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USAID in El Salvador: A Long Lasting Alliance

The history of USAID in El Salvador is inextricably intertwined with the history of El Salvador itself for the past four decades. As the country went through challenging events, USAID was there to support the Salvadoran people’s determination. During events such as the 12-year civil war, the 1986 earthquake, the 1992 Peace Accords and ensuing National Reconstruction Program, 1998's Hurricane Mitch, the 2001 earthquakes, the global financial crisis, and the recent flooding, USAID worked side-by-side with Salvadorans to relieve suffering, provide shelter, reconstruct infrastructure, restore public services, and provide economic opportunities and health and education services.

During the 1980s, in addition to significant support for economic reactivation needed during the civil war and increased food aid, USAID made loans to support agrarian reform and development of municipal governments, striving to help the government maintain economic stability and quell the violence. Humanitarian assistance focused on provisions for displaced persons and the repair of damaged structures so they could return home.

Immediately after the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992 and during reconstruction, USAID was committed to assisting the Government of El Salvador (GOES) successfully transition from war to peace. In addition to helping with reconstruction, rebuilding production, providing basic services, and reintegrating combatants, U.S. assistance focused on macro-economic policies that would help reduce social, economic, and political inequities in El Salvador. Specifically, technical assistance with developing agricultural policies and policies for providing health and education services was provided to the GOES and its ministries. USAID was eager to assist the GOES in maintaining the level of progress it had made in economic growth, health, and reform.

The United States has provided over $4.4 billion in development assistance through USAID and its predecessor U.S. Government programs. This total consists of $2.25 billion in grants, $405 million in concessional loans, $722 million in food aid, and $1.1 billion in balance of payments financing. Considering the small size of El Salvador, this represents a substantial investment of U.S. foreign assistance resources, signifying the strategic importance that the U.S. Government has placed on El Salvador.

One of the outcomes of USAID’s presence in El Salvador is that it helped create sustainable government and private institutions that continue to promote development planning and implementation. The Technical Secretariat for External Financing and the National Center for Agricultural and Forestry Technology, on the governmental side, and the Telethon Rehabilitation Foundation, the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development, and the Business Foundation for Educational Development, on the non-governmental side, stand out as examples of sustainable entities created and/or supported by USAID assistance that have contributed to the developmental plans of El Salvador during the past three decades.

Through USAID, the U.S. Government has provided reliable support for the GOES, and El Salvador has been a strong ally for the United States. Throughout the country, one may find schools, clinics, roads, markets, and irrigation systems constructed with USAID grants and loans. During times of crisis, USAID provides emergency assistance and has helped to stabilize the economy. Large numbers of Salvadorans have been educated or trained with USAID assistance. Many public officials have been trained by, or are, former employees of USAID.

U.S. assistance to El Salvador has resulted in a positive economic growth rate, despite disruptions in the economy due to natural disasters and man-made conflicts. The Government of El Salvador was freely elected and is comprised of competing national political parties. While El Salvador’s need for external assistance has decreased, the relationship between El Salvador and the United States continues to be one of mutual support and respect.

Last updated: November 20, 2014

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