El Salvador: Bukele Gets Reelected with Over 80% of the Vote

He’s for sure the “coolest dictator.”

In a free country, you’ll just keep electing a dictator.

The Guardian:

El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, has won a thumping victory in elections after voters cast aside concerns about erosion of democracy to reward him for a fierce gang crackdown that transformed security in the central American country.

Provisional results on Monday morning showed Bukele winning 83% support with just over 70% of the ballots counted. Bukele declared himself the winner before official results were announced, claiming to have attained more than 85% of the vote.

Not even close

Thousands of Bukele’s supporters clad in cyan blue and waving flags thronged San Salvador’s central square to celebrate his re-election, which the 42-year-old leader termed a “referendum” on his government.

His New Ideas party is expected to win almost all of the 60 seats in the legislative body, tightening its grip on the country and bestowing Bukele, the most powerful leader in El Salvador’s modern history, with even more sway.

“All together the opposition was pulverised,” Bukele, standing with his wife on the balcony of the National Palace, told his supporters. “El Salvador went from being the most unsafe [country] to the safest. Now in these next five years, wait to see what we are going to do.”

New Ideas’ electoral success means Bukele will wield unprecedented power and be able to overhaul El Salvador’s constitution, which his opponents fear will result in scrapping of term limits.

Wildly popular, Bukele has campaigned on the success of his security strategy under which authorities suspended civil liberties to arrest more than 75,000 Salvadorans without charges. The detentions led to a sharp decline in nationwide murder rates and fundamentally altered a country of 6.3 million people that was once among the world’s most dangerous.

Some analysts have said the mass incarceration of 1% of the population is not sustainable in the long term.

Hours earlier, bullish Bukele held a press conference and said his party needed all the support it could muster to maintain its anti-gang fight and continue reshaping El Salvador.

“So, if we have already overcome our cancer, with metastases that were the gangs, now we only have to recover and be the person we always wanted to be,” said Bukele.

Few doubted the outcome of the elections. Polls showed most voters wanted to reward Bukele for decimating the crime groups that made life intolerable in El Salvador and fuelled waves of migration to the United States.

Guadalupe Guillen, a 55-year-old shopkeeper, showed up at the victory party dressed in a tunic and Arab scarf, a nod to Bukele’s Palestinian family heritage.

Yes, he is Palestinian, and doesn’t try to hide it (despite the fact that even Latin Americans can’t tell the difference between Latin Americans and Arabs).

“We are celebrating, thanking him, thanking God, for getting us out of this gang problem. We don’t want to go back to that horrible past,” said Guillen, who added she no longer pays $300 (£238) in extortion to the gangs every fortnight.

“Democracy is not at risk because all the people have voted for him,” said Guillen, echoing the government’s stance regarding concerns by western countries of authoritarian drift under Bukele.

This dumb peasant clearly understands nothing about democracy.

Candidates for FMLN and Arena, two parties that rotated power between them until 2019, were set to receive single-digit support as voters once again rejected traditional parties whose rule was marked by violence and corruption for decades.

A firebrand politician who often spars with foreign leaders and critics on social media, Bukele came to power in 2019 trouncing traditional parties with a vow to eliminate gang violence and rejuvenate a stagnant economy.

He used his party’s supermajority in the legislative assembly to pack the courts with loyalists and overhaul state institutions, solidifying his control of key parts of the government. He also championed the introduction of bitcoin as legal tender, drawing criticism from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

El Salvador’s supreme electoral tribunal last year permitted him to run for a second term even though the country’s constitution prohibits it. Opponents fear Bukele will seek to rule for life, following the example of Nicaragua’d president, Daniel Ortega.

“Everyone knows it is unconstitutional to re-elect the president but what people want is security. They don’t care if it is unconstitutional, they just want to feel safe,” said Josue Galdamez, 39, a businessman and trader who supported Bukele because of his crusade against gangs.

Rights groups have said El Salvador’s democracy is under attack. Bukele has taken such concerns in his stride, at one point changing his profile on X to say: “World’s coolest dictator.“

Bukele’s biggest challenge in his second term is likely to be the economy, central America’s slowest growing during his time in power. More than a quarter of Salvadorans live in poverty.

The thing is, it doesn’t really matter if you live in poverty if there is no crime. Especially if it’s warm outside.

Humans flew past “post-scarcity” in the 1950s. No one on Earth who is “in poverty” is starving (unless they have someone starving them on purpose). If the weather is nice and you’ve got some beans and rice, life is fine.

But Bukele has foreign investment plans anyway, which will work.