

note: as of 2016, women made up about 6% of the active-duty military

Military deployments

110 Mali (MINUSMA) (2023)

Military - note

the Armed Force of El Salvador (FAES) is responsible for defending national sovereignty and ensuring territorial integrity but also has considerable domestic security responsibilities; while the National Civil Police (PNC) is responsible for maintaining public security, the country’s constitution allows the president to use the FAES “in exceptional circumstances” to maintain internal peace and public security; in 2016, the government created a special 1,000-strong joint unit of Army commandos and police to fight criminal gangs; more military personnel were devoted to internal security beginning in 2019 when President BUKELE signed a decree authorizing military involvement in police duties to combat rising gang violence, organized crime, and narcotics trafficking, as well as assisting with border security; since the decree, a considerable portion of the Army has been deployed in support of the PNC; in multiple cases since 2022, for example, as many as 8,000 troops have been deployed alongside thousands of police on single operations against criminal gang members 

the FAES trains regularly, as well as with regional partners and the US, in such areas as internal security and disaster relief operations; it has deployed small numbers of personnel on UN peacekeeping missions and in support of military operations in Iraq (2003-2009); the FAES is deployed throughout the country in zones; the Army’s combat units are six infantry brigades, plus a special security brigade comprised of border guards and military police, and an artillery brigade; the Navy operates patrol boats and has a small force of naval commandos; the Air Force has a few dozen light ground attack fixed-wing aircraft and multirole helicopters

the military led the country for much of the 20th century; from 1980 to 1992, it fought a bloody civil war against guerrillas from the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front or FMLN, the paramilitary arm of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (Frente Democrático Revolucionario), a coalition of left-wing dissident political groups backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union; the FAES received considerable US support during the conflict; significant human rights violations occurred during the war and approximately 75,000 Salvadorans, mostly civilians, were killed (2023)

Space

Space agency/agencies

El Salvador Aerospace Institute (ESAI; established 2018) is an aerospace think tank that is authorized by the Salvadoran Government decree to lead the country’s national aerospace strategy (2023)

Space program overview

small, nascent space effort; ESAI serves as a link and coordination body for the aerospace industry with a focus on research, development, and innovation, particularly in the fields of science, technology, and engineering; has sought training and cooperation on space programs from South Korea and Turkey (2023)

note: further details about the key activities, programs, and milestones of the country’s space program, as well as government spending estimates on the space sector, appear in Appendix S

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

El Salvador-Honduras: International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the delimitation of "bolsones" (disputed areas) along the El Salvador-Honduras border in 1992 with final settlement 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 with consideration of Honduran access to the Pacific; El Salvador continues to claim tiny Conejo Island, not mentioned in the ICJ ruling, off Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca

Trafficking in persons

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List — El Salvador does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so; El Salvador hired more police and prosecutors in specialized anti-trafficking units and provided awareness training for Salvadorans participating in temporary work programs abroad; however, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts, compared with the previous year, to improve its anti-trafficking capacity; the government investigated, prosecuted, and convicted fewer traffickers; less than half of all victims received government services or referrals to care providers, and services provided were inadequate; the government arrested and detained thousands of suspected gang members, disabling criminal networks that fueled demand for sex and labor trafficking, but authorities arrested and detained children affiliated with gangs without screening for trafficking indicators; interagency coordination remained weak, government data was unreliable, and the national anti-trafficking council did not reconcile the data or publish a report on the government’s 2022 efforts; therefore, El Salvador remained on Tier 2 Watch list (2023)

trafficking profile: human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in El Salvador, and traffickers exploit victims from El Salvador abroad; adults and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country; orphans, adolescent girls, and LGBTQI+ persons are at particular risk; sex trafficking reportedly occurs in the tourism industry; traffickers exploit victims within their own communities or homes, sometimes their own children or other family members; Salvadoran adults and children are exploited in forced labor in agriculture, domestic service, and begging; adults and children from neighboring countries—particularly Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua—are exploited in sex trafficking and forced labor in construction, domestic service, or the informal sector; traffickers recruit victims in regions of El Salvador with high levels of violence and capitalize on fear to coerce victims and their families through threats of violence; in 2022, territorial gang control decreased dramatically across El Salvador, following the arrests of thousands of suspected gang members under the government’s state of exception; reports indicate extortion and violence declined significantly, but no data is available on the state of exception’s impact on trafficking; prior to the state of exception, limited government presence in gang-controlled territory exacerbated trafficking risks among vulnerable groups; many families were displaced fleeing gang exploitation of children; transnational criminal organizations and gangs, including MS-13 and Barrio 18, recruited, abducted, trained, armed, and subjected children to forced labor—including assassinations, extortion, and drug trafficking; these groups subjected women and children, including LGBTQI+ children, to sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic service and child care; Salvadoran men, women, and children are exploited in sex trafficking and forced labor in Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, and the US; traffickers exploit some Salvadorans who irregularly migrate to the US in forced labor, criminal activity, and sex trafficking en route or upon arrival; traffickers exploit some victims from Asia, South America, or other Central American countries in sex and labor trafficking in El Salvador; reported corruption and complicity among some government officials may have obstructed anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts (2023)

Illicit drugs

a transit country for illicit drugs destined for the United States;  a major source of precursor or essential chemicals used in the production of illicit narcotics