Showing posts from February, 2024

Bukele and the MAGA movement

 In 2019, after he was elected president in El Salvador for the first time, Nayib Bukele made his first public appearance not in El Salvador, but at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.   On Thursday, Bukele made a return trip to speak to conservatives in Washington, this time as a featured speaker at CPAC , the Conservative Political Action Conference.  The conference is attended by pundits, activists and politicians from the Trump wing (which is almost the entirety) of the Republican party. The BBC summarized some of Bukele's remarks: Mr. Bukele told the conference that the next US president must have the will and courage to do "whatever it takes" to overcome the "dark forces" that he said were trying to control the US. He received loud applause for when he attacked institutions including what he called "corrupt judges" and fake news in both his country and the US. He also repeatedly cast an undefined group of "g

Deported back to El Salvador - 8 years of data

It has been a long time since I've shared numbers on deportations back to El Salvador on El Salvador Perspectives, so it is time for an update. The International Office of Migration for the UN (IOM) has a valuable website with statistics for migration flows from the Northern Triangle of Central America through Mexico to the United States.  The following graph, from IOM data, shows the number of persons officially removed from the United States and Mexico back to El Salvador.   I say "officially removed" because these statistics do not include people who gave up along the route north and returned home to El Salvador of their own volition, or persons who "self-deported" back to El Salvador from the US or Mexico after living in either country. The graph shows calendar year data going back to 2016.  Over those eight years, the highest totals for deportations from both Mexico and the US was 2016, the final year of the Obama administration.   The second highest total

Having changed law in its favor, Nuevas Ideas walks away with 90% of Legislative Assembly

The troubled vote count for Legislative Assembly in El Salvador ended today.   Nayib Bukele's absolute control over the legislature was solidified as a product of elections conducted under rules changed for the express purpose of benefitting Nuevas Ideas. Results are here . In the Legislative Assembly elections, on a nationwide basis, Nuevas Ideas was not as popular as its leader Bukele. The party received 71% of the popular vote compared to his 83% in the presidential election. However, because of a series of election law changes passed at the last minute in June 2023, the party will obtain 54 seats, equal to 90% of the 60 seat Legislative Assembly.   How did 71% of the votes turn into 90% of the deputies? It's a matter of election engineering through changing mathematical formulas.  Let me explain.  A year ago, Salvadorans thought they knew the rules of the game for the coming national elections. After all, the country had a law on the books which stated that changes in the e

A highly troubled scrutiny of Legislative Assembly votes

In El Salvador's Adolfo Pineda National Gymnasium, 300 work tables have been set up to tabulate  results for the election of seats in the Legislative Assembly.  Boxes of ballots from all over the country are brought to the facility, where ballots are reviewed and the results "digitized" to produce election results through a process called the "escrutinio final" or "final scrutiny."     However, election observers, the press, and opposition party representatives have been denouncing a wide variety of anomalies and discrepancies in the process.       Each position in the gym works to tabulate the results from individual votes placed into the ballot box at a "Junta Receptora de Votos" or JRV.   Citizens throughout the country were assigned in groups of 700 for each JRV to cast their votes.   (This does not apply to voting from abroad for the diaspora which was a different process, and for which we do not know how those votes are going to be ve

Government fails to keep promises to El Salvador's 183 year old public university

February 16 is the 183rd anniversary of the founding of the University of El Salvador .  The University, known locally as either "the National" or "UES," is the oldest and only public university in El Salvador.  The UES enrolls more than 50,000 students at its central campus in San Salvador, with additional students taking classes at 3 small locations around the country.  Today, however, the university is struggling as the government fails to deliver millions in budgeted funding and usurps university facilities for other purposes.    Throughout much of its 183 years the University has had a precarious existence.  During the turbulent 1970s and the civil war of the 1980s, the school was shut down for years at a time as the military governments saw students and faculty as left-wing agitators. In 1986, the earthquake which hit San Salvador damaged much of the university infrastructure.  Following the civil war, the university gradually got back on its feet, although d

With important rights indefinitely suspended, 83% voted for Bukele

On Friday, February 9, El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced the final results of the presidential election.  We already knew Bukele had won in a landslide, the only real question was the exact margin of victory. With turnout around 52%, Nayib Bukele won with 82.7% of the votes: The votes for Legislative Assembly have not yet been counted . The announcement of the final results in Bukele's unconstitutional reelection came on the 4th anniversary of Bukele's first major step towards asserting authoritarian power in the county.  On February 9, 2020, Nayib Bukele sent armed troops ahead of himself into the Legislative Assembly.   He was demanding that the Assembly, then controlled by parties other than Nuevas Ideas, approve a loan package to buy military equipment.  As Bukele sat himself down at the place of the president of the Assembly, with his troops ringing the legislative chamber, Bukele sent a clear message that he wanted an  Assembly subservient to his wi

Still waiting for election results

Just a short post today with links to election observation reports from multiple organizations which provided election observers during Sunday's elections and the process leading up to it.   As of Wednesday night, a recount had commenced for all of the ballots for Legislative Assembly as well as a portion of the presidential ballots where vote tallies had not been previously completed. There are growing concerns about the ability of the TSE to guarantee the credibility of final results when they do appear.  An audio recording of a private meeting between the TSE and political party leaders obtained by El Faro included a suggestion by the chair fo the TSE that there might have been internal sabotage of the computer systems to tally and transmit votes.  Meanwhile the start of the recount of presidential ballots finally got underway hours late at a hotel in San Salvador. Some are now calling for the election to be redone on March 3, when national elections for municipal governments a

Scorn for Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Congratulations for Bukele

Tweny-four hours after polls closed in El Salvador's national elections, criticism is mounting for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) after an ongoing breakdown in its ability to provide preliminary election results. Results published on the site of the TSE were last updated at 5:34 in the morning El Salvador time, showing Bukele garnering 83% of the votes after 70% of the voting table results had been processed.  Almost none of the Legislative Assembly results had been processed.   While there is still no doubt that Bukele won in a landslide, the exact size of his victory and the number of seats his Nuevas Ideas party will hold are still not known. The vote tallies displayed on the TSE website had inconsistencies which led most observers to doubt their credibility. During the course of the day Monday, the TSE issued a communique asking the election boards in each department to promptly deliver all the ballots and election materials to the central facilities of the TSE.  In res

One Man, Single Party Rule, Confirmed by Elections in El Salvador

El Salvador held elections on Sunday for president and for deputies to the country's Legislative Assembly.  Easily cruising to reelection was Nayib Bukele, the country's millennial president, first elected to a five year term in 2019.  He was re-elected despite six provisions in the constitution which prohibit a president of El Salvador from serving two successive terms.  High court judges, put in place by Bukele's Nuevas Ideas party when it got control of the country's congress in 2021, gave him a path to ignore those constitutional prohibitions.   At the time of writing this post, 31.5% of the votes for president had been counted, and Bukele led with 83% of the votes.   The next closet candidate was Chino Flores from the FMLN with 7.1% of the vote. [UPDATE:   As of 7:15 Monday morning El Salvador time, there are no preliminary results in the elections after the system for transmitting results from voting centers to the TSE was producing anomalous results]. Bukele pro

On the eve of the election

The international press has turned its attention to little El Salvador, despite everything else going on in the world.   My newsfeed is overflowing with articles discussing the Bukele phenomenon in the days before Sunday's election.   Here is just a selection: A Brutal Crime Crackdown Is Emboldening Leaders Across Latin America  (Bloomberg) Why the 'world's coolest dictator' is on course for a landslide win in El Salvador  (NPR) Gangsters in El Salvador are terrified of strongman Nayib Bukele  (The Economist) The ‘cult’ of Bukele: El Salvador’s bitcoin-loving strongman heads for second term  (Financial Times) El Salvador’s Bukele has everyone’s attention as he seeks reelection in spite of the constitution  (AP) El Salvador’s vice president discusses controversial crackdown on gangs, upcoming election  (PBS NewsHour) ‘Trapped in this hell’: How one El Salvador town transformed under Bukele  (AlJazeera) He Cracked Down on Gangs and Rights. Now He’s Set to Win a Landslide.