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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Nayib Bukele, El Salvador’s self-described “coolest dictator,” wins reelection


On February 4, as El Salvador held presidential elections, present president Nayib Bukele confirmed up at a polling place accompanied by audio system blasting “It’s the Finish of the World as We Know It (And I Really feel High-quality)” by R.E.M.

The tune alternative was deliberate — Bukele was as soon as once more trolling critics who declare he’s steering the nation towards autocracy. For some time, his Twitter bio learn “The World’s Coolest Dictator.”

Since being elected president in 2019, Bukele has made worldwide headlines for what some have described as a millennial persona, eschewing ties and fits in favor of denims and sun shades and taking a selfie throughout his first speech to the United Nations Normal Meeting. He has famously bought El Salvador as a cryptocurrency paradise, making it the primary nation on the earth to undertake Bitcoin as authorized tender.

However Bukele’s detractors say he has used the presidency to push El Salvador away from democracy, packing the nation’s judiciary with judges sympathetic to his insurance policies and reshaping electoral legislation to make sure his political occasion holds a majority within the legislature.

Throughout his practically 5 years in workplace, Bukele has declared an ongoing state of emergency, utilizing the specter of gang violence to curtail civil liberties. He very publicly stormed the legislature with the help of the navy to demand funding for his coverage priorities. And the truth that Bukele ran for reelection in any respect was unprecedented and possibly unlawful: El Salvador’s structure explicitly bars reelection to consecutive presidential phrases. Nonetheless, he has claimed victory within the vote and few are disputing that he received the presidency, although 60 seats in Congress are being disputed by El Salvador’s electoral physique.

Silvia Viñas is the co-host of a brand new podcast about Bukele, Bukele: El señor de Los Sueños. She says that if you happen to outline a democracy solely because the folks with the ability to vote, El Salvador has that.

Nevertheless, democracy is about way more. If Bukele controls all the pieces with out checks to his authority, Silvia asks, is the nation’s authorities nonetheless a democracy? What follows is an tailored transcript of her dialog with Sean Rameswaram, co-host of Vox’s As we speak, Defined podcast, edited for size and readability.

Sean Rameswaram

[Bukele is] the youngest president within the historical past of El Salvador when he’s elected in 2019. A millennial president. What’s he like when he will get into workplace? Is all of it avocado toast and Instagram or what?

Silvia Viñas

He sells this picture of the younger, hip millennial president who’s totally different from the opposite presidents in Latin America. He was 37 — as you say he regarded very totally different from different presidents. He didn’t put on fits. He wore leather-based jackets, he used social media to conduct state enterprise, to fireplace authorities workers or to ask them to handle a difficulty. When he went to the UN, he took a selfie.

When he took workplace, the Congress did their job of being a counterweight and performing checks and balances, as they need to in a democracy, as a result of he doesn’t have a majority there. And so he began a struggle with lawmakers as a result of he wished them to assist finance his plan to scale back violent killings and to struggle the gangs.

So Congress requested for extra particulars about how he’s going to spend the cash. And Bukele acquired uninterested in legislators delaying all the pieces, so he known as for a unprecedented session for Sunday, February ninth, 2020.

So some legislators go, however they don’t have sufficient folks to truly perform a session to vote on the mortgage. In the meantime, Bukele marketed on social media for folks to go march to Congress. They use authorities buses pushed by navy personnel to convey folks to this gathering. And inside, whereas the legislators are ready for the session to start out, armed navy personnel present up contained in the constructing.

Legislators feared that this was a coup, with navy coming into the Congress.

Sean Rameswaram

It feels like January sixth if it labored.

Silvia Viñas

Sure, and so Bukele requested the group, will you let me enter Congress? And naturally, they are saying “Sure!”

So he entered the room the place the legislators are ready, with the navy already inside. He sat within the chair the place the president of the Congress would sit throughout a session. And he stated, “Let’s say a prayer.”

He places his fingers on his head and he prayed in silence. After which he simply acquired up and left. It was like a present of drive, displaying what he’s able to doing. It was a worry tactic, displaying that he might instigate a coup.

Sean Rameswaram

Does he discover a option to consolidate energy after that?

Silvia Viñas

Yeah, he consolidates energy the next yr when his occasion and allied events win a majority in Congress. So inside just a few months after successful that election, he was capable of acquire legislative energy after which judicial energy. After that it’s like, okay, he can do something he desires. He controls all the pieces.

Sean Rameswaram

It’s my understanding that one of many causes folks again Bukele is as a result of he’s taking a stand towards the gangs and gang violence in El Salvador. How does he, as president, oppose the gangs?

Silvia Viñas

You would possibly bear in mind the photos of prisoners in Salvadoran jails with shaved heads, with out a shirt, with their fingers behind their again, all sitting very shut to 1 one other in strains? These photos went world wide.

That was a response from President Bukele, as a result of in April 2020 there was a surge in violence and 76 homicides in 4 days. His response was to crack down on gang members in jails, and he approved safety officers to make use of deadly drive on inmates and suspects. He combined members of rival gangs in the identical cells. He was making an attempt to point out that he was treating the gang members terribly as a result of they’ve completed a lot harm to our society. However then one other large wave of violence occurs, and there are 87 murders in three days.

So Bukele requested that Congress declare a state of emergency. And this state of emergency has been renewed 22 instances, each 30 days. We’re nearly at a two-year mark underneath a state of emergency within the title of preventing the gangs.

Sean Rameswaram

And what does the state of emergency get him when it comes to energy?

Silvia Viñas

It suspends fundamental rights, like proper to protection or the presumption of innocence. Extra navy on the streets and extra navy sources. The federal government to date has imprisoned over 75,000 folks — that’s greater than 1 % of the inhabitants.

El Salvador is the nation with the very best incarceration charge on the earth. There are millions of stories of arbitrary arrests, of abuse, of torture. However once more, that is presumably his most celebrated measure and the one which has in the end made him one of the crucial common politicians within the Americas.

Sean Rameswaram

Bukele appears to have consolidated a lot energy whereas in workplace. However he’s nonetheless restricted by a constitutional time period restrict. How does he get previous that?

Silvia Viñas

The Salvadoran structure may be very clear that reelection is prohibited. Mainly, you may be president as many instances as you win in El Salvador, however simply not consecutively. So in September 2021, the Constitutional chamber, which is managed by pro-Bukele magistrates, issued a decision that claims that solely the folks can determine whether or not the president ought to proceed, ignoring the articles of the Structure.

The chamber mainly interprets one article of the structure to say the one requirement is that he step down from the place of president six months earlier than the start of the brand new presidential time period. So he stepped down from workplace earlier than December 1st of 2023, and the brand new interval will start in June.

Sean Rameswaram

What do folks suppose he’s going to do now that he has this historic second time period?

Silvia Viñas

When he introduced that he was working, he stated we’ve proven that that is the one appropriate path for El Salvador. We will anticipate the state of emergency to proceed. There’s no indication that Bukele plans to dial again his insurance policies.

There’s a priority that a number of consultants talked about regarding his recognition whereas so many individuals have been arrested. As his recognition decreases, there’s a priority that he’ll use the navy much more, grow to be extra ironfisted, and implement extra of those insurance policies to take care of his energy.

To listen to the remainder of the dialog, click on right here, and make sure you observe As we speak, Defined on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, or wherever you take heed to podcasts.

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