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.
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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.
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The war left around 70,000 people dead and caused damage worth $2bn, but it also brought about important political reforms. 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. Kakadu National Park
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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 Salvadorans 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.
el salvador map
Violent street gangs, known as "maras", have been described by 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.
Full name: Republic of El Salvador
Population: 6.9 million (UN, 2007)
Capital: San Salvador
Area: 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq miles)
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Major language: Spanish
Major religion: Christianity
el salvador flag
Life expectancy: 69 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: US dollar & Salvadoran colon
Main exports: Offshore assembly exports, coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals, electricity
GNI per capita: US $2,450 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .sv
International dialling code: +503