El Salvador Country Report
President Salvador Sánchez Cerén took office in June 2014 with the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (Partido Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional: FMLN) on a foreign investment and social equality platform. Deep political polarisation in Congress has frustrated the government's efforts to address its fiscal weaknesses which are likely to persist into the upcoming election cycles in 2018 and 2019. Violent crime has spiked in September 2017 averaging 15 per day, despite a government show of force that deployed tanks to the streets of San Salvador. With few victims formally identified as gang members, it appears death and collateral injury risks for mostly locals remain elevated.
Companies that operate in El Salvador are likely to face operational challenges including lengthy bureaucratic processes to obtain permits, a lack of clarity on business processes, and persistent political corruption. Due to persistent government fiscal issues, firms with service contracts also face occasional payment delays, especially at the municipal level. A lack of adequate transportation infrastructure and a skilled labour shortage hinders the country's competitiveness but government attitudes to foreign investment are broadly positive with successive governments committed to business-related regulatory changes.
There are no known terrorist groups in El Salvador with the intention or ability to undertake terrorist attacks against commercial, military, or government-owned assets. However, street gangs (maras) are classified as terrorist organisations under law. Gangs are able to target security forces and private sector businesses with firearms in violent hot spots like the capital, San Salvador. Shootouts between security forces and gang members in recent months have resulted in about 40 police and 21 soldier deaths. The strengthening of gang political influences through the manipulation of armed attacks and homicide rates threatens political legitimacy of upcoming elections in March 2018.
El Salvador enjoys a positive relationship with neighbouring Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, pushing for a customs union and greater security operation collaborations to increase security for the region and promote trade investments. Security collaborations in traditionally contested territories like the Golfo de Fonseca have reduced conflict risks. El Salvador has tasked its military with public security and prison deployments to combat high levels of violence perpetrated by gangs over the last decade. The use of military forces to counter gangs and trafficking organisations is likely to continue to the end of the current presidential term in 2019.
Periodic protests and marches over government fiscal policies, salary disputes, and security concerns frequently block traffic along Alameda Juan Pablo II to the Legislative Assembly and the Government Centre of San Salvador. Transport work stoppages to protest insecurity working conditions are also frequent on targeted routes between the capital and surrounding municipalities like Ciudad Arce and Mejicanos, slowing traffic on connecting highways for several hours. Protest group profiles include trade unions, local community groups, public-sector workers, and transport sector employees. Demonstrations are typically under a day and largely peaceful with low damage risks to property and installations.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers aged between one and 60 years old traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - chloroquine (sometimes marketed as Nivaquine).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
Travelers should note that El Salvador is vulnerable to natural disasters, especially due to seismic activity.
Earthquakes occur frequently, sometimes causing sizeable material damage. Offshore earthquakes have the potential to trigger tsunamis that can threaten coastal areas. A powerful earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of El Salvador in November 2016. However, no casualties or material damage were reported and no tsunami was generated. Two other earthquakes with magnitudes 7 or above also hit in 2001 and 1986, causing significant damage.
The country is also home to some 20 volcanoes, three of which (San Miguel/Chaparrastique, Santa Ana, and Izalco) occasionally show signs of activity. The last major eruption in the country occurred in 2014.
El Salvador's rainy season lasts from May/June to October/November; during this period, flooding can occur, along with landslides in hilly or mountainous areas. This coincides with the Atlantic and Pacific Hurricane seasons (June to November); while the country is relatively rarely hit directly by hurricanes and tropical storms, their remnants often bring potentially hazardous torrential rains. The US-based National Hurricane Center closely tracks all cyclonic activity in Central America.
Information, alerts, and recommendations regarding natural disasters are available (in Spanish) at the government's Civil Protection agency website.
Avoid traveling at night and exercise vigilance on the roads as driving habits and armed attacks (e.g. at stoplights and stop signs) are obstacles to safe travel. That said, most primary roads are in relatively good condition with sufficient signage. Transportation disruptions are possible during the rainy season in the event of floods or landslides (see NATURAL RISKS section). Due to the risk of traffic accidents (as well as armed attacks), it is advisable to avoid driving at night, except between San Salvador and Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (SAL, formerly known as Comalapa International Airport).
Avoid traveling alone and never use long-distance or city buses (see CRIME section).
In theory, land borders with Guatemala and Honduras are open 24/7, but border crossings have been known to close without warning, especially after nightfall. Whenever possible, plan to cross land borders during the day.
The climate is tropical along the coast, semi-tropical on the central plateau, and temperate in mountainous areas. During the dry season (November to April), the air is hot and dry. From May until October, it rains almost every day and there is the risk of hurricanes. Temperatures are relatively steady throughout the day along the Pacific coast all year long (from 25°C to 29°C). Temperatures are cooler at higher elevations: along the plateau, the average temperature is 23°C; in the mountains temperatures range between 12°C and 23°C, sometimes dropping down to 0°C.
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