El Salvador - Country Commercial Guide
Safety and Security Equipment

This is a top sector for El Salvador includes overview and trade data

Last published date: 2021-11-05

Overview

The United States is the main source of imports of firearms and ammunition (HS code 93) in El Salvador, with 48% of the imports market share in 2020, followed by Brazil with 16%.  There is no significant local production of safety and security equipment in El Salvador and import duties for most security equipment and devices are zero percent, subject to a 13% value added tax. To do business in El Salvador, a U.S. company should either register an office or work with a local agent to navigate the procurement registration process and follow up on public and private opportunities.  Also, the Ministry of Justice and Security must authorize private security companies and individuals providing alarm monitoring, security, private investigations, transportation of valuables, and guard services. Additionally, the Arms, Ammunition, and Explosive Law requires prior authorization of the Ministry of Defense for the importation of firearms, pepper sprays, chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS) and chloroacetophenone (CN) tear gas, explosives, electrical shock protection devices, and similar products. 

Safety and security equipment demand in El Salvador offers a steady market of opportunities for U.S. exporters.  Even though crime rates in El Salvador have been dropping, the country is still widely viewed as insecure by its citizenry and real danger persists. Businesses and private citizens must protect themselves from crimes such as extortion, assault, and robbery, and thus security is a vital factor for private companies, public institutions, Salvadorans in general, and international trade related activities.   

The government of El Salvador’s plan to mitigate crime and violence has included decisions that improve procedures, security, and efficiency in the criminal justice sector such as the purchase of electric monitoring bracelets, the integration of a monitoring and communication system, acquisition of new patrol vehicles, patrol vehicle equipment for the police, screening technology for prisons and airports, among others.  The greatest challenge is the lack of resources to fund security plans, but the acquisition of technology, infrastructure, and police equipment is commonly through loans from international financing institutions and international cooperation.

Private sector expenditures in the safety and security sector are concentrated mainly on guards, perimeter surveillance, and asset protection.  It is common practice to hire services from private security companies for commercial and residential security, including guards, security armed patrol, and GPS’ tracked vehicles.  The main city of San Salvador and other neighboring municipalities are cooperating to increase city surveillance and municipal police as they share responsibilities for preventing and responding to crime and violence.  To sell U.S. products and services in El Salvador, the use of an agent or distributor is recommended, as well as to develop contracts between the parties using CAFTA-DR provisions CAFTA-DR Chapter 11.

 

2018

2019

2020

2021*

Total Local Production

0

0

0

0

Total Exports

370,452,685.95

299,514410.38

250,711,829.44

215,909,954.52

Total Imports

912,082,841.18

870,486,869.07

1,001,145,457.18

682,397,732.88

Imports from the US

69,007,370.81

69,521,389.26

64,735,500.90

46,663,505.05

Total Market Size

541,630,255.23

570,972,458.69

750,433,627.74

466,487778.36

Exchange Rates

NA

NA

NA

NA

(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports). Information on local production not available.

Units: $ millions

Source: Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador; *as of august, 2021. Trade data constructed on products classified under HS code 85, and HS 93. 

Leading Sub-Sectors

  • Video surveillance system
  • Intrusion detention/burglar alarm systems
  • Electronic access control systems
  • Door/entrance solutions
  • Physical security
  • Personal protection products
  • IT security
  • Scanning equipment
  • Road and airport security
  • Video security analytics
  • Forensic software
  • Tracking devices
  • UAV

Opportunities

In 2020, the government announced new phases to the security plan to combat gang activity which includes funds to acquire equipment to increase the number of police and soldiers in the field to retake gang territory, block out communications in areas near prisons, and to tighten conditions for inmates at all the prisons.  The first phase of the plan has opened up business opportunities for meals ready to eat, bullet proof vests and helmets, boots and uniforms, and maintenance of helicopters.  The second phase aims to provide opportunities for at risk youth through technical training and improving living conditions.  For phase three and four, the Central American Bank for Integration approved a loan of USD$109 million to obtain technology, including:

  • Cameras
  • Tactical drones
  • Biometric and facial recognition technology
  • Uniforms and tactical gear

The Technical and Innovation Secretariat is developing a National Cybersecurity Policy which may lead to future areas of opportunity. The Technical Secretariat’s Digital Agenda includes the following priority areas:

  • Digital identity
  • Reduction of digital gap
  • Centralized data center
  • Electronic commerce, signature, and electronic invoice implementation
  • Biometric passport
  • National registry of mobile phone numbers  

El Salvador’s private and public sector prefers U.S. products, services, and technologies. More efficient and sophisticated products, and training are always in demand.  The main buyer is the public sector; however most acquisitions depend on loans from multilateral development banks or grants, and donations by contributor countries.

Government purchases are channeled through Comprasal, an online portal for competitive bidding processes. All government purchases are regulated by the Acquisition and Purchasing Law (Ley de Adquisiciones y Contrataciones –LACAP), including direct purchases often announced for special projects and technology.

Opportunities for residential security monitoring services and video surveillance systems are growing in a market where barbed wire, bars on windows and doors, and gated neighborhoods are prevalent.  Monitoring and surveillance systems, as well as access control technology to manage visitors and parking is also growing for use at office buildings, apartment towers, and commercial centers. 

Resources

  • Official Salvadoran Government Procurement website
  • Ministry of Defense of El Salvador
  • National Civil Police
  • Import controlled products list
  • El Salvador Central Bank Trade Data

Interested parties may contact Commercial Specialist Maria Rivera at maria.rivera@trade.gov