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El Salvador Teeters on the Brink of Dictatorship

The millennial rockstar, lord, and master of social media, threatens to start the next authoritarian Latin American regime in Central America. Alien to any ideology and principles, he is a menace becoming more dangerous by the day

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El Salvador is not a straightforward country. Hostage to violence for so long, they will now embrace whoever is willing to take on the bloodshed that for years has stained the streets of the cities. Nayib Bukele was a bet against corruption, poverty, and one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Salvadorans took a gamble in February 2019 when they voted for a young millennial, outsider, and who campaigned on social networks; and did so again in February 2021, when that same millennial was given an overwhelming majority in Congress.

We are now seeing the results of this experience: the Congress, within hours of being installed and without respecting the processes and in an arbitrary manner, dismissed the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. The Court, consequently, at the feet of the Presidency. And so, this is the picture: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary in the hands of Nayib Bukele. Whoever does not see the danger has an affinity for executions and overcrowded prisons.

The argument is that he retains public support and this is the right thing to do to get a handful of corrupt officials out of office. Because of the will of the ballot box, Bukele is taking over the country, threatening to impose on El Salvador the tyranny of the majority that so many have warned about.

This is not surprising, of course. Bukele is an enigma whose past goes some way to explaining yesterday’s events. Forget that this is the man who burst into Congress just a few months ago accompanied by the military to intimidate opposition deputies and force them to approve some funds. Nayib Bukele, today supposedly right-wing, was a militant until 2017 in the extreme left-wing FMLN party, subscribed to the Sao Paulo Forum. A worshipper of Chávez and Fidel, he also dedicated space in his social media to Che Guevara.

Although today he is a deserter of the left, Bukele follows with discipline the manual outlined by Chávez a few years ago: form political vendettas and with the support of the majorities, take over the Congress, dismantle the institutions and purge them.

Building a dictatorship on the rubble of a democracy. That is what El Salvador is about to become. The millennial rockstar, lord, and master of social media, threatens to start the next authoritarian Latin American regime in Central America. Alien to any ideology and principles, he is a menace becoming more dangerous by the day.

As my friend Nicolás Noyola, Salvadoran activist, told me: “To co-opt all the powers of the State, without following the rules, to put people of yours, of trust; apart from being totally illegal and nepotistic attitudes, means that a very strong authoritarian regime is being established. A dictatorship”.

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