Showing posts from May, 2020

Amanda strikes El Salvador as Bukele completes first year in office

On the last day of Nayib Bukele's first year in office, the first named storm of the Pacific hurricane season, Tropical Storm Amanda, brought floods to El Salvador.   Floods and landslides destroyed homes in many areas of the country. Bukele declared a national State of Emergency.  Late in the day on Sunday, early tallies of the damage included 14 fatalities, hundreds of homes flooded and at least 1200 in shelters.

Particularly hard hit were some communities in San Salvador close to Arenal Monserrat, one of the waterways flowing into the Aceihuate River.   Images of the flooding in various areas:

Por la zona de la colonia IVU. — Carlos Cañas Dinarte 🇸🇻 (@ccdinarte2010) May 31, 2020

Mudslides closed the highways to the international airport and in the area of Los Chorros west of San Salvador.  Bridges were damaged in many areas.

The Las Pavas water purification plant which pumps water from Rio Lempa to communities in northern metro area of San Salvador…

Tropical Storm Amanda drowns El Salvador

Tropical Storm Amanda brought flooding rains to El Salvador overnight.   President Bukele has declared a State of Emergency.   The widespread flooding comes in the midst of the country dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.   For updates through the day on Sunday, follow me on Twitter @TimMuth.


AsĂ­ está el rĂ­o Acelhuate en la zona de La Málaga en este momento. Video Francisco Valle — Diario El Mundo (@ElMundoSV) May 31, 2020

Popular support v. constitutional power

As this blog post is being written, representatives of the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, are meeting with the Political Commission of the country's Legislative Assembly.    They have come together to negotiate a new emergency law to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the reopening of El Salvador's economy.    The starting points for the negotiation are a law passed by the Assembly on May 18 which Bukele says he will veto and a counter-proposal which Bukele delivered to the Assembly last Thursday, May 21.

In this negotiation, the balance of bargaining power sets the popular support of the president just completing his first year in office against the constitutional prerogatives of the Legislative Assembly as the sole lawmaking body.   The popular support of Bukele is exceptionally strong according to opinion poll results released May 24 by La Prensa Grafica.   84.5% of those polled strongly approve of Bukele's handling of the pandemic and another 11.2% somewhat a…

Who will control the pandemic response in El Salvador?

Another day in the struggle for who will manage El Salvador's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the day the government flooded social media with pictures of bags of food being delivered to poor people in quarantine throughout the country.   Equally prominent were photos of nurses and doctors in gowns and masks asking the Legislative Assembly to follow Bukele's direction for the home quarantine.

Deputies arrived at the Legislative Assembly to work on a new law to replace the expired state of emergency (based on their position that Bukele's unilateral extension Saturday night of the old state of emergency was null and void).

The Constitutional Chamber issued a ruling agreeing to hear a citizen complaint that Bukele's decree of an extended state of emergency, and issued an order setting aside Bukele's decree in the interim and requiring the legislative and executive branches to meet to try and come to agreement.

Business leaders met with both the Legislati…

The ongoing health crisis and the conflict of power

El Salvador is now facing a decision which every country afflicted with the coronavirus pandemic must make.   How long should stringent measures locking down the economy and restricting human mobility last and how should the economy be safely restarted?   There is no universal game plan or solution to this.   What worked in China or New Zealand may not work or may not be possible in Texas or Latin America or Africa. 

The current progress of the COVID-19 disease in El Salvador strongly suggests that the present moment is not the time to let up on quarantine measures.   On Thursday May 14, the government had its highest single day death toll as it reported three deaths from COVID-19 bringing the national total to 23.   Confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by 98, the second highest single day toll.  The government went from reporting 21 people hospitalized to 127 persons hospitalized in only 5 days.

Here is my tracking chart of local cases in El Salvador.   At the moment, there is no …

A deep dive into El Salvador’s coronavirus numbers

This is a blog post for people who really are data driven. The data described in this report is taken from the data provided by the government of El Salvador on its webpage at as updated on a daily basis. I have been tracking the data presented there since April 8, and am writing to share an analysis what can be determined and what is not yet known from that data. There is a link here to my spreadsheet where I track all this data for anyone who wants to do their own study.

Yesterday, May 9, El Salvador reported its highest number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 – 105. The previous high was 65 on May 3, and daily new cases had exceeded 50 only one other time, with 62 cases on May 6. The seven day rolling average for new confirmed cases rose to 57, a figure which has steadily increased every day over the past four weeks. 
New “confirmed” cases does not mean that 105 extra people became infected yesterday. It means only that testing detected 105 cases which…

Nayib Bukele's bad press

In 2018, Nayib Bukele tweeted out a link to an article in The Economist which labeled him "El Salvador's Rising Political Star."   Bukele has not, however, been retweeting this week's articles from The Economist, or several other articles in the international press:

My tweet is your command: Nayib Bukele may want to become Latin America’s first millennial dictator, The Economist.  "[I]n his 11 months as president he has done more to wreck El Salvador's democracy than to reform it. In February he entered the Legislative Assembly with soldiers to bully it into financing his crime-fighting program. With the outbreak of covid-19 his contempt for democratic norms has only grown. Mr. Bukele may be on course to become Latin America's first millennial dictator."

Nayib Bukele’s power grab in El Salvador, The Economist.  "Mr. Bukele's pre-pandemic ambitions are slipping away. A five-year plan drafted by consultants 'fell apart' says an insider.…


El Salvador has a level of infection and deaths from the novel coronavirus which is well below the world average, but it is growing.   Tonight the country's president Nayib Bukele made a national broadcast to announce that he was toughening the stay-at-home regulations under which the country has been living since the fourth week in March.

Before he announced the measures, Bukele expressed his frustration at what he felt was a lack of compliance with the current stay-at-home order.   He showed photos of traffic filled streets, someone getting a hair cut, a person taking a photo with their cell phone, someone carrying a pizza home from a restaurant. 

He also showed images of cadavers and punitive measures from other countries including the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Peru, urging Salvadorans that they did not want to end up in the pandemic situation faced by those countries.

He showed graphs and charts about levels of confirmed cases, deaths and testing in El Salvador and else…

Bukele ignores critics as his government takes an authoritarian turn

In responding to the coronavirus global pandemic, governments all over the world have taken extraordinary measures limiting what would otherwise be normal, everyday liberties.  There are restrictions on movement, the closing of businesses, stay at home orders, quarantine centers.  In El Salvador, the borders have been closed, families are expected to stay at home, and violators of the stay at home order can be confined in a "contention center" for 30 days, regardless of whether they have any symptoms.
But what are the limits on what a government can do in responding to such a crisis?  The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the necessity of preserving essential human rights within the context of those exceptional measures which are justified in a public health emergency like the coronavirus pandemic:
As Governments face the formidable challenge of protecting people from COVID-19, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has called on them to e…