A true democracy has never truly existed in El Salvador resulting in the increased amounts of corruption and acceptance of it. The people needed a glimmer of hope that their country could change, and that glimmer of hope was the appearance of president Nayib Bukele. His appearance indicated a chance for El Salvador to have a true democracy and for current issues to be addressed and fixed, but are these assumptions true?
Issues in El Salvador
Gangs have been a major issue in El Salvador for years making it one of the most violent countries. The 12 year long civil war that ended in 1992 left the people of El Salvador with extreme levels of poverty as well as inequalities and government corruption which were never addressed resulting in the amount of gang members increasing inevitably as people see gangs as one of the only ways to survive such conditions. The United States had also deported many criminals to Central America from 1996-2002 which evidently would only build on and cause gangs to continue to form and grow. If gangs can take advantage of such conditions to form and grow, so can the government officials in power which only helps democratic erosion to continue in the country.
The Salvadoran people
The majority of Salvadorans face the issues of poverty, it was found that the poverty rate of El Salvador is 27.4 in 2022 while the poverty rate of El Salvador in 2021 was 24.6 which is a big increase in just a year. The average Salvadoran survives on only $5.50 a day. The literacy rate for El Salvador in 2020 was 89.98% while in 2017 it was 88.48% which is not much of an increase. This is due to the low score El Salvador has on the right to education. The rights of education in El Salvador is 64.8% making it one the bottom countries in the list. It was found that Costa Rica has the same resources, income levels, and geography as El Salvador, yet scored 87.2% making it one of the top countries with the best rights to education. Being able to have an education is essential for helping Salvadorans overcome issues like poverty, but if nothing is done the democracy will only erode and gang violence will continue to increase. As previously mentioned, many join gangs as a means of survival as they have no other opportunities in El Salvador. With this disorder, corruption will only continue as those with power can easily take advantage of a disorganized country.
President Nayib Bukele
The majority of El Salvador praise and believe Bukele is the president they have been waiting for. This large amount of support only helps continue his undemocratic ways and authoritarian actions. With the noted conditions of the people, it is evident that the majority of the Salvadorans don’t understand politics due to their low amounts of education and economic status. Salvadorans blindly trust and support Bukele due to his extreme ways of addressing current problems and charismatic attitude. Since previous political figures have done nothing to address gangs, President Bukele’s big approach towards gangs was enough for the people to believe he is doing something for the better of the country and the people. President Bukele has passed a reform called “My New School” to provide better education opportunities to the youth of El Salvador, yet also touched on the topic that those who still become criminals after this reform will be caught and put in jail. He charismatically informed the population of the reform as a means to demonstrate his care of the youth and gain more positive support of the people. The only people who could potentially limit his actions are other political officials in power yet, he fired 5 supreme court justices and the attorney general of El Salvador to increase his support and decrease the limitations put on him. 90% of Salvadorans support President Bukele after this action was done which is a high amount of support enabling more undemocratic actions to take place. Bukele has an extreme approach to the gang problem; he has any one suspected of being a gang member(people with tattoos and even certain sneakers) detained and imprisoned in inhumane conditions. Since El Salvador was declared to be in a state of emergency, human rights are now limited justifying any actions taken by the government. These imprisoned gang members are shoved in small prisons during the pandemic and denied basic human necessities to increase their suffering. To put it in context, the prisons are fit to usually hold 18,051 prison mates, but 38,000 people are stuffed into them. President Bukele approved the rights of police officials to use any necessary force and gave permission for children 12 and above to be treated the same as adults and imprisoned.
President Bukele is able to have the support of both the people and those in power in the country. This is an overwhelming amount of support for President Bukele, and that is all he needs to enable his actions and way of thinking. Is he a democratic president? No, he is a person in power with authoritarian tendencies and strong support to allow democratic erosion to continue in El Salvador without the knowledge of the people. Since nothing is done to stop President Bukele, it is very probable that he will be able to extend his time as president and continue these undemocratic actions. The people of El Salvador have never known what a true democracy is, so they don’t know that it is still eroding. They are fine with how things are going and no action is being taken to oppose President Bukele. In the eyes of El Salvador he is an amazing president that is doing something for the country finally after so many years. The support will not end unless some sort of intervention is done to educate about the erosion of the Salvadoran democracy and how undemocratic Bukele’s approach to gangs and other issues are.