El Salvador

Conference with youth politicians from the ARENA party in El Salvador

Population: 6.141 million
Area: 21 041 km2
GDP (PPP): 52.88 billion dollar (2015 estimate)
GDP per capita (PPP): 8 300 $ (2015 estimate)
Rate of growth: 0.25 % (2015 estimate)
Head of state and head of government: Salvador Sanchez Ceren

El Salvador gained its independence from Spain in 1821. It seceded from the Central American Federation in 1839. El Salvador was plagued by a drawn-out civil war, which finally came to an end in 1992, when the government and the leftist rebels signed a peace agreement. Human rights are generally respected although some problems still remain. For example, there are incidents of police brutality and even extrajudicial executions. However, these are not practices sanctioned by the state. A major problem in El Salvador is organized crime and as a consequence high levels of crimes of violence. Violent street gangs have left El Salvador with one of the world’s highest murder rates. The legal system is being reformed and the situation is gradually improving. Corruption, though, is still a major problem. Freedom of speech and freedom of press prevail and there is an independent media.

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America but its economy is the third largest. Rates of growth, however, have been modest in recent years. The government promotes liberal economic policies that have proved to be effective. However, El Salvador’s economy still depends heavily on money sent home by Salvadorans living in the U.S.

In May 2008, the Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (Unasur) was founded. It is a union of the South American nations modelled on the EU. The union already has twelve member states, though its function is, as of yet, mostly symbolic. In Latin America, a number of centre-right parties cooperate together in the Unión de Partidos Latinoamericanos (UPLA), a regional member of the International Democrat Union (IDU).

During the latter part of the 20th century, many refugees arrived in the USA from Central America, seeking refuge from the incessant conflicts. Some of these refugees turned to crime and were subsequently arrested by the US authorities, convicted and then repatriated. Today, in El Salvador there are many who share these experiences and who have failed to integrate into society. Drug trafficking operations benefit from the desperate situation these individuals find themselves in.

The Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation cooperates with Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), which held the presidency until June 2009. Former president Tony Saca, elected in 2004, pledged to crack down on drug trafficking and criminal gangs while improving relations with the USA. The 2008 elections resulted in a loss for the ARENA candidate, Rodrigo Avila and Mauricio Funes – representative of a leftist coalition with its roots in the Marxist guerillas Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMNL) – took over the presidency. In the presidential election 2014, FMNL won with the candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren with 50,1 % of the votes.

It is a stated goal of the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation to educate female and youth decision-makers. In 2012, a number of conferences on the theme “Empoderamiento de Mujeres” took place with participants from different Latin American countries. Concurrently with these conferences, youth conferences were arranged on the theme “Principles for a Free Society”.

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