Studies dig into the state of Salvadoran democracy under Bukele

International experts and journalists continue to report on the deterioration of democratic institutions under the Bukele regime in El Salvador.  Here are some of the most recent in-depth looks at the current situation.

The Global Initiative against Transnational Crime released a policy brief titled Punitive Governance in Central America: An Antidote to Criminal Governance?. The brief looks at the State of Exception and Bukele's war on gangs in El Salvador and similar measures in Honduras:

El Salvador’s crackdown on gangs amounts to punitive governance and has come at the expense of the basic rights of citizens. It can be understood as a government’s response to criminal governance through militarization, suspension of human rights and due process, and it has caught the attention of countries throughout Latin America. Its populist appeal makes the state of emergency easy to implement and to communicate to the public. Military and police personnel are portrayed by state media as being tough against the perpetrators of violent crime. Raiding homes and detaining citizens with complete disregard for due process is portrayed as a minor cost in exchange for the safety of all.

The Unfreedom Monitor is a collective effort looking at "digital authoritarianism" around the world.  It recently released its County Report on El Salvador, finding:  

There is substantive evidence that Bukele and Bukelism are constructing a political project based on populism and authoritarian practices, and within this process, one key objective is to discredit the role of independent journalism, and, using spyware technologies such as Pegasus, to legally establish a monitoring system of critical voices and political opponents.

Independent human rights experts assembled by the United Nations released a lengthy public statement including:

UN experts today expressed dismay at the renewal of El Salvador's state of emergency, which has now been in place for more than a year. They called for the state of emergency to be lifted immediately and for the Government to review the sweeping new powers it has introduced to tackle the country's gang problem. “The state of emergency was declared following a series of gang-related killings. Despite its obligation to protect citizens from such atrocious acts, the Government cannot trample on fair trial rights in the name of public safety,” the experts said.

In a video report, al Jazeera Fault Lines described the reality of El Salvador's Prison State:

Despite El Salvador’s new repressive reality, the policy is extremely popular and has helped President Nayib Bukele consolidate his hold on power.

Fault Lines travels to El Salvador to report on the war on gangs and investigate the claims of abuse and deaths in prison.