Key Points: Raids on Journalist Organization, Overwhelming Public Support, Proposed Changes to the Constitution
“Devuelvan lo robado…” translation “Give back what was stolen” is only one of the many popular slogans that Nayib Bukele ran on during the presidential election of 2019 which he won with more than 50 percent of the popular vote. According to more recent approval ratings, the current President of El Salvador boasts a 71 percent approval rating maintaining his popularity amongst the Salvadoran people. Although crime has decreased, and the country’s economy seems to be prospering many worry about Bukele’s plan and what that looks like for the democratic institutions of the nation. What does this mean for El Salvador? Is this one of those fabled enlightened rulers spoken of by Aristotle or just another autocrat in the making?
Bloomberg has compared him to Hugo Chavez because of his many transgressions of democratic norms. For example, in 2020 Bukele entered the hall of the Legislative Assembly with members of the armed forces and demanded the Assembly approve funds for his “Plan Territorial” which would pay for an increase in military and security spending to secure the nation against gang-related crimes. When his party “Nuevas Ideas” gained a majority in the Legislative Assembly in mid-2021, they dismissed five members of the Supreme Court opening space for possible justices that would hold an affinity for Bukele. Another plan that seems like it was from a James Bond movie is the legalization of BitCoin as legal tender. Bukele’s administration has made many overtures to foreign companies and countries to seek investment in the country. The legalization of BitCoin can be seen as one of those schemes to lure foreign investors into the country.
Things are not as black and white as they are in the movies. Sure, Nayib Bukele has done some questionable things that go beyond the norms of a president of a democracy, but he maintained popularity amongst the people and El Salvador has seen much economic growth since he took office. Not only is he a popular president because he is on social media but because crime has decreased and corruption from previous administrations is being investigated; people have high levels of confidence in their president because it seems like the country is moving forward after decades of two-party rule.