Showing posts from February, 2021

Other pre-election coverage

Here is a collection of news coverage and analysis of the upcoming elections in El Salvador. In English from a variety of viewpoints: A Millennial Authoritarian Wins Over El Salvador  (Mac Margolis in Bloomberg)  "This weekend’s legislative elections could make President Nayib Bukele his country’s most powerful leader in a generation." The elections in El Salvador could make or break Biden’s Central America policy .  (Michael Paarlberg and Ricardo J. Valencia in Washington Post)  "President Nayib Bukele has been acting more and more like an authoritarian." Why El Salvador's Multi-Party System is on the Brink of Collapse  (Oscar Pocasangre in El Faro) "I propose two interrelated explanations for the likely demise of Arena and the FMLN: changes in the electoral rules and the poor performance of both parties at controlling crime while getting tainted by corruption scandals."  El Salvador election could remake political landscape (Marcos Aleman of AP) &qu

Upcoming 2021 mayoral elections in El Salvador

Ballot for San Salvador Mayor Salvadorans will be going to the polls Sunday to elect mayors in all 262 municipalities across the country. Unlike elections for legislators which also happen that day, local mayoral elections are much more about the individuals running for office, how well incumbents have done their jobs, and about the strength of on-the-ground organizing efforts.  Simply put, people know the name of their mayor and how well they are serving the local neighborhood, while they frequently have no idea of the names of the deputies who represent their department in the national congress. The marquee mayoral race is the competition for mayor of San Salvador, the capital and El Salvador's largest city.  The current mayor is Ernesto Muyshondt from ARENA who is seeking re-election.   Muyshondt won the post in 2018 by a landslide after the FMLN expelled the incumbent mayor, Nayib Bukele, from the party.  The fact that Muyshondt has been linked to delivering thousands of dolla

Why upcoming elections in El Salvador matter

Salvadorans go to the polls on Sunday, February 28 to elect legislators and mayors nationwide. But one name looms over all others, and he is not even on the ballot. Nayib Bukele, the highly popular president of El Salvador, has made it clear that he wants a clean sweep of El Salvador's legislature and to have his party members installed instead. That just may happen, and a populist president may be able to go forward in his presidency with few restraints on what he wants to do. Since taking office on June 1, 2019, Nayib Bukele has governed without members of his newly formed party, Nuevas Ideas, in the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly. Instead, he has battled with a congress dominated by opposition political parties which he has continually labelled as “the same ones as always,” “ thieves” and “those corrupt ones.” Those current members of the legislature were elected in 2018 when Bukele was not on any ballot and his Nuevas Ideas party did not yet exist. Bukele had pr

Religious leaders decry political atmosphere in El Salvador

69 Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical Christian leaders in El Salvador published an open letter to the Salvadoran public on Ash Wednesday, February 17.   My English translation follows: “I have seen the affliction of my people” Exodus 3:7 We, pastors and priests of various Christian denominations, with deep concern about the situation of sin that permeates Salvadoran politics and society in general, wish to express the truth in love to churches, and people in general, to warn them against temptations, false doctrines and political idolatries. We express our deep unease at a dangerous time when the churches are exposed to the temptations and bribes of power that seek to silence their prophetic voice when, rather, they should be attentive to Paul's exhortation: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed through the renewing of your mind, to be able to discern the will of God: what is good, acceptable, and perfect" (Romans 12: 2). We express our deep regret over

Political campaign advertising in El Salvador

In El Salvador, there are ten days left before the February 28 elections for members of El Salvador's legislature and its mayors. The nonpartisan group Citizen Action monitors the amount of campaign ad spending by the contending political parties.  Its most recent report showed that parties spent more that $5.2 million in advertising during the month of January, primarily on television ads: Campaign spending totals showed Nuevas Ideas far outspending the other parties in the entire period from November 27, 2020 through January 31, 2021 according to the Monitoring Center of Citizen Action.   Of the $7.1 million spent by the parties during that period, $5.3 million or 75% of all spending, was by Nayib Bukele's Nuevas Ideas party.   Nuevas Ideas candidates have one primary message – we’re with Nayib.   In San Salvador – billboards for Nuevas Ideas candidate for mayor Mario Dura proclaim :   “Vote for the Nuevas Ideas of Nayib” and others promise the return of "one project p

The changing look of US-El Salvador relations

El Salvador’s government under Nayib Bukele is starting off on the wrong foot with the new Democratic administration of Joe Biden in Washington, D.C.   Concerns about whether Bukele has strayed from respecting the rule of law and norms of democratic institutions are likely to play a bigger role than during Trump's presidency. During the Trump administration, Bukele enjoyed a close relationship with officials in Washington.  Bukele met with Trump on the sidelines of the 2019 UN General Assembly where he memorably described Trump as  “ very nice and cool .”  In 2019-20, US Secretary of State Pompeo and two (acting) Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security all visited El Salvador as part of a relationship which focused on El Salvador's willingness to cooperate in stemming migration flows from Central America.    But the incoming Biden administration has shown that topics other than migration will also be front and center. In particular, corruption and governance.  Ju

Final poll results before Feb 28 elections

Since today is the final day under Salvadoran law that pre-election poll results may be publicized, here are links to several recent polls.  In general, all show support for Nuevas Ideas exceeding 60-70% in the Legislative Assembly races, and smaller, but still strong leads, in the number of mayor's offices the party may capture including San Salvador.  Other parties rarely climb out of single digits.   University of Central America IUDOP University Francisco Gavidia Technological University of El Salvador (UTEC) FundaUngo CID-Gallup And here's a collection of polls on Nayib Bukele's strong approval ratings .

Technology, not fraud, will challenge El Salvador's upcoming elections

Salvadorans go to the polls in a little more than two weeks in national elections.  Getting results out on a timely basis has historically been challenging for election authorities in the country who have struggled with implementing technology. This year could be more of the same as there will be widespread use of computers at individual voting tables to tally votes for the first time.  We are also seeing the president, and his party Nuevas Ideas which leads by wide margins in the polls, warning of possible election fraud.  I am writing this piece to explain why delays in getting the results of the elections published will almost certainly be caused by computer glitches and newly trained users rather than any fraud in the process.       The process for the upcoming elections is complicated.   The complication starts with El Salvador’s elections themselves.    Three different elections are being held on February 28.    Salvadorans will elect mayors, deputies to the Central American P

Anniversary of 9F

Today is the anniversary of what has come to be known in El Salvador as simply "9F."    On this day one year ago, Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele, summoned his supporters to the outside of the Legislative Assembly building in a dispute with his opponents in the congress over a loan approval. Police and military were deployed throughout the capital city.  Then Bukele marched into the chambers of the legislature accompanied by heavily armed soldiers and took the seat belonging to the president of the Legislative Assembly. Photo from / EDH Critics of Bukele see this event as a prime indicator of authoritarian tendencies in the popular president.  On display was his willingness to disregard constitutional norms and the separation of powers.   Also evident were armed forces and national police who understood their loyalties as running directly to the president. As the events of that day unfolded, I wrote these two posts: Nayib Bukele's power play Bukele sends a

InterAmerican Commission finds reason to award protective measures for Salvadoran journalists

On February 4, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that the government of El Salvador should take precautionary measures to safeguard journalists at El Faro who have been subject to "harrassment, threats, intimidation and stigmatization" through the course of their reporting on events in the country.   From the IACHR  news release summarizing the decision (translated from original Spanish): When making its decision, the Commission assessed that, according to the petition, the beneficiaries work for the El Faro Digital Newspaper, an independent media outlet, and have been the object of harassment, threats, intimidation and stigmatization - mainly through social media - for reasons of their journalistic activities. Likewise, the Commission considered that the information received on the situation of risk to the beneficiaries, assessed in the contextual framework in El Salvador, suggests that the alleged acts of harassment, threats and intimidation towards the b

News shorts

A collection of some short news capsules from recent news in El Salvador.   El Salvador kept paying DC lobbyist after claim he was fired   (AP, Feb. 6, 2021) -- In August, Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele's office told the AP  that a contract  with Washington lobbyist Robert Stryk  had been cancelled after it was brought to the president's attention.  But filings with the US government by the lobbyist actually show meetings with US government officials as late as December 7 and payments of more than $200,000 through November 2020.  According to Josh Goodman of AP, "Stryk was one of the most successful lobbyists during the Trump presidency, racking up clients facing sanctions or with bruised reputations in Washington that white-shoed firms stayed away from like the governments of Venezuela and Somalia and backers of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange."  Biden administration suspends Trump asylum deals with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras  (Reuters, Feb. 6, 2021) -- In

El Salvador COVID-19 update

Here is an update on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in El Salvador.  Current COVID-19 case activity     The official government website  shows that new confirmed cases have been trending lower from a second peak reached around New Years.   These are cases revealed by the roughly 2500 coronavirus tests El Salvador conducts in various places across the country each day.   During the course of the pandemic, the government total of confirmed COVID-19 deaths has climbed to 1662 through February 4, although that number is recognized to be an undercount.   As of February 4, there were 399 Salvadorans listed in   grave and 77 listed in critical condition.   Over the past 10 days, an average of 8 Salvadorans per day have died from confirmed cases of the disease.    Hospital capacity appears to be sufficient after the government’s work during 2020 to update some existing hospitals and build a separate COVID-19 hospital. New confirmed cases per day On January 20, the head of the World Healt

Throwing a candidate off the ballots in El Salvador may be a dangerous precedent

The ballots appear to be ready for El Salvador's upcoming elections in four weeks on February 28 for members of congress and mayors.   With 9 parties competing, Salvadorans will be faced with complex ballots in the larger departments.     The ballot which was last finalized is the ballot for legislative deputies from the largest department, San Salvador, after one candidate from Nayib Bukele's Nuevas Ideas party was banned from participation.  The Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Walter Araujo could not appear on the ballot for deputy in San Salvador Department under the flag of Nuevas Ideas.   The court ruled that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) had failed to take required steps for verification that Araujo was of "Notoria Honradez" --  good character.    The petition before the court was brought by attorney Bertha María  Deleón who is a candidate for deputy for the new Nuestro Tiempo party. Bryan Avelar writing a