|Armed Forces of El Salvador|
|Fuerza Armada de El Salvador|
Coat of arms of El Salvador
|Service branches|| Army|
|Commander-in-Chief||Salvador Sánchez Cerén|
|Military age||16 (voluntary)|
|1,634,816 males, age 16-49, |
1,775,474 (2008 est.) females, age 16-49
|1,201,290 males, age 16-49, |
1,547,278 (2009 est.) females, age 16-49
|77,473 males, |
74,655 (2009 est.) females
|Active personnel||17,000 (2001 est.)|
|Budget||$157,000,000 (2008 est.)|
|Percent of GDP||0.62%|
|Foreign suppliers|| United States|
Salvadoran Civil War
War On Terror
|Ranks||Military ranks of El Salvador|
The Armed Forces of El Salvador (Spanish: Fuerza Armada de El Salvador) are the official governmental military forces of El Salvador. The Forces have three branches: the Salvadoran Army, the Air Force of El Salvador and the Navy of El Salvador. The Forces were founded in 1840 at the time of the dissolution of the United Provinces of Central America. Between 1978 and 1992, the Salvadoran armed forces fought a civil war against the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN). The military is accused of committing massacres, killings, torture and abuses of human rights during this time.
Spanish colonial rule
In the 19th century, soldiers in El Salvador may have been nominally employed by the governing body. However, if not paid their wage, the soldiers would supplement their income as mercenaries and militia for local politicians and landowners.
Coffee barons and militia
In the late 19th century, El Salvador went through a period of internal discord. In 1871, Santiago Gonzales seized power by military coup. General Carlos Ezeta did the same in 1890 and General Rafael Gutierrez in 1894. However, these changes in power were fought between networks of rival landowners (coffee barons) and politicians under their patronage rather than between official military and government forces.
Military operations in El Salvador continued in a similar way until the early 20th century. During the Great Depression, coffee prices fell, the wages of indigenous Salvadorian workers were cut and unemployment was widespread. For three days in 1932, the indigenous workers rebelled. The ruling general, Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez (1882 – 1966), responded with force. Under his command, the national army proper, slaughtered up to 40,000 peasants (La Matanza).
Palm Sunday rebellion
Twelve years of autocratic rule followed. Martinez withheld democratic and civil rights. On 2 March 1944, a Palm Sunday, the landowners, intellectuals, students and also some sections of the Salvadoran armed forces rebelled. The First Infantry Regiment and the Second Artillery Regiment of San Salvador joined the rebels as did the Garrison of Santa Ana. Santa Ana was bombed from the air. The rebellion was put down by the remaining loyal sections of the military. Reprisals of torture and execution of those who had joined the rebellion followed. Martial law was put in place. However, in May 1944, non-violent protest leading to a general strike caused Martinez to fall from power.
Rebellion of 1948
During the years that followed, young military officers became increasingly dissatisfied with their situation. They saw the generals clinging to senior posts for which they had little training and without making way for the younger officers. They saw the generals failing to prepare for the social and economic changes coming to Central America. They objected to unfair disciplinary measures and unfair surveillance. In 1948, fighting broke out between the younger officers and troops under their command and the senior generals and the police force under their command. The president, Salvador Castaneda Castro (1888 – 1965) was imprisoned. Senior officers and politicians were dismissed. The new government promoted the formation of a truly national, apolitical and professional army in El Salvador.
American influence and the Cold War
From 1947 to 1953, El Salvador held an agreement with the US whereby an American military aviation mission would be sent to El Salvador; El Salvador would seek advice from the US preferentially and purchase arms from the US. Some Salvadoran military officers were trained in North America and the Panama Canal Zone. Nevertheless, the amount of American military aid purchased by El Salvador in the 1950s was small; just enough in munitions and light arms to suppress internal conflict such as communist activity.
In the 1950s, Salvadoran men underwent one year of national service before being discharged to a reserve army. They then underwent further training on a regular basis and could be called to join active provincial patrols (patrullas cantonalles). Regular meetings of the men were held reinforcing loyalty to the nation and opposition to communism. Men from disadvantaged circumstances were offered monetary and practical assistance and education for their children. The number of reservists grew to approximately 40,000.
In the 1960s, a junta of conservative military officers and landowners took power in a coup and then organised elections. In 1961, the junta's candidate Lieutenant Colonel Julio Adalberto Rivera was elected president. In 1967, Colonel Fidel Sanchez Hernandez became president.
In 1969, tensions between El Salvador and Honduras increased. There was dispute concerning the border between the two countries. Approximately 300,000 Salvadorans had moved to Honduras due to population and land pressures in their homeland but Honduras had not renewed the El Salvador - Honduras Bilateral Treaty on Immigration. Honduras and El Salvador were competitors in the Central American Common Market. Honduras' economy was struggling and the Honduran Government started to deport the Salvadorans who they saw as illegal immigrants. Many Salvadorans fled after their Vice Consul was killed. In June 1969, El Salvador played three games against Honduras in the qualifying rounds of the World Cup.(p64) Then, on 26 June 1969, El Salvador won a play-off game 3 goals to 2 against Haiti, taking a place in the cup finals.
At this time, the Salvadoran forces included approximately 8,000 infantrymen with rifles, machine guns, mortars and bazookas, 105 mm cannons and a few armoured personnel carriers. Very few arms were manufactured in El Salvador. Most arms were supplied by the US. Honduras' infantry was smaller and less well equipped.
The El Salvador Air Force flying P-51 Mustangs attacked Honduran targets and vice versa but each air force had only a few working aeroplanes and were hampered by a lack of spare parts.(p64) El Salvador's infantry forces invaded Honduras and took Ocotepeque.
As Salvadoran troops approached Tegucigalpa, their supply lines failed, they became exhausted and were slowed by heavy rainfall, and their moral fell. On July 18 1969, the Organization of American States (OAS) organised a ceasefire. Then as economic sanctions and an arms embargo took effect, both sides. The war lasted for four days and therefore is also called the "one hundred hour war".
The Salvadoran Civil War was fought between 1979 and 1992. The Salvadoran armed forces fought the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN), a coalition of insurgent guerrilla groups. The war began when a reformist government was suppressed by hard line military elements and by landowners.
Between 1980 and 1983, the Salvadoran armed forces were driven out of territory controlled by large FMNL groups in rural areas. The FMNL membership later increased to over 12,000 when the organisation was able to provide local governance and services.(p10) The government responded with counter-insurgency actions including the assassination of the archbishop, Oscar Romero (1917 – 1980).
In late 1981, soldiers of the national armed forces' Atlacatl Battalion, a rapid response troop, killed 900 civilians at El Motoze. This was one of a number of actions including rapes, bashings, torture and killings. Men of this battalion were graduates of the US School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Columbus, Georgia. Another atrocity occurred on 16 November 1989. Army soldiers murdered six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the Central American University.
In 1989, the armed forces of El Salvador had raised 56,000 fighting men with 63 aeroplanes and 72 helicopters.(p11) Between 1983 and 1987, El Salvador's military forces received over 100 million dollars per year from the US.
In 1990, at the end of the Cold War, the US restricted funding to the Salvadoran military. The US found its rigorous measures against left wing groups were no longer needed. This and the lack of advantage on either side led to the end of the war in 1992.
Under the terms of the Chapultepec Peace Accords which had been signed on 16 January 1992 in Chapultepec, Mexico, the Salvadoran Armed Forces was to be subordinated and removed from the political arena. The Ministry of Defense handed the role of internal security to a new body, the National Police Force. The number of soldiers in the Armed Forces was reduced by half. Counter-insurgency forces were demobilised. Military intelligence units reported directly to the president. The constitutional mission, doctrine and recruitment and educational systems of the Armed Forces were redefined.
During the civil war, military and right wing paramilitary death squads used exemplary violence with murder and mutilation, massacre and forced displacement to gain control of the populace. In 1993, a General Amnesty Law was passed by the Salvadoran government. Victims of human rights violations had no redress. International human rights entities such as the UNHCR made formal objections to the law. Spain found jurisdiction in the matter and indicted twenty retired soldiers who were officers at the time of the killings.
For many reasons, the armed forces resisted the application of the requirement of the Peace Accord. Junior officers who had volunteered to work in security units did not want to be treated as raw army recruits when their units disbanded. Senior officers feared the autonomy of the military's core activities, such as training, would be lost. Military leaders feared that the loss of military units in rural areas would lead to social and political unrest. The civilian population feared that officers purged from military ranks for human rights violations would join right wing paramilitary organisations. (p159)
Post civil war
In 2017, the strength of the Salvadoran armed forces was estimated to be 47,000 men.
The Salvadoran armed forces are a combat force composed of army, navy and air force each led by their Chief of the General Staff. The support units are a military education and doctrine command, a logistics support command, a military health command, a military special security brigade and a directorate general of recruitment and reserves.
The duties of the Salvadoran Armed Force is described in articles 211 and 212 of the Constitution of 1983. It is the duty of the armed forces to defend national territory and sovereignty; maintain public peace, tranquillity, and security; and to support democracy. Article 212 describes the armed forces as a 'fundamental institution for national security, of a permanent character, apolitical, obedient to established civilian authority, and non-deliberative". It also charges the military with enforcing the no-reelection provision of the country's president; with guaranteeing universal suffrage, human rights;and with working with the executive branch of government in promoting national development
The Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces is the president. Reporting to the president is the Ministry of Defence. Members of the ministry advise the Secretary of State, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military provides a panel composed of the Chiefs of the General Staff and military experts who provide the ministry with technical advice for policy making and strategic planning. Oversight of the military is provided by the Assistant Inspector General of the Armed Forces.
Within the military leadership are operating units, tactical units and advisory bodies. The operating units build on operational plans. The tactical units include detachments, training centers and forces of the army at the battalion level. The combat recognition and transport groups make up the Air Force tactical unit. The Navy uses transport and hydrographic tactical units.
Among the highest military decorations in the Salvadoran Armed Forces are the Gold Cross of War Heroism in Action; the Silver Cross of Heroism; the Gold Medal for Courage in Action; and the Silver Medal of Valor. for such actions, there may be a monetary payment in addition to the armed forces pension. There are other honours for field service, distinguished service, and merit.
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