Bukele announces structural changes

Nayib Bukele gave a speech to the nation of El Salvador tonight on the 4th anniversary of his presidency.   In the speech he proposed a major restructuring of local government and the country's congress.

As would be expected, the Salvadoran president began his speech describing the advances his government claims in public security through its war on gangs, contrasting the prior life in neighborhoods controlled by gangs with his description of a current reality where families can walk on streets at night and cross former gang boundaries.   

After finishing the war on gangs section of his speech, he turned to three announcements.

The first was a proposal to reduce the number of municipalities in the country from 262 to 44.   Existing municipalities would be converted to districts within these new municipalities.  Instead of 262 mayors and municipal councils and associated staff, there would only be 44.   Existing offices providing municipal services would remain, only the elected officials would be eliminated in the restructuring.

The second proposal was to reduce the number of deputies in the Legislative Assembly from 84 to 60.   Bukele said he was simply returning the Legislative Assembly to its pre-1992 size.  Bukele said the Assembly had only been enlarged as a way of divvying up government perks and privileges between ARENA and the FMLN.  

Moreover, Bukele wants the changes to municipalities and legislative seats to be in effect for the 2024 national elections which are only nine months away.

Bukele's third announcement was that he was declaring a war on corruption equal to his war on the gangs.  He announced a new prison would be built to house the corrupt actors who were captured and kept in prison until they paid back all they had stolen from the Salvadoran people.   Bukele said that, while he was giving the address, the Attorney General was in the process of raiding the properties of former president Alfredo Cristiani (1989-1994), who he labelled as a corrupt thief who stole from the pockets of the Salvadoran people.   (Cristiani left the country for Italy just as Nuevas Ideas took power in the Legislative Assembly in 2021 and certainly has no plans to return).

More on these proposals and their possible impact in coming days.