REPORT ON THE
SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
AND SOCIAL RIGHTS
In its obligation to watch over the rights set forth in the
Inter-American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the Commission must
watch over not only the so/called civil and political rights, but also the right
to protection for mothers and children (Article VII);
the right to the preservation of health and to well-being (Article XI);
the right to education (Article XII); the right to the benefits culture (Article
XIII); the tight to work and to fair remuneration (Article XIV) and the right to
social security (Article XVI), that is to say, economic, social, and cultural
The Commission has considered it advisable to include in this report a
chapter outlining some socioeconomic indicators on El Salvador, for the purpose
of presenting a more complete picture of the general situation of the country.
With this background information it may be possible to point out some factors
that might have an effect on respect for an observance of human rights in El
With a territory of approximately 21,000 km2 , El Salvador is
the smallest mainland country in our hemisphere.
With a population estimated at 4,500,000 and a population density of 210
people for km2 of arable
land, El Salvador is the second ranking country in the Americas in population
density, and one of the most densely populated in the world.
This situation is tending to get worse, since it has one of the highest
rates of population growth, 3.5 percent per year.
It is estimated that 46 percent of the people of El Salvador are less
than 15 years of age, that is, 2,070,000 persons, and 19 percent, or 855,000 of
them, are less than y years of age. Of
these last, approximately 3 out every 5 such children are effected by some
degree of malnutrition. Deaths
during the first year of life account for 25 percent of total deaths, and deaths
of children under 5 years of age account for 50 percent of that total.
The life expectancy of a Salvadoran at birth is 58 years.
There are y physicians, 3 nurses, and 17 hospital beds for every 10,000
The Overall percentage of literacy is 57 percent, but in the rural areas
it is only 30 percent. Moreover,
the percentage of children (5 through 14 years of age) enrolled in elementary
school is 81 percent, and in secondary and vocational education (15 though 19
years of age), it is 31 percent. The
percentage of university enrollment in the group 20 through 20 years of age is 3
is estimated that 60 percent of the Salvadoran population, that is, about
2,700,000 persons, are in rural areas. Of
the rural people, 73 percent lack drinking water service, 93 percent lack
electricity, and only 22 percent have privies.
In the urban population, for its part, 60 percent lacks connection with a
sewerage system and only 30 percent have drinking water services.
The low percentage of the population with drinking water service and
connection to a sewerage system is reflected in the high rates of infectious and
parasitic diseases, which result in gastrointestinal diseases being the
principal cause of death in children under 5 years of age.
As regards work, the agricultural and fisheries sector employs
approximately 55 percent of the Salvadoran labor force; the manufacturing sector
12 percent; commerce 8 percent; constructions 4 percent; and other sectors 20
percent. However, 10 percent of the
economically active population is unemployed and 22 percent is under-employed.
Various estimates have been made of the per capita Gross Domestic Product
(GDP); however, the amount of US$425.00 appears to be a reasonable average
figure. Moreover, in one sector
(agriculture), which generates 23 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of El
Salvador and employs more than half of the labor force, the per capita annual
income of the farm people is estimated at $133.00
With regard to the distribution of income by families, the highest 5
percent of families received 38 percent of the income, and the highest 20
percent received 67 percent of the total, while the lowest 40 percent of
families received only 7.5 percent of the income.
With regard to land tenure, according to a 1961 estimate, six families
owned 71,923 hectares. In contrast,
according to the 1971 census, approximately 305,000 families lived on 42,692
hectares. More than one third of
this last group of families did not own the lands they worked on.
According to other figures, the top 10 percent of landowners in El
Salvador hold 78 percent of the arable land, and the lowest 10 percent, barely
According to another estimate, the top 0.55 percent of the landowners
occupies 37.7 percent of the land, and 91.4 percent has 21.9 percent of land.
In addition, the number of landless families, according to a recent
study, has been increasing, from 30,451 in 1961 to 112,108 in 1971 and 166,922
According to the 1971 rural census, more than 90 percent of the rural
properties in El Salvador are of less than 10 hectares and together these occupy
about one-fourth of the total arable land.
These lands are the less productive ones, since the most fertile lands
are on the large farms. The latter,
in turn, are farms primarily oriented toward exportation of such products as
coffee, sugar, cotton, and meat. These
products require a large number of workers.
Since most of the farm workers own no land, or their plots of land are
not very productive and do not met the needs of the families, there is a large
work force available to work the large farms.
The excess supply of manpower in the field and the low productivity of
the small rural properties contribute to the low income of the farm workers.
Moreover, the uneven distribution of the land and the emphasis on
exportation of agricultural products are factors influencing the poverty in
which a large part of the population lives.
The preceding data show more clearly the economic and social imbalance
that seriously effects the Salvadoran society, and, in particular, the immense
majority of the population, with consequent negative repercussions in the filed
of observance of human rights.
American Convention on Human Rights
Article 26 – Progressive Development
The States Parties undertake to adopt measures, both internally and
through international cooperation, especially those of an economic and
technical nature, with a view to achieving progressively, by legislation or
other appropriate means, the full realization of the rights implicit in the
economic, social, educational, scientific, and cultural standards set forth
in the Charter of the Organization of American States as amended by the
Protocol of Buenos Aires.
The data in this chapter are approximate figures, and the sources are
mainly official publications of the Organization of American State, the
Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Pan American Health