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El Salvador

The Pipil Indians, descendants of the Aztecs, likely migrated to the region in the 11th century. In 1525, Pedro de Alvarado, a lieutenant of Cortés's, conquered El Salvador.

El Salvador, with the other countries of Central America, declared its independence from Spain on Sept. 15, 1821, and was part of a federation of Central American states until that union dissolved in 1838. 
El Salvador
For decades after its independence, El Salvador experienced numerous revolutions and wars against other Central American republics. From 1931 to 1979 El Salvador was ruled by a series of military dictatorships.

In 1969, El Salvador invaded Honduras after Honduran landowners deported several thousand Salvadorans. The four-day war became known as the “football war” because it broke out during a soccer game between the two countries.

El Salvador Suffers During 12-Year Civil War

In the 1970s, discontent with societal inequalities, a poor economy, and the repressive measures of dictatorship led to civil war between the government, ruled since 1961 by the right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN), and leftist antigovernment guerrilla units, whose leading group was the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). 

The U.S. intervened on the side of the military dictatorship, despite its scores of human rights violations. Between 1979 and 1981, about 30,000 people were killed by right-wing death squads backed by the military. José Napoleón Duarte—a moderate civilian who was president from 1984 to 1989—offered an alternative to the political extremes of right and left, but Duarte was unable to end the war. 

In 1989, Alfredo Cristiani of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) was elected. On Jan. 16, 1992, the government signed a peace treaty with the guerrilla forces, formally ending the 12-year civil war that had killed 75,000.

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated the country, leaving 200 dead and over 30,000 homeless. In Jan. and Feb. 2001, major earthquakes struck El Salvador, damaging about 20% of the nation's housing. An even worse disaster befell the country in the summer when a severe drought destroyed 80% of the country's crops, causing famine in the countryside.

In 2004, Antonio Saca of ARENA was elected president. The nation implemented a free-trade agreement (CAFTA) with the U.S. in March 2006, the first Central American country to do so.

Mauricio Funes, a former journalist and member of the FMLN party, was elected President in March 2009, ending two decades of conservative rule in El Salvador.

Gang Truce Leads to Drop in Crime

In March 2012, the government in El Salvador reported a 40% drop in crime. A gang truce was the reason cited for the drastic drop. For example, in the first two months of 2012, there was an average of 16 murders per day. That number dropped to less than five killings per day in late March 2012. By April 14, 2012, there were no killings per day for the first time in over three years.

As of May 2013, there were 70,000 gang members in El Salvador, with 9,000 serving time in prison. The Alto al Crimen program, a type of Crime Stoppers, was in full operation. The program offered financial compensation for information resulting in the arrest of gang leaders.

Former Rebel Leader Narrowly Wins Presidential Election

Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a former rebel leader and the candidate of the leftist Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), narrowly defeated Norman Quijano of the conservative Arena party, winning by less than a quarter of a percentage point in the March 2014 presidential run-off. He served as vice president under former president Mauricio Funes. In his inauguration speech, Sanchez Ceren said he would focus on fighting corruption and reducing violence

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