December 2, 2022

El Salvador’s Bukele confirms critics’ fears with reelection bid

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele announced his plan to run for an unconstitutional second five-year term as he rides a wave of popularity for his anti-gang crackdown. The run highlights the degree of democratic erosion in the country run by the self-described “world’s coolest dictator.”

The announcement came a year after Bukele’s national assembly replaced the entire constitutional court. Following the move, the newly appointed court ruled that presidents can seek a second consecutive term despite the decision violating at least four articles of the constitution. The dismantling of democratic institutions reflects a trend in Central America, where leaders move to concentrate power, eliminate checks and balances and attack civil society and the press.

However, the president’s popularity has created space for the move. A poll last month by CID Gallup found that 85% of people approve of his presidency while 95% are happy with his government’s handling of security matters. The record levels of support come after the government has gone to war with prolific gangs, arresting more than 50,000 people for alleged crimes that has led to widespread international condemnation over rights violations. 

A vocal minority opposition has emerged decrying the president’s steps toward authoritarianism and unorthodox economic policy that has led the country to a probable default, according to ratings agencies.

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