Home News The authoritarianism of the president pointing to a second term – Jessica Ávalos

The authoritarianism of the president pointing to a second term – Jessica Ávalos

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The authoritarianism of the president pointing to a second term – Jessica Ávalos

09 June 2022 16:36

“There is something different and wonderful, and I want to congratulate all of you because you are fighting to change the country and, believe me, it is an important effort,” said Mexican singer Marco Antonio Solís opening his concert in San Salvador. on May 20. His greeting sparked applause from the audience, but raised a lot of controversy on social networks, because it came three days after the publication of new evidence of illegal agreements between the Salvadoran government and criminal gangs, at a time when the country he finds himself in serious economic difficulties and while the government becomes more and more authoritarian.

June 1 is the third anniversary of the presidency of Nayib Bukele, who celebrates this milestone by having total control of the three powers of the state and of the institutions called upon to supervise them. In just three years he went from having a secret pact with the gangs to declaring “war” on him, with an offensive that brought hundreds of people behind bars who had no connection with crime. El Salvador is experiencing a serious economic crisis linked, among other things, to the collapse of the bitcoin price. Despite everything, the president still enjoys high levels of support and popularity.

Centralization and emergency
In February 2020, when his control was not so pervasive, Bukele hinted what his intentions were: he broke into the Salvadoran parliament with the army to put pressure on the deputies, who at the time were in the majority of the opposition. , to approve a multi-million dollar security investment. Then came the pandemic and silenced the international scandal caused by that incident.

A year later, Nuevas ideas, the president’s party, achieved a landslide victory in the legislative elections and a majority in parliament. Now the deputies approve everything Bukele wants. All. They do it without major debates and without changing even one iota of the proposals sent by the presidency, because they have the 55 votes needed to do so. Since May 2021, Bukele has controlled the legislative power, the judiciary and the justice system. “The state tax control system is neutralized. This is how he exercises power. We are in a transition phase, and we are moving towards an authoritarian regime ”, says political scientist Álvaro Artiga.

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Salvadorans favor authoritarian leaders in exchange for the illusion of security. They are victims of media manipulation

Everything indicates that there is little to reach that goal. On March 27, parliament approved a state of emergency, which cancels the constitutional guarantees for detainees. There is no right to defense or the presumption of innocence. Since then, the authorities have arrested more than 30,000 people on suspicion of belonging to or complicit in a criminal gang. So far, non-governmental organizations have registered more than five hundred complaints of arbitrary arrests and human rights violations. But the measure is highly appreciated by the population: according to the latest survey by the University Institute of Public Opinion (Iudop), 80 percent of Salvadorans approve of the state of emergency and say they feel safer.

“This is a confirmation of the fact that Salvadoran society favors authoritarian leaders in exchange for the illusion of security, and is a victim of media manipulation. There is a huge deficit in education and civics, and we are paying the price for it, ”says Celia Medrano, a security and human rights researcher.

The hidden information
The government argues that the state of emergency is the right response to counter the power of criminal organizations after the massacre of 87 people in the last weekend of March. But the independent site El Faro has revealed the real reason for the offensive: the so-called “war against gangs” is the result of the end of the pact that the government of Bukele has maintained for more than two years with the Mara salvatrucha (MS-13 ) and with Barrio 18. El Faro released audios of a government official talking about the illegal gang deal, which also included the release of a detained MS-13 leader.

Bukele’s government did not comment on the new evidence. He also hid information and maintained a hermetic stance regarding the millionaire losses due to the country’s adoption of bitcoin as legal tender since September 2021, an experiment that the President of El Salvador defended against all negative opinions of economists.

The price of bitcoin fell by 45 percent. Bukele bought cryptocurrency when it was most expensive. Some economists speak of losses of between 30 and 40 million dollars. But there is no public information on how much money was lost, how the purchase of other bitcoins was financed, or by whom it was bought. The president manages the state finances as if they were his own private assets, because there are no controls. “The collapse of the price made it clear that government intervention in the economy and financial system with bitcoins is a total failure. From a very unrealistic perspective, the possibility that the state would earn money by playing with public funds was absurd and demonstrates a total detachment from the financial reality of El Salvador ”, says economist Tatiana Marroquín.

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It’s a bad time, but most Salvadorans think the country is better than ever: that’s the basis of support for the president

In addition to economic losses, the collapse of bitcoin led to a lowering of the country’s rating. The market expects El Salvador to go bankrupt and soon to default on its financial obligations. The country’s debt has increased dramatically in the last year: according to official data, in 2021 alone El Salvador asked for new loans for 802 million dollars. “Economically, in objective terms, the life of Salvadoran families is no better. This depends on international variables but not only: the pandemic and the government. But there is a difference between what people experience and their emotional reactions. This government is unable to carry out public policies, but it knows how to appeal to the emotions of the population, ”says Marroquín.

The control of justice
The government also controls the judiciary and the judiciary. When Nuevas ideas gained a majority in parliament, it changed the leadership of the supreme court, which in turn replaced most of the country’s judges. New judges cannot express dissent, and anyone who does is removed from office. This justice system recently sentenced a woman who had had an obstetric emergency to 30 years in prison for abortion. It is the first sentence in seven years, according to data from the civil association for the decriminalization of abortion, and the first during this government.

The government has not ruled on the sentence. El Salvador has one of the strictest laws in the world on termination of pregnancy. When he was running for president, Bukele spoke only in passing about the issue, and as president he dismissed any possibility of decriminalizing abortion by announcing that he had excluded the issue from the constitutional reform prepared by the government.

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Despite everything, Bukele’s popularity is still very high. As political scientist Artiga puts it: “If the question is ‘are we having a good time or a bad time?’, An economist will say we are having a bad time, but most Salvadorans think the country is better than ever. People live by rejecting the past, and this is the basis of support for the president ”.

The majority of Salvadorans support every initiative of the president. According to the latest survey by the Francisco Gavidia University, Bukele has a high popularity because most citizens are convinced that El Salvador’s situation is improving. Bukele scored 8.34 and seven out of ten respondents think he should be re-elected in 2024.

This year’s presidential and legislative elections will be fundamental, says Artiga, because Nuevas ideas could definitively confirm its hegemony as the only party, as happened in Mexico with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Poi). The magistrates of the constitutional court elected by the parliament have already opened the possibility of a presidential re-election, even if the constitution explicitly forbids it. They issued a sentence in which they affirm, against any legal logic, that the will of the people ranks above the constitutional norms, and thus they paved the way for Bukele’s re-election. The president, who in the past has spoken out against the will of politicians to anchor himself in power, has not said that he will try to stay. But faced with the clues presented in these three years, few believe that he will not.

(Translation by Francesca Rossetti)

This article was published by Connectas. Internazionale has a weekly newsletter that tells what is happening in Latin America. You sign up who.

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