Foreign policy and defense
El Salvador is a nation in North America. Its capital city is San Salvador. El Salvador’s foreign policy is strongly influenced by its close relationship with the United States. During the Civil War 1980-1992, the United States supported the government with both civilian and military assistance. Today, the cooperation encompasses both trade and a joint fight against the high crime rate in the region. During the 2000s, El Salvador has strengthened contacts with its Central American neighbors.
El Salvador was for a long time, along with Colombia, the United States’ closest ally in Latin America, and the United States played a significant role during the Civil War. It has later emerged that the US government chose to keep the Salvadoran state’s many human rights violations secret in the 1980s to get the US Congress to grant aid to the country.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in El Salvador for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The United States has a military station in El Salvador to combat drug trafficking from South America. In 2005, the United States Federal Police (FBI) established an office and a police school for Latin American police in San Salvador. During the US-led war on Iraq 2003-2009, El Salvador had 380 soldiers stationed in Iraq.
El Salvador is dependent on trade with the United States, which is the most important trading partner, and on money that many of the salvadorans in the US send home to relatives (see Economic overview). Following the 2001 earthquakes, tens of thousands of Salvadoran people illegally residing in the United States were granted temporary residence and work permits. Many temporary permits have since been renewed, but under President Donald Trump, the United States has decided to expire nearly 200,000 Salvadorans. However, a deadline set for January 2020 has been extended for at least one year.
In 2014, the United States formed an Alliance for Prosperity with El Salvador as well as Guatemala and Honduras, and pledged a total of $ 750 million to the three countries in the “Northern Triangle” which is the most violent region in the world where there is no war. The idea is that the money will be used to improve security and reduce poverty in the countries, thereby counteracting the large influx of migrants who are illegally seeking refuge in the United States. The alliance was then formed a sharp increase noted by the number of Central Americans, and not least minors, who were trying to make their way to the United States. In early 2017, El Salvador received a first payment of $ 98 million.
Under Trump, the United States has invested in other methods to prevent migrants from accessing the United States. All three countries in the Northern Triangle have signed agreements that say they are “safe countries” to which asylum seekers can be sent back from the United States.
Conflicts with Honduras
Relations with neighboring Honduras have sometimes been characterized by conflicts. It was not until 1992 that the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled the border dispute between El Salvador and Honduras after the 1969 football war (see Modern History). In 2006, El Salvador and Honduras concluded a long-standing border dispute in the Gulf of Fonseca. But in 2013 a new conflict arose in the bay, this time about the small uninhabited island of Conejo (Rabbit Island). Isla Conejo, which is less than half a square kilometer, belongs to El Salvador but Honduras claims the island which is strategically important for the country’s access to the Pacific. In the fall of 2013, Honduran military landed on the island and set up Honduran flag there. The Salvadoran government stated in media that it was trying to resolve the conflict diplomatically.
Cooperation with neighboring countries has gradually been extended. A Central American parliament, Parlacén, was established in 1987, but its influence is limited. It has been included since the early 1990s as part of the Central American cooperation project Sica, which also includes political integration and a joint court. Free trade agreements have also been signed (see Economic overview) and cooperation exists to fight organized crime and the youth gang in the region.
The newly elected President Mauricio Funes opened 2009 for the first time in 50 years of Salvadoran diplomatic relations with Cuba. Both countries entered into a free trade agreement, which came into force in August 2012.
Broken relations with Venezuela
Under the left-wing government of El Salvador 2009–2019, the government kept some distance to Venezuela’s disputed president Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro. Despite this, El Salvador joined the Venezuelan oil cooperation Petrocaribe in 2014. Following Nayib Bukele’s presidency, the relationship became increasingly strained, and in November 2019, the government expelled Venezuelan diplomats and recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful president.
El Salvador had long belonged to a group of small states that had relations with Taiwan, thus renouncing diplomatic relations with China. Taiwan, among other things, provided assistance in natural disasters. In August 2018, however, relations with China and Taiwan were established, thus breaking ties.
During the Civil War, the defense consisted of 63,000 men. According to the 1992 peace agreement, the force would be halved, but the cuts were greater than that. El Salvador’s defense is based on mandatory, selective military service for one year for men between the ages of 18 and 30.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 20,500 men (2017)
The air Force: 2,000 men (2017)
The fleet: 2,000 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.9 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 4.1 percent (2017)