El Salvador profile

Map of El Salvador

El Salvador, the most densely-populated state on the mainland of the Americas, is a small and highly-industrialised country that has recovered from a protracted civil war, but still suffers from its aftermath in terms of a divided society.

In the 1980s El Salvador was ravaged by a bitter civil war stoked by gross inequality between a small and wealthy elite, which dominated the government and economy, and the overwhelming majority of the population.

Coffee seller in San Salvador El Salvador is densely populated and highly industrialised

The war left around 70,000 people dead and caused damage worth $2bn, but it also ushered in important political reforms.

At a glance

  • Politics: El Salvador has returned to democracy after the 1980s civil war; crime gangs and the drugs trade remain a security challenge
  • Economy: El Salvador's economy is heavily dependent on remittances from abroad, especially the US
  • International: El Salvador plays its part in regional organisations

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

A United Nations-brokered peace agreement ended the civil war in 1992, but El Salvador was barely able to begin its recovery 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 money sent home by Salvadorans living in the US. Violent "mara" street gangs have left El Salvador with one of the world's highest murder rates.

Participants perform the role of medieval Christian and Moorish warriors at the traditional Los Historiantes dance in San Miguel de Mercedes, El Salvador (Dec 2007) Los Historiantes dances were introduced by the conquistadors

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