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El Salvador Table of Contents

El Salvador


Mission and Organization


Figure 9. Armed Forces Chain of Command, 1988

Under Articles 211 and 212 of the 1983 Constitution, the army's missions and those of the armed forces in general are to defend the national territory and sovereignty; to maintain the public peace, tranquillity, and security; and to support democracy. Article 212 describes the armed forces more specifically as a fundamental institution for national security, of a permanent character, essentially apolitical, obedient to established civilian authority, and nondeliberative. It also charges the military with enforcing the no-reelection provision for the country's president, guaranteeing freedom of suffrage, ensuring respect for human rights, and collaborating with the agencies of the executive branch in promoting national development. In effect, the 1983 Constitution sought to change dramatically the political role of the military. Whereas military officers routinely served as president of the republic under the old constitutions, the 1983 Constitution does not permit any active-duty military officer to be president. Military personnel must resign from the service three years before the next presidential inauguration date in order to be eligible to run for that office.

Both the military organic law and Article 157 of the Constitution name the president as commander in chief of the armed forces, consisting of the army, air force, navy, and active reserve (see fig. 9). Article 168 empowers the president to organize and maintain the armed forces and confer military ranks in accordance with the law. The minister of defense and public security is in the chain of command and performs the president's command functions on a day-to-day basis. A deputy minister of defense and public security fulfills the purely administrative role assigned to the Ministry of Defense and Public Security. The EMC chief is the senior serving officer and also army commander and has operational control over the navy and air force chiefs. The vice minister of defense and public security oversees the Public Security Forces Joint Staff of the three security forces: the GN, PN, and the Treasury Police (Policia de Hacienda--PH), which together included some 12,600 personnel among their ranks in 1988. The regular armed forces (army, air force, and navy) totaled about 47,000 active members in 1988.

Colonel Juan Orlando Zepeda stated in a published interview in 1987 that the Salvadoran armed forces had two national-level intelligence organizations: the National Directorate of Intelligence (Direccion Nacional de Inteligencia--DNI) under the Ministry of Defense and Public Security; and the EMC's C-2, which Colonel Zepeda headed. Although the DNI was charged with providing strategic, political, and national intelligence, the demands of the war and a lack of training compelled it to develop mainly military operational intelligence at the strategic and tactical levels, duplicating the C-2's principal mission. The C-2 also used intelligence reports from agencies at the brigade and military unit levels.

Data as of November 1988