As El Salvador marks its bicentennial anniversary of independence, it seems there isn’t actually much to celebrate. Rather, there is a profound feeling of dissatisfaction with Nayib Bukele’s government among the Salvadoran people, who are demanding change.
In addition to the series of earthquakes that hit the country on 22 September of this year, an atmosphere of threats to democracy has been rumbling in El Salvador for several months. Some days ago, the streets of this Central American country were flooded with demonstrators protesting against Bukele’s administration. A few hours later, the President proclaimed himself as the “coolest dictator of the globalised world” in his personal Twitter account bio.
Back in February, Bukele used the Salvadoran army to take over the Legislative Assembly and threatened to dissolve Congress. This was after Congress denied a 109 million dollar loan to finance Phase 3 of his security plan.
Following a global drop in the value of cryptocurrency, the government acquired 150 bitcoins which, on 7 September, became a legal currency in a country where 60% of the population doesn’t even have internet access.
Activist Ricardo Navarro, member of CESTA-Friends of the Earth El Salvador, was interviewed by Real World Radio about the situation in his country. He talked about the President’s background, highlighting how many different social, environmental, feminist and human rights organisations are coming together to face this antidemocratic government. He also called for increased political and diplomatic pressure at international level to tell the President that “he can’t continue down this road.”
“People are tired. Over 50,000 people participated in the demonstrations on 15 September. We weren’t expecting these crowds,” said Navarro.
“Bukele does not go to the territories: he has been handling all matters through communication media, which are paid to speak well of him. He has this huge advertising machinery and anything that happens is blamed on former political parties in office. The levels of corruption that exist now practically dwarf the levels of corruption we saw in previous administrations. The law is no longer respected here; institutions are useless.”
He also described Bukele as a megalomaniac: “He has the need to be big and walk on a red carpet. He is calling himself a dictator and the relatives of victims of the dictatorship have responded by asking him for respect. Many people are saying that he is taunting them, but I think that in reality, it is his dream: he feels that way.”
Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) expressed its concern over the “difficult social and political path seen in El Salvador in the past two years” since Bukele took office.