New Ideas, a left-wing party, is assured of a large majority in Parliament. According to a CID-Gallup poll conducted after the election, they received 87% of the votes. “It’s the first time there’s been democracy in the country,” stated Nayib Bukele.
“There’s no dictatorship, people vote in a democracy.” A key indicator of the effectiveness of this policy is the homicide rate, which dropped from 87 per 100,000 in 2019, the year he took office, to 2.41 in 2023. Their members, often tattooed even on their faces for recognition, had control over most of the country, extorting, assassinating, and creating an atmosphere of extreme violence.
Their disputes often ended in the dismemberment or decapitation of opponents. Navigating the streets of San Salvador sometimes required enormous detours if your taxi hadn’t paid the necessary bribes. Venturing out at night was impossible without the protection of one of the gangs.
“El Salvador had a cancer with metastases. 85% of the territory was dominated by the gangs,” Nayib Bukele likes to point out. “We performed surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, and we will emerge cured, free from the cancer of the gangs.
We eliminated what was killing us. What lies ahead for El Salvador is a period of prosperity.” Since then, there have been a total of 75,000 arrests in a population of 6.5 million.
The president has had a mega prison built, which he calls a “terrorism confinement center.” No lawyer can enter this facility, and no contact with the outside world is possible. But the results are evident, and the Salvadoran population has shown its appreciation by voting overwhelmingly for this 42-year-old president.
This re-election was normally impossible according to the Constitution. But the “cool dictator” managed to bypass this obstacle by resigning in early December, six months before the end of his term. While many legal experts challenge the maneuver, the population did not hold it against him.
Nayib Bukele is the fifth child of a Palestinian family. His father, Armando, was an influential entrepreneur in the country who founded the first mosques in Central America. Nayib Bukele was first elected mayor in 2012 of the small municipality of Nuevo Cuscatlán, located 13 kilometers from San Salvador, the capital.
He was then a member of the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), the heir of the guerrilla group that fought the government during the civil war in the 1980s. He successfully ran for mayor of the capital in 2015. In 2019, he wanted to run for the presidency, but his party thought he was too young.
He left the party and managed to win the election in the first round. The Salvadoran president is often accused of excessive narcissism. In the city where he was first elected, Nuevo Cuscatlán, the initial letter of his name is displayed on all the streets.
At the airport in San Salvador, a reproduction of his office with his portrait and that of his wife is a popular attraction. Many Salvadorans want to take photos in this recreated presidential setting. Salvadorans need this.
70% of jobs are in the informal sector, which does not provide access to health and retirement benefits. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 30% of Salvadorans live in poverty. 21% of the GDP is generated by remittances, the money sent by expatriates.
The IMF has warned about the dangers of this decision, recalling the extreme volatility of this financial tool. The state’s debt is 80% of the GDP. “The security situation has improved, but the economy is still struggling,” notes analyst Michael Shifter from the Inter-American Dialogue think tank.
“Many Salvadorans leave the country every day.” Nayib Bukele’s security policy and its results are being watched with curiosity and sometimes envy by other Latin American countries where insecurity is becoming increasingly concerning.