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 "global elites" as an oppressive enemy with power over the media and politics.

"The people of El Salvador have woken up, and so can you," he said. "The global elites, they hate our success and they fear yours."

He said many of the US's big cities were "in decline" and had become "places where crime and drugs have become the daily norm."

"How many young people have you lost on the streets of Philadelphia or San Francisco to fentanyl?" he said. "Can you imagine how we will be in the next five, 10, 15 years?"

He urged the enthusiastic audience: "Put up a fight because in the end it will be worth it. You will have your country back."

Bukele's complete speech to the CPAC crowd can be seen here.

Bukele's appearance had ultra-conservative pundits falling all over themselves with praise for Bukele's discourse against "globalists" and "institutionalists" and "traditional media."   Among the others, Elon Musk forwarded a post from "End Wokeness" and joined in with "He's right":

Also speaking this year at CPAC was Argentine president Javier Milei.  The new president of that South American country calls himself an "anarcho-capitalist" and loves to launch attacks on social media.  Like Bukele, he won his election in a populist assault on an existing two party system.  Milei's appearance along with Bukele at CPAC lends support to the idea of "a pro-Donald Trump coalition of support coming from Latin America,"  which Roberta Braga of the Digital Democracy Institute of the America says is spreading through social media networks throughout the region.  (Video of Trump greeting Milei at CPAC).

Image circulating on Twitter of Milei, Bukele and Trump

In his first year in office, Bukele met with Donald Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.  Bukele called the US president "nice and cool."  (This despite Trump calling El Salvador a "shithole country" when Trump attempted to cancel TPS for almost 200,000 Salvadorans in the US).

When Trump turned himself in last year to be booked on criminal charges in New York City, the overwhelming majority of world leaders were silent, but Bukele was quick to label it an undemocratic attack on a leading opposition candidate: 

In an article titled Meet the MAGA Movement's New Favorite Autocrat, Vox looked at how the Trump-backers in the US have been holding up Bukele as a model:

Conservative commentators’ praise for Bukele has been even more effusive.

“‘He’s ‘authoritarian’? He’s wielding authority to do good, to get the bad guys and help the good guys. We should be doing that too,” the Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles said in a late February monologue. “‘Authoritarian’ is just a word that liberals use when conservatives wield political power.”...

[Bukele's] PR campaign, which includes striking videos showing Bukele’s new mega-prison and mass arrests, has captured the imagination of many on the American New Right and extended MAGA universe.

Gavin Wax, the president of the New York Young Republicans Club, writes, “Americans could ... look to El Salvador, a small but proud nation, as a blueprint for governance and public safety.”

Rod Dreher, one of [Hungarian president] Viktor Orbán’s biggest boosters in the American media, wrote a piece titled “Nayib Bukele: Serious about Saving Civilization,” in which he argued, “[W]e are going to need a politician like that to de-wokify the US Government and, to the extent that it is legally possible, American society.”

One of Bukele's big fans among the MAGA crowd is Jack Posobiec, a conservative influencer with 2 million Twitter followers.  One of his typical posts about Bukele:

In January, Posobiec praised the Donald Trump campaign for "going Full Bukele" when the campaign released an attack ad against Nikki Haley accusing Haley of being soft on undocumented immigration, an ad which labeled migrants "drug traffickers and rapists."  Apparently Posobiec was referring to Bukele's penchant for attacking his opposition with dark images of frightening criminal figures.  Of course, in so doing, Posobiec was labeling as drug traffickers and rapists the 66,000 Salvadorans apprehended at the US border in 2023.  This is one of the contradictions of Bukele's coziness with Trump's MAGA movement -- they despise Salvadorans crossing the US southern border looking for safety and a better life, and they want to deport hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in the US without valid immigration status.    

And Posobiec is the hard right activist who showed his true colors at CPAC announcing “Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on Jan. 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has a long dossier on Posobiec and says of him: 
Jack Posobiec is a political operative and internet performer of the anti-democracy hard right, known primarily for creating and amplifying viral disinformation campaigns. His disinformation typically focuses on making his political opponents seem dangerous or criminal, while ignoring or downplaying the corruption of authoritarians....He has also collaborated with white nationalists, antigovernment extremists, members of the Proud Boys, and neo-Nazis in his capacity as an operative.   
But Bukele appeared happy to get the thumbs up from this American anti-democracy white nationalist.  After Bukele spoke at CPAC, Bukele re-posted 3 separate tweets from Posobiec where the extremist praised the words of the Salvadoran president.  

Vox summed up the meaning of Bukele and Milei's appearance with the MAGA crowd at CPAC this week:
Ultimately, US conservatives like Bukele and Milei because they are hardliners who are using extreme tactics to deal with society’s problems — and are willing to thumb their noses at institutions to get there. As [Michigan State professor of political science Erica] Frantz told Vox, their presence at CPAC is “an effort to cue the conservative base to see authoritarian rhetoric as ‘normal’ and strongman rule as the only solution to society’s problems.” In other words, the message is that not only is there nothing to fear from Trump’s more anti-democratic tendencies, but there’s much to gain from them.


And the Salvadoran authorities just returned the body of whistleblower Alejandro Muyshondt to his family without major organs, including his brain. https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/forenses-extranjeros-examinan-cuerpo-de-alejandro-muysondt/1124858/2024/
The Salvadoran authorities just returned the body of whistleblower Alejandro Muyshondt to his family WIHOUT his major organs, including his brain.


“La pregunta que nos hacemos con los médicos, si Alejandro murió de un edema pulmonar como dicen las autoridades por qué se le extrajo el cerebro, qué sentido tiene, si murió por un edema porque tiene una cortada desde la barbilla hasta la cintura, que necesidad había de sacar todos sus órganos vitales”, detalla y asegura que eso solo tiene una explicación : “borrar evidencias” en torno a la muerte del asesor de seguridad nacional.