Nayib Bukele: Salvadorans weigh in on the new President


Alfredo Zuniga

MORAZAN, EL SALVADOR – FEBRUARY 03 : El Salvador presidential candidate Nayib Bukele (2-R) of the Great National Alliance (GANA), his wife Gabriela Rodriguez (R) and Vice President Felix Ulloa (2-L) celebrate after winning the presidential elections in Plaza Morazan, San Salvador on February 3, 2019. – Nayib Bukele, the popular former mayor of San Salvador, claimed victory on February 3 in the Central American country’s presidential elections. ( Alfredo Zuniga – Anadolu Agency )

When the common person thinks of El Salvador, they think of pupusas, the colorful and beautiful culture of its people or the infamous history. However, the image of this country has the potential to be revamped a bit, given the latest result of the Central American country’s presidential election.

Nayib Bukele, the 37-year-old Palestinian-Salvadoran politician has already made history by becoming the youngest president-elect in its history and breaking the decades long dominance of two major political parties. For a country that has a history of drug warfare, and even fought a war over football, his election seems to be a breath of fresh air for most citizens of the country.

Nayib had his humble beginnings as a politician as the mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlan in 2012, only to become the mayor of the country’s capital San Salvador two years later. However, according to CNN, he was accused by Xochitl Marchelli for “throwing an apple and calling her a witch” during a meeting of the San Salvador City Council, which Bukele openly denied following these accusations. Adding on, he was later expelled from the left-wing party, FMLN, for promoting internal divisions within the party.

Also according to CNN, he attempted to create his own political party titled “Nuevas Ideas” or “New Ideas” but was shut down due to low popularity. He attempted to join a new Democratic party called “Democratic Change”, but that was also short lived for the same reason. Finally, he joined GANA just six months before the presidency.

According to NPR, before the election El Salvador was ruled by two political parties for multiple decades as a result of the civil war that struck the country throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, leaving over 75,000 people dead and multiple families separated.

According to The Washington Post, the two most dominant parties in the nation were right-wing and left-wing, the right being the Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA. The left wing party, which Bukele used to be part of before being expelled, is the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN. But don’t let Bukele’s party problems confuse you, because according to CNN he has labeled himself as a man of the left.

Why does all of this matter? For starters, according to the New York Times, he has promised to reduce gang violence and poverty. He has also promised for complete economic and political change, something that has not happened in the last 30 years.

The FMLN has won the presidency before, most notably in 2009. Although they’ve lowered poverty rates, they’ve struggled drastically to reduce gang violence. Bukele has built towns and ran through San Salvador giving drastic changes.

One famous political scientist, Roberto Canas, has stated that his election isn’t due to his program or his powerful speeches, but rather because the people are “tired, angry, fed up with corruption, sick of broken promises, and what they see in him is that he does not represent all that.”

Others however, according to NBC, have opposed his recent election. One political scientist by the name of Alvaro Artiga said that the new government is going to be weak, given that institutionally it doesn’t have legislative support.

Given that Nayib’s government has no real history of it working, or even being implemented, it’s a gamble to see how it will play out. Others voted for the freedom of corruption, but given that it’s a new idea, it’s very uncanny to others who oppose it and very difficult to predict how it will play out.

Adding to the uncertainty of Nayib’s new government, Al Jazeera reporter Mario Leiba, a veteran and long time ARENA supporter, said, “The most important issue is the insecurity.” He doesn’t see a concrete response.

“They all promise the same thing,” Mario said in an article. “The question is whether they will fulfill their promises.”

Here at Morton Ranch, some Salvadorans have reacted positively to the result of Bukele’s election. Such as Anthony Guzman, 10, whose family has reacted to the election “positively”. Guzman said his dad is in good spirits about it, because he believes Nayib has been pushing to “improve El Salvador’s overall status, economically and socially”. He believes that despite his Palestinian and family’s religious background, it won’t affect his work ethic, as he’s already proven that he could be a good leader.

Guzman said he also thinks that despite the hype surrounding him, he believes he’s going to still improve the country, even by a little.

“Some of the things he’s said could just be talk, but given that he’s lived throughout the terroristic and corrupt leadership his whole life, he’s also fed up,” he explained.

Another student, Davis Chavez, 10, believes that the first problem that should be addressed is the gang violence. He added on by saying that the prisons are overcrowded, the police can be corrupt and brutal as well, and simple briberies can get you off the hook from the law. But despite the gang violence, he believes that it’s a lot more difficult than it looks to tackle that problem.

“People are also tied to these gangs since birth, and it’s the only thing that benefits them on all factors,” he explained. “Sometimes the gangs are their entire livelihood.”

To put the gang violence into perspective, according to OSAC, El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the planet, with an average 60 homicides per 100,000 residents. Despite this though, there has been a decrease in crime with a 2017 report saying 3,954 people were killed, which is much less than 2016’s statistic of 5,280. The most infamous gang, MS-13, is stationed in El Salvador and has members throughout all of Latin America and parts of the United States.

Nayib’s surging popularity is giving way for a new movement in El Salvador and will possibly set a precedent for other Latin American nations in the same state. The people in El Salvador are known for their spirit and heritage, but sooner or later they could be known for much more as a result of this growing movement.

For a country with so much wonder and so much infamy, it would only take a special leader to outweigh the good over the bad and unite the people, and Nayib Bukele just might be that leader.