Constitutional Reform: Chapultepec Peace Agreement

MEXICO AGREEMENT (27 April 1991)

The Government of El Salvador and the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (hereinafter referred to as "the Parties"),

Reaffirming their intention to make speedy progress towards the restoration of peace, national reconciliation and the reunification of Salvadorian society, in accordance with the common will of the Salvadorian people as expressed by both Parties in the Geneva Agreement of 4 April 1990;

Considering that the peace negotiations being conducted pursuant to the Geneva Agreement and the Caracas Agenda of 21 May 1990 call for a number of constitutional reforms embodying the political agreements emanating therefrom;

Bearing in mind the urgent need to submit to the Legislative Assembly whose term expires on 30 April 1991 those constitutional reforms on which the Parties have reached agreement, even where such agreements are partial and do not deal with all aspects under the item as envisaged in the Caracas Agenda;

Considering that various points on which agreement has been reached can be put into practice through secondary legislation or through further political agreements elaborating on the Constitution;

Have reached the agreements summarized below, which comprise constitutional reforms and issues referred to secondary legislation, as well as other political agreements:

I. Armed Forces

1. Agreements on constitutional reforms aimed at:

a. A clearer definition of the subordination of the armed forces to civilian authority.

b. The creation of a National Civil Police for the maintenance of peace, tranquility, order and public safety in both urban and rural areas, under the control of civilian authorities. It is expressly understood that the National Civil Police and the armed forces shall be independent and shall be placed under the authority of different ministries.

c. The creation of a State Intelligence Agency independent of the armed forces and under the direct authority of the President of the Republic.

d. Redefinition of the system of military justice with a view to ensuring that only those cases which affect a strictly military legal interest are submitted to it.

II. Judicial System and Human Rights

1. Agreements on constitutional reforms designed to improve significant aspects of the judicial system and establish mechanisms for safeguarding human rights, such as:

a. Reorganization of the Supreme Court of Justice and a new procedure for the election of the Supreme Court judges. Henceforth, a two-thirds majority of deputies elected to the Legislative Assembly shall be required to elect judges to the Supreme Court of Justice.

b. An annual allocation from the State budget to the judiciary amounting to no less than 6 per cent of current income.

c. Creation of the post of a National Counsel for the Defence of Human Rights, whose primary function shall be to promote and ensure respect for human rights.

d. Election of the Attorney-General of the Republic, the Chief State Counsel and the National Counsel for the Defence of Human Rights by a two-thirds majority of deputies elected to the Legislative Assembly.

III. Electoral System

1. Agreements on constitutional reform aimed at:

a. The establishment of a Supreme Electoral Tribunal to replace the Central Board of Elections. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal shall be the highest administrative authority and jurisdiction with respect to the electoral matters. It has been agreed that the composition of the Tribunal shall be determined by secondary legislation, making sure that no party or coalition of parties predominates it. It has also been agreed that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal shall include members without any party affiliation, elected by a qualified majority within the Legislative Assembly.

b. It has also been agreed that legally registered political parties shall have the right to monitor the compilation, organization, publication and updating of the electoral roll.

V. Final Declaration

The parties state for the record that the foregoing is a summary of the main political agreements which they reached during the round of negotiations held at Mexico City between 4 April 1991 and today's date. This summary shall in no way detract from, distort or contradict the authentic text of all the agreements reached, which are annexed to this document.

The Parties likewise reaffirm their commitment to take all necessary steps to execute the agreements fully. In particular, the Government of El Salvador solemnly undertakes to promote the approval by the current legislature of the constitutional reforms agree to by the Parties in this round of negotiations. Matters relating to the ratification of these reforms shall be considered in the framework of the ongoing negotiations, under the timetable for the implementation of future agreements.

VI. FMLN stated for the record that the wording of article 211, where the armed forces are described as a "permanent" institution, is incompatible with its position on the matter. It made it clear that it considers there to be certain constitutional reforms still awaiting negotiation, including demilitarization, article 105 on the limit of rural land ownership and the need to open up the mechanism for reform of the Constitution, either by amending article 248 or by other procedures such as popular referendum. FMLN maintains its position on all these points.

Implementation History


Intermediate Implementation

The accord called for three constitutional reforms: reining in the military (civilian control), judicial reforms to protect human rights (2/3 house majority to elect Supreme court judges, and Human Rights Commission), and electoral reform (Supreme Electoral Tribunal).

The constitutional reforms required to enact judiciary reform were made in 1992.1 In January 1992, the Amnesty Law was passed by the legislature.2 El Salvador's legislative assembly approved a series of provisional reforms to the electoral code in July 1992, to pave the way for the FMLN's legalization as a political party. The reforms were approved by 76 of the 84 deputies, despite the fact that the constitution forbids armed groups to form political parties.3

On July 20, 1992, the National Assembly amended El Salvador's constitution, removing police powers from the armed forces and creating a new national civilian police force and police academy.4

  • 1. “Report of the Director of the Human Rights Division of ONUSAL,” United Nations Security Council (S/24066), June 5, 1992; “Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador,” United Nations Security Council (S/24833), November 23, 1992.
  • 2. "El Salvador Amnesty Law Approved by National, Assembly," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, January 25, 1992.
  • 3. "El Salvador: FMLN Suspends Demobilization," IPS-Inter Press Service, July 31, 1992.
  • 4. Department of Consolidating Peace and Democracy in El Salvador, Statement before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, United States House of Representatives (July 9, 1992) (statement of Bernard W. Aronson, Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, Washington, DC), State Dispatch July 20, 1992.

Full Implementation

A new electoral code proposed by a special commission of the Legislative Assembly was enacted in 1993. Constitutional reforms created the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) to replace the Central Election Council, and a special body to ensure the impartiality of the TSE and its members, who were to be elected by the Legislative Assembly. This set of changes fulfilled the reforms in the peace accord.5

  • 5. Ricardo Córdova Macías, "Demilitarizing and Democratizing Salvadoran Politics,” in El Salvador: Implementation of the Peace Accords, USIP, ed. Margarita S. Studemeister.

Full Implementation

No further constitutional changes called for by the accord were carried out.


Full Implementation

No further developments observed.


Full Implementation

No further developments observed.


Full Implementation

No further developments observed.


Full Implementation

No further developments observed.


Full Implementation

No further developments observed.


Full Implementation

No further developments observed.


Full Implementation

No further developments observed.