El Salvador

Last updated: 5 March 2021

Update

On March 5, 2021, President Nayib Bukele’s party, Nuevas Ideas, won legislative elections that could lead to Bukele’s party acquiring broad powers to replace his adversaries, including the attorney general, and appoint new members to the Supreme Court. With Congress and the judiciary stacked with allies, Bukele may also change the Constitution.

Coronavirus Response

On March 15, 2020, a new decree-law instituted 15-day restrictions on the right to free movement and peaceful assembly. Only meetings for religious, cultural, economic, or sports purposes were allowed, and only after obtaining prior authorization by public health authorities. One day earlier, the government declared a one-month “state of emergency” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures allowed for restrictions on individuals’ travel and movement within the country, as well as bans on public gatherings. The decree-law also suspended all administrative and judicial functions deemed non-essential, such as operations for access to public information. For additional details, see the ICNL-ECNL COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker’s El Salvador entry.

Introduction

El Salvador’s first civil society organizations (CSOs) engaged in humanitarian aid work during the 1960s. However, the majority of CSOs in El Salvador formed and developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the country underwent a civil war and post-war reconstruction. During that time many CSOs continued the work begun in previous decades, but with heightened urgency to provide assistance to individuals who were marginalized from the economic and social system. The 1980s and 1990s also witnessed the emergence of new CSOs dealing with social welfare issues. With the end of the civil war and the peace accords in 1992, CSOs continued to develop both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Over time, CSOs developed mechanisms for international cooperation and financing, and created unions, alliances and networks with other organizations, which are called federations, boards, offices and partnerships. They interact effectively in the public arena by formulating proposals for public policies, laws, and even agreements with state agencies.

The legal framework for CSOs is regulated by Article 7 of the Constitution (“The people of El Salvador have the right to freely associate and assemble peacefully without arms for any lawful purpose. […]”), and more recently by the Not-for-Profit Associations and Foundations Act [Ley de Asociaciones y Fundaciones Sin Fines de Lucro (“LAFSL”)]. The LAFSL was promulgated in 1996 and its regulations implement a special legal regime for social organizations, defining their rights and responsibilities and also creating a government office as a sanctioning body. This is the Register of Not-for-Profit Associations and Foundations, which is attached to the Ministry of the Interior and Territorial Development.

The arrival of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) government in 2009 opened channels for citizen participation, but CSOs in El Salvador failed to unify around a national agenda for the country’s development, and there is still no policy in place to promote social organizations. In addition, despite the flaws in the government entity that oversees CSOs—related primarily to its bureaucratic procedures—little has been done to improve or replace it. This has resulted in insufficient mechanisms for organized participation in decision making.

The Five-Year Development Plan (“PQD”) of former president Salvador Sánchez Cerén (2014 – 2019), envisaged the creation of a legal framework for CSOs to replace the current one, and work was done on a new Not-for-Profit Social Organizations Act, which was presented in 2019 by the FMLN Government to upgrade processes, modernize services, and plug gaps existing in the current law. The new authorities in the presidential term of Nayib Bukele (2019 – 2024)) have expressed their lack of interest in updating the regulatory framework for CSOs. The Not-for-Profit Social Organizations Act never reached the Legislative Assembly for review, although improvements aimed at modernizing services have been made, including, for example, online notification for CSOs that seek to register and obtain legal status.

Organizational FormsNational-level associations and foundationsMunicipal-level councils
Registration BodyRegister of Not-for-Profit Associations and Foundations attached to the Ministry of Interior and Territorial DevelopmentMunicipal councils
Approximate NumberAs of October 2020, there were 4,570 organizations registered, including 3,482 associations and 1,088 foundations.Unknown. El Salvador has 262 municipalities, each of which keeps an individual register of community-development associations
Barriers to EntryLack of unified criteria by registrars; centralized register, which has no branch offices throughout the country and is therefore difficult for applicants to travel to receive services; excessive costs; delays in registration.Municipal Code requires 25 members to create a community development association; party-political interests exist at local level; delays in registration process
Barriers to ActivitiesWith the arrival of the new government in 2019, CSOs have been stigmatized and viewed as opponents for demanding respect for human rights and El Salvador’s Constitution.Because of political party interests, there are community associations that whenever there is a change in local government are not recognized by the local authorities for conducting development initiatives, despite that they have legal status.
Barriers to Speech and/or AdvocacyThe country’s president, Nayib Bukele, labels human rights advocacy groups as “front organizations” and accuses them of being funded by obscure powers.None
Barriers to International ContactThe El Salvador Agency for International Cooperation (ESCO-El Salvador) is the only institution authorized by executive order to handle foreign CSO cooperation in any of its modalities and forms.None
Barriers to ResourcesNo public grants exist for the work and development of CSOs. Funds are allocated to CSOs by the Legislative Assembly according to political interests.A lack of political party affinity between community associations and local authorities leads the latter to not fund development initiatives in certain communities.
Barriers to AssemblyBroad discretion for authorities to determine what is a “lawful” purpose; extra restrictions during election season; terrorism laws used arbitrarily against protesters.Broad discretion for authorities to determine what is a “lawful” purpose; extra restrictions during election season; terrorism laws used arbitrarily against protesters.
Population6,704,864 (2019 est.) (Multi-Purpose Homes Survey)
CapitalSan Salvador
Type of GovernmentRepublic
Life Expectancy at BirthMale: 68.2 years
Female: 77.6 years (2020 est.)
Literacy RateMale: 91.9%
Female: 88.3% (2019 est.)
Religious GroupsCatholic 45.2%, Evangelical 32.8%, none 15.5%, others 6.4% (2019)
Ethnic GroupsMestizo 86.3%, White 12.7%, Amerindian 0.2% black 0.1%, other 0.6% (2007 census)
GDP per capita$4,187 (2019 est.)

Source: CIA World Factbook

Ranking BodyRankRanking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index124 (2019)1-187
World Bank Rule of Law Index20 (2017)100-0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index52 (2017)100 – 0
Transparency International104 (2020)1-175
Freedom House: Freedom in the WorldStatus: Partly Free
Political Rights: 66
Civil Liberties: 34 (2020)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free (1-100)
1 – 40
1 – 60
Foreign Policy: Fragile States IndexRank: 93 (2020)178-1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International AgreementsRatification*Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)Yes1979
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)Yes1995
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)Yes1979
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)No
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)Yes1979
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)Yes1981
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against WomenNo
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)Yes1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)Yes2003
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)Yes2007
Regional Treaties
Organization of American States (OAS)Yes1950
American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR)Yes1978
Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“Protocol of San Salvador”)Yes1995

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

El Salvador is a unitary state that follows the civil law tradition. The Constitution, as the supreme law of the land, regulates the rights and duties of all of the country’s inhabitants. It protects the rights to freedom of expression and thought, as well as the freedom of association.

Article 7 of the Constitution states that:

The inhabitants of El Salvador have the right to associate freely and to meet peacefully, without arms, for any lawful purpose. Nobody shall be obligated to belong to an association.

A person shall not be limited or impeded from the exercise of any licit activity because he does not belong to an association.

The existence of armed groups of a political, religious or guild character is prohibited.

According to Article 240(5) of the Constitution, municipalities may approve of the formation of community associations through the authority vested to them to enact local ordinances and regulations.

Secondary legislation regulates the scope of the rights articulated in the Constitution.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Two systems govern the establishment and operations of CSOs in El Salvador. The first system is the 1996 national-level Law for Not-for-Profit Associations and Foundations [Ley de Asociaciones y Fundaciones sin Fines de Lucro] (LAFSFL), which regulates the establishment, operation, and dissolution of CSOs.

The second system governs at the local level and is regulated through the Municipal Code and municipal ordinances issued by each of the country’s 262 municipalities. The goal of the local-level regulation is to promote effective CSO engagement at the local level to address public policy priorities. According to Article 118 of Title IX of the Municipal Code, “Municipal governments are obligated to promote citizen participation, provide public information on municipal management, address matters that residents may request, and those that the Council considers convenient.”

Additional laws that may affect civil society include:

  1. Código Municipal (Municipal Code)
  2. Código Penal (Penal Code)
  3. Ley de Proscripción de maras, pandillas, agrupaciones, asociaciones y organizaciones de naturaleza criminal (Prohibition Act of maras, gangs, groups, associations and organizations of a criminal nature)
  4. Ley del voluntariado (Law of Volunteering)
  5. Ley Especial contra actos de terrorismo (Special Law against Acts of Terrorism)
  6. Ley Especial del ejercicio del derecho de rectificación o respuesta (Special Act of the Right of Reply)
  7. Ley General de Juventud (General Law of Youth)
  8. Ley Marco para la Convivencia Ciudadana y Contravenciones Administrativas (Framework Law for Coexistence and Administrative Violations)
  9. Ley Penitenciaria (Penitentiary Act)
  10. Ley Contra el Lavado de Dinero y de Activos (Law Against Money Laundering)
  11. Política de Participación Ciudadanía (Citizenship Participation Policy)
  12. Ley de Probidad (Law of Integrity)
  13. Ley de Firma Electronica (Electronic Signature Law)
  14. Reformas de Ley de Telecomunicaciones (Reforms of Telecommunications Law)
  15. Ley Contra el Lavado de Dinero y de Activos (Anti-Money Laundering Act)

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Bill on Not-for-Profit Social Organizations (Proyecto de Ley de Organizaciones Sociales sin Fines de Lucro): This was an initiative of the 2014–2019 El Salvador Government and was presented in 2018 after extensive public consultation. However, no advances were achieved under that administration or in the Legislative Assembly and it remains dormant.

Special Act for the Prevention, Control and Sanctioning of Money Laundering (Proyecto de Ley Especial para la Prevención, Control y Sanción del Lavado de Activos): This initiative wasaimed at replacing the current Anti-Money Laundering Act. Like the Act currently in effect, however, the draft Act treats not-for-profit organizations as reporting entities required to comply with regulations on combating money laundering and terrorist financing. The draft Act is a special case and is being studied in the Legislative Assembly. Despite the absence of a national risk evaluation as required under Recommendation Number 8 and its Interpretive Note by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the backers of the draft Act have mentioned that they are including not-for-profit organizations under the draft Act’s remit because they have found evidence of cases where such organizations are involved in money laundering. Consultations with not-for-profit organizations about the draft Act have also not been substantial.

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of other pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Organizational Forms

The Not-for-Profit Associations and Foundations Act (“LAFSFL”) addresses two categories of CSOs (Article 1), which may be domestic or foreign (Article 44). The first category of CSOs is the association, which is a private legal entity formed by two or more natural or legal persons for the ongoing pursuit of any legal not-for-profit activity (Articles 9 and 11). These entities are formally established through a public instrument executed by the founding members and are governed by internal bylaws. Their members may be natural or legal persons who are nationals or foreigners, although in the case of foreigners they must be residents in the country (Article 12). The bylaws of an association establish the rights and obligations of members within the organization and conditions of membership (Article 14). Under the LAFSFL, federations and confederations formed by legal persons are also recognized associations (Article 17).

The second category of CSOs under the LAFSFL is the foundation, which is established by one or more natural or legal persons to manage capital intended for public service (Article 18). A foundation is a non-membership organization and may be established by nationals or foreigners. They require an endowment and operating funds at the time of establishment (Article 22). The establishment of a foundation is formally recognized in a public instrument or will (Article 19). Foundations are governed by their internal bylaws (Article 23).

For both associations and foundations, legal status is obtained by registering with the Ministry of Interior and Territorial Development (Article 26). As of 2020, there were 3,482 registered associations and 1,088 registered foundations.

The Municipal Code (Código Municipal (MC)) provides two additional categories of CSOs at the local level: municipal associations and community associations. Municipal associations are attached to the municipalities that create them (MC, Article 12). Legal status is granted by the municipality in their articles of incorporation. Community associations are formed by local residents who have united to address common needs (MC, Article 118). Community associations must have at least 25 members (MC, Article 120). The decision of a special general assembly is required for their establishment while the relevant municipal council grants them legal status (MC, Article 119).

Churches are not subject to the LAFSFL (LAFSFL, Article 10). Instead, the legal basis for granting them legal status is governed by Articles 542 and 543 of the Civil Code (Código Civil). Trade unions are regulated under the Labor Code (Código del Trabajo). Neither churches nor trade unions are examined elsewhere in this report.

Public Benefit Status

Subject to prior certification by the General Directorate of Internal Taxes under the Ministry of the Treasury, associations and foundations can be declared public interest entities, and can therefore be exempt from income tax. This benefit, which virtually all CSOs apply for, is regulated by the LAFSFL (Articles 6 and 7) and the Income Tax Act (Ley del Impuesto sobre la Renta) (Article 6). Requirements for obtaining public benefit status are set out in the Income Tax Act (Article 7). CSOs established for the purposes of social assistance, promotion of road building, charity, education and instruction, and cultural, scientific, literary, artistic, political and sports activities, as well as business associations and trade unions, are eligible for certification as long as their income and assets are used solely to fulfill the institution’s purpose and are not distributed among their members (Income Tax Act, Article 6). In practice, however, the process of obtaining this status is long and bureaucratic. Furthermore, designation as a public interest entity does not exempt the CSO from having to comply with other formal obligations, such as submitting reports and other documentation requested by the tax authorities.

Authorization of public interest status is granted for one year and may be renewed automatically absent a notice of revocation from the tax authorities. The public interest designation may be revoked at any time if the grounds on which it was granted no longer exist (LAFSFL, Article 7). Neither the LAFSFL nor tax laws outline a specific procedure for revoking eligibility, and there are no known cases of revocation.

Barriers to Entry

Several barriers to entry are listed below.

Vague Grounds for Denial. Under the LAFSL, the Registry of Not-for-Profit Associations and Foundations (“RAF”) has the power to deny registration if a CSO’s objectives are contrary to “public policy, morality, and good customs.” Vague terminology like this is an invitation for the government to exercise subjective discretion, and RAF can impede or delay the establishment and registration of CSOs because those terms have never been clarified. However, a decision by the Constitutional Division of the Supreme Court of Justice (8-97Ac, 2001) declared this provision unconstitutional.

RAF Overstepping its Authority. RAF oversteps its authority when processing CSO registration applications by conducting subjective assessments on all applications in coordination with the line ministry or other public entities responsible for the field of activities of the CSO in question. Moreover, RAF authorizes the ministry or public entity to raise objections to the CSO’s bylaws or other constitutional documents and to insist that the CSO modify those documents. While RAF will not compel changes to the substance of the bylaws, it does make recommendations on the form and style of the documents, which can be burdensome on applicants. The Registry may, for instance, demand further information if the aims set out in the CSO’s bylaws are too broad or lack specificity, and it may require information relating to the origin, allocation, and use of funds for the projects to be implemented. The establishment of requirements beyond those set out in the law is arbitrary and creates legal uncertainty.

Ministry of Interior and Territorial Development (“MIGOB”) as Final Arbiter. In cases of outright refusal of the registration, Article 51 of the LAFSFL provides for the right to an administrative appeal. Within three business days of receiving notification of a refusal, the applicant may file a motion for review with MIGOB, which must then give a ruling on the petition within fifteen working days. The Ministry’s decision is final.

Excessive costs. There are a number of expenses associated with the registration of a CSO. First, the LAFSFL sets a fixed registration fee of approximately $35 (LAFSFL, Article 69). In addition, a CSO must pay for the following: a notary to write the CSO’s incorporation papers for between $300 and $600 (although sometimes this is done for free); an auditor to certify the CSO’s initial balance, which costs $30; publication of the CSO’s articles of incorporation in the Official Gazette with the price determined by the number of articles they contain (30 articles cost approximately $85); and an order or decree the CSO legal status, which costs, on average, $30. Altogether, establishing a CSO may cost between $500 and $800.

In terms of costs, if interested parties are assisted by an attorney and notary who files the papers with the Registry (as is very often the case), the costs can end up at around $2,000, including publishing the papers in the Official Gazette, the filing of credentials of the board of directors, and the purchase of portfolios for the four books required by law (books of the board of directors, the general members’ meeting, and income and expenditures books).

Non-adherence to time limits. At the time of registration, a written application for entry into the Registry is submitted for the consideration of the Directorate General of the RAF. It must be accompanied by three copies of the public instrument containing the articles of incorporation and bylaws, the election of the first board of directors or governing board, and other documentation (LAFSFL, Article 65). If the Registry finds that the application contains information that is inadequate, incomplete, formally defective, or in violation of the law, it must notify the organization within 90 business days from the date the documentation was received, specifying the errors or violations, and advising the organization on how to correct them. However, this time period is not always adhered to in practice.

After being notified, the organization has 45 business days to make the required corrections, pursuant to Article 65 of LAFSFL, and another period of 10 business days under Articles 83 and 88 of the Administrative Procedures Act (Ley de Procedimientos Administrativos).

In El Salvador, the time periods for registering an association or foundation are prescribed in the law. However, there are cases where organizations have spent several years trying in vain to obtain their legal status. Some registrations processes are delayed by by the registry, but there are also cases where the person or persons interested in obtaining legal status for their organization fail to make the corrections required by the Registry to the documentation. Conversely, there are cases where organizations have been given a fast track to legal status, which can be related to political interests.

Delayed registration at municipal level. The Municipal Council must issue a decision approving or rejecting the registration of a community association no later than 15 days after filing the application. The Council will check that the bylaws include the provisions required under the Municipal Code and that they do not contravene any law or ordinance. If there is an objection, the applicant will be notified and given a period of 15 days from the date of the notification in which to correct the application. Once any objections have been addressed, the Council must issue a decision within 15 days from the date of the new application. Should the Council fail to issue a decision within the 15-day time frame, the association’s legal status will be recognized automatically, as mandated by law, and its bylaws approved and registered accordingly. The Council will be obligated to enter the association’s registration and immediately order the publication of the approval and the bylaws in the Official Gazette. This compulsory registration is not always observed, however, and some municipalities delay registration. In practice, the registration of community associations with the municipality is less than systematic or standardized.

Barriers to Operational Activity

The law does not prohibit unregistered groups from forming and operating; they must only have legal aims. The Criminal Code provides penalties for associations established for the pursuit of an illicit aim.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

CSOs suffer from restrictions on freedom of expression when questioning the government or advocating for causes that differ from the government’s views. Restrictions on freedom of expression relate to the defamation, insults, and slander that stigmatize CSOs. There is also frequent speech by officials that stigmatizes social organizations, including calling them anything ranging from allies of opposition political parties, to front organizations, to being financed by obscure international powers. From the various attacks on human rights advocacy organizations, it can be inferred that there is not a guarantee of an environment conducive of the right to defend human rights. The main perpetrators of stigmatization and attacks are government officials, including the President Nayib Bukele.

Barriers to International Contact

The LAFSL governs the registration and incorporation of foreign CSOs and grants them the same rights as Salvadoran CSOs (Article 44).The operations of foreign entities are approved as long as their purposes are lawful, but they are explicitly prohibited from participating in political activities (LAFSFL, Articles 44 and 47). “Political activities” is not defined in the LAFSL.

In 2020, the Salvadorean Government created the El Salvador Agency for International Cooperation, (ESCO-El Salvador).

After reforming the Executive Order No. 23 of June 23, 2020, published in Official Gazette No. 127, Volume No. 427, it was decided that the El Salvador Agency for International Cooperation (ESCO-El Salvador), would become the sole institution authorized by Executive Order 24 of June 29, 2020 to manage cooperation in any of its modalities and forms. All development cooperation must be conducted through this agency instead of directly between the organization concerned and the development cooperation source. Moreover, the Executive Order creating the agency failed to adopt any serious position with regard to international cooperation and the country’s commitments. It also did not distinguish the management of the various modalities of cooperation. The centralization in El Salvador’s Presidency of everything relating to development cooperation is a mechanism which constitutes a risk to transparency in the allocation and use of resources and risk for the obstruction of CSO contacts at home and abroad. The agency has the power to arbitrarily marginalize social organizations that for years have been working with Salvadorean communities in most need.

Barriers to Resources

CSOs may participate in any legal activity, whether commercial or economic, related to their purposes or aims. The only limitation is that the funds obtained must be used for the institution itself and not the direct enrichment of its members, founders, and administrators (LAFSFL, Article 9). There are no special rules restricting the ability of CSOs to obtain and manage foreign funds.

The law does not establish explicit criteria for certifying public interest status, although it can be inferred that the process includes an examination of the supporting documentation provided with the request. Nonetheless, the law does not specify the criteria that the tax authority will use to certify that any such requirements have been met. This ambiguity leaves room for arbitrary interpretation. The regulations provide no procedure or administrative remedy if a request for certification as a public interest entity is denied, which leaves no other option than protracted and costly legal processes.

Barriers to Assembly

The Constitution states in Article 7 that the “People of El Salvador have the right to freely associate and to assemble peacefully without weapons for any lawful purpose.” However, the Constitution and other laws, cases and regulations do not establish a clear parameter between what is “lawful” and what is not, leaving it to the discretion of the authorities to determine what is a “lawful” purpose.

Advance Notification

According to Articles 234, 235 and 236 of the Electoral Code, meetings or demonstrations with “electoral propaganda purposes” require organizers to apply in writing to the Mayor or the City Clerk for the necessary authorization at least one day in advance of the meeting or demonstration. The Mayor shall respond within a period not exceeding 24 hours from the date of submission of the application. If the application is authorized, notice will be sent to the National Civil Police and contending political parties or coalitions. If the application is denied, it must be shown that there was an application prior to that of the applicant’s application; in such a case, another day for the meeting or demonstration shall be given.

These provisions necessarily prohibit counter-demonstrations, since permission for a meeting or demonstration shall be denied where there is an application for a separate meeting or demonstration submitted beforehand.

Notably, however, the advance notification requirement is only applicable to meetings and demonstrations with “electoral propaganda purposes.”

Spontaneous Demonstrations

Despite the notification requirements in the Electoral Code, spontaneous demonstrations are permitted, according to Judgment of 13-VI-1995, Section 4-94 emitted by the Constitutional Court, which states:

Freedom of assembly and public demonstration in its nature and how it is exercised is one of those rights that cannot be subject in its exercise to the prior approval of the state. The exercise of this freedom can only be subject to limitations if it is justified and has previously established laws.

In addition, Section 6. ITEM. 1 of the Constitution states:

Every person is free to express and disseminate their thoughts if they do not disturb public order or harm the morals, honor, or private lives of others. The exercise of this right shall not be subject to prior examination, censorship or security but who by using it break the law, will answer for the offense committed.

In sum, there is a conflict between court judgments and the Constitution on the one hand and the Electoral Code on the other hand with respect to the permissibility of spontaneous demonstrations.

Content Restrictions

There are a number of restrictions on permissible activities during assemblies. According to the Article 232 of the Electoral Code there are the following restrictions:

No one can paint political propaganda on buildings, public monuments, trees, art, street signs, streets or roads, nor on the walls of private homes without the owner’s permission…

The Political Parties, Coalitions, institutions, associations, organizations or any other kind of group may not use in any election propaganda case: symbolism, colors, slogans, marches and pictures or photographs of the candidates of other political parties or coalitions.”

Criminal Penalties and Enforcement

The Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism contains vague language that may be subject to arbitrary enforcement. For example, Article 6 of the Special Law states that, “The person who participates individually or collectively in the occupation of cities, villages, buildings or private facilities, public places, diplomatic, or any places for religious cult, in whole or in part, using for this weapons, explosives or similar articles, thereby affecting the normal development of the functions or activities of the inhabitants, staff or users, shall be punished with imprisonment of 25-30 years.”

Other vague provisions in this law have been used to deter or punish individuals participating in assemblies. In 2007, for example, terrorism charges including 10-15 year prison sentences were brought under this law against protesters who allegedly blocked roads and threw stones.

In addition, excessive force has been used to break up assemblies.

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports7th Session 2010
Reports of UN Special RapporteursEl Salvador
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country NotesNot available
U.S. State DepartmentCountry report on human rights practices (2019)
Fragile States Index ReportsForeign Policy: Fragile States Index
IMF Country ReportsEl Salvador and the IMF
International Commission of JuristsNot available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online LibraryEl Salvador

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

Bukele May Tighten Grip in Elections (February 2021)
President Nayib Bukele, who enjoys an approval rating around 90 percent in polls, is expected to expand his mandate even further in legislative elections that could deliver a decisive victory to his party. The vote could also endow Mr. Bukele with sweeping new powers: control over a legislature that has been dominated by the opposition, along with the chance to begin changing the Constitution and, possibly, to remake the government in his image. If his party and its allies win two-thirds of the seats, they can replace the attorney general and appoint new Supreme Court justices.

Salvadorean President Hostile towards Independent Media (October 2020)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is very worried by the increasingly hostile environment for reporters in El Salvador, especially by President Nayib Bukele’s recent attacks and threats against critical and independent media, and calls on the authorities to stop denigrating journalism. During a press conference livestreamed on Facebook on 24 September, President Bukele accused the country’s leading online media outlets, El Faro, Revista Factum and Gato Encerrado, and the newspapers La Prensa Gráfica and El Diario de Hoy of lying, attacking the government and waging an orchestrated political campaign ahead of next year’s legislative elections.

Sending aid is key to solving the Central American migrant crisis (November 2018)
Many Central American migrants are fleeing the violence of kidnapping, gangs, and rape that local authorities have been powerless to stop. But targeted investment in police, courts, prosecutors, and widespread engagement of civil society can make a measurable difference in the lives of the poorest. Central America needs more of that United States investment rather than less.

Supreme Electoral Tribunal Announces 2019 Presidential Elections (October 2018)
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) of El Salvador announced the 2019 presidential elections to be held next February for the 2019-2024 term. The court said in a decree, “Salvadoran citizens can cast their votes on February 3, 2019. They will be able to freely vote to elect the next president and vice president.”

Salvadoreans March Against Water Privatization (June 2018)
The Salvadoran people are staging a march today to the headquarters of the right-wing ARENA party in rejection of the move to privatize the administration of the human right to water. The organizations drawing together the Trade Union Front in El Salvador will march from the Cuscatlan Park to the ARENA general headquarters, in another protest against a measure that the oligarchic organization tries to mask.

Investigate private agents released pepper spray on students (June 2018) (Spanish)
On June 14, hundreds of students of the state University of El Salvador (UES) protested in front of the Congress headquarters to demand to be included in the discussion of a general water law. They were sprayed with pepper spray by the the state authorities.

First Transparency Monitoring Report of the Electoral Process (January 2018) (Spanish)
Civil society started work, according to a mandate of the Salvadorian Constitution, to monitor the electoral process for the March 4 elections for the legislative branch and City Council.

Pension Law Amendments with broad citizen participation (October 2017) (Spanish)
The objective of the Pension Law Amendments is to implement a sustainable and profitable pension system that guarantees workers decent and sustainable pensions over time.

New changes to the Electoral Code (May 2016) (Spanish)
The electoral’s commission and constitutional reforms of the Legislative Assembly today agreed unanimously to make a series of reforms to the Electoral Code.

Extraordinary Security Measures Approved (April 2016) (Spanish)
Members of the Legislative Assembly approved the extraordinary security measures. This initiative may be introduce for a year. Extraordinary security measures are compound for several instructions as move prisoner to a maximum security’s prison.

Government and civil society launch Alliance for Open Government (January 2016) (Spanish)
The Government of El Salvador and civil society organizations launched the Alliance for Open Government Observatory, a space for dialogue, feedback, monitoring and evaluation of compliance with internationally agreed commitments in the Action Plan 2014-2016 of the Alliance for Open Government (AGA). The launch was led for the Secretary of Citizen Participation, Transparency and Anticorruption, Marcos Rodriguez; vice-minister of Health Policy, Eduardo Espinoza; the chairman of Centro de Capacitación y Promoción de la Democracia (CECADE), Gustavo Amaya, and other representatives of the entities that make up the observatory.

New contributions in the process of electoral reforms (November 2015) (Spanish)
The Commission on Electoral and Constitutional Reform in closed doors greeted the judges of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), who released the results of an internal and external evaluation of past elections, providing contributions towards the electoral reform of the next elections 2018-2019.

Assembly approves law on electronic signatures (October 2015) (Spanish)
With 76 votes of the representatives of all parliamentary fractions, the Law on Electronic Signatures was approved. It will allow the signature to be done manually with the same value as if it is issued via electronic means. To achieve this, Salvadorans, who so wish, must certify their signature through companies specializing in this.

Una ley contra los delitos informáticos que respete la libertad de expresión (September 2015) (Spanish)
The development of information technology has resulted in the creation of spaces for business and also for the crime, but the legal system has lagged behind regulating them. The proliferation of computer crime or cybercrime is undeniable and has reached our borders. El Salvador, not having a definition of cyber crime, is in a situation of legal uncertainty.

CSO director victim of threats (May 2015)
Roberto Rubio, director of the Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo (Funde), denounced that he has become a victim of personal attacks through blogs and cyber structures that work from the Presidential House. Rubio questioned the Secretary of Transparency and Anti-corruption, Marcos Rodríguez, about the possible existence of a campaign office that executes a “dirty war” from Presidential House.

Organization promotes more transparency (May 2015)
The Organization of the Consortium for Transparency and Anti-corruption expressed its rejection and concern about anonymous acts of systematic harassment against those who promote transparency and criticize the State’s opacity.

Private media called to recognize international standards of freedom of expression (November 2014)
The new Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Organization of American States (OAS), Edison Lanza, made his first formal visit to Latin America in order to meet different actors that work on freedom of expression and access to information. Lanza came to El Salvador and met vibrant civil society representatives and perceived that the state has good responsiveness to discussions with civil society.

President receives Draft Law of Citizen Participation in Public Management (September 2014)
In September 2014, President Ceren received the draft Law of Citizen Participation in Public Management, which aims to institutionalize participation in the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies and empower citizens through mechanisms for consultation and dialogue. The Secretary of Citizen Participation, Transparency and Anticorruption, Marcos Rodriguez, explained that the Law seeks to sensitize the public about the importance of their voice and actions for the future of the country.

Former guerrilla wins El Salvador vote (April 2014)

U.S./El Salvador: A common ground for partnership (June 2013)

El Salvador one of only ten states to have ratified the Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (January 2013)

Dr. Tillemann travels to Peru and El Salvador (October 2012)

CSOs petition to halt REDD program (August 2012)

Civil society speaks out on constitutional crisis (July 2012)

Trade unionists denounce persecution in El Salvador (June 2012)

Progress can prevail in El Salvador (May 2012)

Legislative blunders and expectations in El Salvador (May 2012)

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL Civic Freedom Monitor partner organization in El Salvador.