El Salvador profile
El Salvador, which is Spanish for "the saviour" - or Jesus Christ - has been wracked by civil war and a succession of natural disasters.
The tiny country is the most densely-populated state on the mainland of the Americas and is highly industrialised. But social inequality and a susceptibility to earthquakes have shaped much of modern El Salvador.
In the 1980s El Salvador was ravaged by a bitter civil war. This was stoked by gross inequality between a small and wealthy elite, which dominated the government and the economy, and the overwhelming majority of the population, many of whom lived - and continue to live - in abject squalor.
The war left around 70,000 people dead and caused damage worth $2bn, but it also brought about important political reforms.
At a glance
- Politics: El Salvador has returned to democracy after being torn by a bitter civil in the 1980s; crime gangs and the drugs trade pose a serious challenge to security. Presidential elections are due on 2 February 2014
- Economy: Fettered by natural disasters, corruption and inequality, El Salvador's economy is heavily dependent on remittances from abroad, especially the US
- International: El Salvador is a member of the Organisation of American States; it has recently restored ties with Cuba, ruptured after the Cuban Revolution in 1959
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
In 1992 a United Nations-brokered peace agreement ended the civil war, but no sooner had El Salvador begun to recover when it was hit by a series of natural disasters, notably Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and earthquakes in 2001.
These left at least 1,200 people dead and more than a million others homeless.
The economy depends heavily on the money sent home by Salvadoreans living in the US. Poverty, civil war, natural disasters and their consequent dislocations have left their mark on El Salvador's society, which is among the most crime-ridden in the Americas.
Violent street gangs, known as "maras", were described by former President Saca as a "regional problem that requires regional solutions". One of the most notorious groups was started in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants in the US.
El Salvador has one of the world's highest murder rates, with 71 per 100,000 residents in recent years.