A sampling of some of the news out of El Salvador:
Protests. Protesters returned to the streets in large numbers again on Sunday, October 17, to protest policies of the Bukele government. The protests were somewhat smaller than the September 15 protests. One reason for the smaller size may have been the police and military checkpoints which went up on the major routes into San Salvador early Sunday morning, stopping all the buses. For his part, Bukele tweeted 41 times during the day trying to suggest that the protest marches were a "failure" or that people were brought to the march without knowing what they were protesting.
Journalist Roberto Valencia, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, asked the important question "what now?" The protests are loosely organized with no real leader and do not seem yet to lead to the creation of a political movement which might have strength at the polls in 2024.
COVID-19. The COVID pandemic continues to claim lives at an alarming pace in El Salvador. October is on a pace to have the highest level of fatalities of the entire pandemic. The focus of health authorities in the country is centered entirely on vaccinations. Vaccinations have now reached 4.2 million Salvadorans, leaving more than 2 million persons yet to be vaccinated. The pace of vaccination has slowed, unfortunately, with only 10-12,000 people per day getting their first dose. Bukele announced that the vaccine would now be freely available to persons of any nationality who made an appointment.
Bitcoin. The price of Bitcoin surged over $60,000 this week, leading president Bukele to tweet multiple times "have you looked at your Chivo wallet lately?" The structure of the country's Chivo wallet system remains hidden in secrecy as BANDESAL, El Salvador's State Development Bank, refuses to disclose its relationship with the Chivo wallet and transactions involving the $150 million trust fund which is supposed to back the Bitcoin project in the country.
Economic growth. The International Monetary Fund published projections which showed El Salvador's economy growing 9% this year, something which was celebrated by the government. But to put that in context, the country's economy had contracted by 7.9% in 2020 and is only projected to grow 3.5% and 1.8 % in 2022 and 2023 respectively.