The new and uncertain course of Nayib Bukele in El Salvador | International

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Nayib Bukele, president of El Salvador, during an announcement on February 17 in San Salvador.JOSE CABEZAS / Reuters

The day after Nayib Bukele's overwhelming victory in El Salvador, the capital experienced a Monday like so many others: the president tweeting, the networks stirred up, journalists denouncing the aggressions during the coverage of the voting day and Doña Francisca Chávez, like every tomorrow, cooking bean pupusas at the foot of the San Salvador volcano. The anger of the networks did not reach the slopes of El Boquerón this Monday morning and the tranquility was the predominant note despite the violent omens that heralded a tense vote count.

After the electoral hangover, the great unknown is knowing what direction Bukele will take both economically and in the polarization of the country. Bukele's latest tweets did not indicate anything that would take his foot off the gas as he posted two photos from a few years ago to scrub the mistake made by his former party, the FMLN, when it unanimously expelled him. Three years after those photos, the old left-wing formation was humiliated at the polls by obtaining the worst result in its history compared to the best ever obtained by a party and the president did not miss the opportunity to remind them.

On the day of his overwhelming victory, the only "personality" that Nayib Bukele attended was the famous youtuber Mexican Luisito Comunica, personal guest of the president to the Central American country for an interview that will be released in the next few days. Doña Meche will get rid of all this because she does not even have a smartphone and belongs to the 49% of the population who stayed at home on Sunday and did not vote for anyone. “The last time I voted for the Front (FMLN) but I don't like them. They have done nothing for us. I hope the president does well because it will do well for us, "he says, patting corn tortillas, under the intense Central American sun.

With almost 90% of the votes counted, the results confirm that Nuevas Ideas and the GANA party, its coalition partner, achieved an absolute majority, which allows it to address and control important institutions such as the Attorney General, the Court of Accounts or the Court. Supreme The azure blue tsunami that swept through the traditional parties, the right of Arena and the left of the FMLN won more deputies than ever before in history. The 39 deputies won by Arena's right in 1994, the highest number achieved so far, paled before the 53 that Bukele will win if the results are confirmed that still must undergo an adjustment that will last a few days to assign the final seats. Support for Bukele's party also reached the mayoralties. New Ideas candidates won in San Salvador, San Miguel and Santa Tecla, among others. Bukele celebrated the victory on Twitter by posting a video of fireworks and wrote: "Our people have waited 40 years for this."

For Rubén Zamora, a left-wing politician who was El Salvador's ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations, Bukele's overwhelming victory, although expected, is “unheard of” in El Salvador's modern history. According to Zamora there are several factors behind this result. “On the one hand, the pandemic, which has modified personal and political relations and has allowed the Government to maintain a policy of fear among the population and hatred of the opposition. Another important factor was money and disproportionality between the parties. While New Ideas spent 6.5 million dollars on advertising campaigns, Arena, the other party that spent the most, did not reach a million ”, the diplomat told EL PAÍS. "And the third factor has been to understand the role of the State at the service of the official party." According to Zamora, Bukele's campaign cost about $ 15 million "Where did he get the millions for the campaign?"

In less than two years, the Bukele government has accumulated several accusations of corruption, nepotism, obscurantism in public accounts and human rights abuses. At the same time, gang violence has dropped to record lows, has spearheaded skillful management of the pandemic, and has showered the country with aid ranging from food bags to computers for children.

However, Sunday afternoon seemed like a concentrated summary of the last 20 months. Bukele was sanctioned for skipping the mandatory electoral silence for the voting day and lashed out at journalists and magistrates of the Electoral Tribunal from the presidential lectern. He then took a mass bath in front of the ballot box when he went to vote and the crowd went crazy trying to get close to him.

For José María Tojeira, former rector of the Central American University (UCA), the rise of Bukele is based "on the tiredness of the traditional parties" after the war and describes Bukele as "a liberal, pragmatic businessman with populist overtones" before the one that will have to be very attentive due to the authoritarian drift that it can take, he tells EL PAÍS in his university office.

According to Eduardo Escobar, Director of the NGO Acción Ciudadana, with the current results El Salvador loses “that brake on the exercise of power from the legislature when legality or constitutionality is exceeded, (and) that stops any attempt of abuse, any arbitrary act that the executive wants to commit ". "It would deepen the authoritarianism of the government headed by Bukele," Escobar told the AP agency.

For his part, Zamora foresees that in the coming years there will be an awakening of civil society channeled through new parties that will promote an even greater collapse of the traditional formations, ”explains the former ambassador.

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