Nayib Bukele

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Nayib Bukele
Official portrait, 2019.
Official portrait, 2019.
43rd President of El Salvador
Assumed office
1 June 2019
Vice PresidentFélix Ulloa
Preceded bySalvador Sánchez Cerén
13th Mayor of San Salvador
In office
1 May 2015 – 30 April 2018
Preceded byNorman Quijano
Succeeded byErnesto Muyshondt
Mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlán
In office
1 May 2012 – 30 April 2015
Preceded byÁlvaro Rodríguez
Succeeded byMichelle Sol
Personal details
Born
Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez

(1981-07-24) 24 July 1981 (age 40)
San Salvador, El Salvador
Political partyNuevas Ideas (2018–present)
Other political
affiliations
Spouse(s)
(m. 2014)
Children1
EducationCentral American University (no degree)
CabinetCabinet of Nayib Bukele
Signature

Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez (Spanish pronunciation: [naˈɟʝiβ buˈkele]; born 24 July 1981) is a Salvadoran politician and businessman who is the 43rd president of El Salvador, serving since 1 June 2019. He is the first president since José Napoleón Duarte (1984–1989) not to have been elected as the candidate of one of the country's two major political parties: the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

Bukele was elected as mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlán on 11 March 2012, serving from 1 May 2012 to 30 April 2015. He was also elected as mayor of San Salvador, the nation's capital, on 1 March 2015, serving from 1 May 2015 to 30 April 2018. He contested and won both elections as a member of the FMLN. In 2017, Bukele was expelled from the FMLN, and in 2018, he established his own political party: Nuevas Ideas (NI). He sought to run for president in the 2019 presidential election with the center-left Democratic Change (CD), however, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) dissolved the party, forcing Bukele to instead run with the center-right Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA). He won the election with 53 percent of the vote.

El Salvador's murder rate decreased to historic lows during Bukele's tenure, falling by over 50 percent during his first year in office.[1][2] Although Bukele attributed the decrease in murders to his deployment of thousands of police and soldiers to gang strongholds and an increase in prison security, his government has been accused by the United States of secretly negotiating with Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) to reduce the number of murders. Between March and May 2022, Bukele's government arrested over 30,500 people with gang affiliations after a significant spike in murders, leading to accusations of human rights violations being committed by El Salvador's security forces.

A right-wing populist,[3] Bukele has maintained high approval ratings among Salvadorans throughout his tenure.[4][5] He has been accused of governing in an authoritarian manner.[6][7][8] On 9 February 2020, Bukele was criticized for sending soldiers into the Legislative Assembly to encourage the passage of a bill that would fund additional purchases of equipment for the police and armed forces.[9] On 1 May 2021, he led a move to fire the attorney general and five supreme court judges of El Salvador, which the United States Department of State and Organization of American States (OAS) denounced as democratic backsliding.[10] Following the approval of Bitcoin as legal tender in El Salvador on 7 September 2021, protests against Bukele's government took place.

Early life and education[edit]

Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez was born on 24 July 1981 in San Salvador.[11] He is a son of Armando Bukele Kattán and Olga Ortez de Bukele.[11][12] According to The Times of Israel, Bukele's paternal grandparents were Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem and Bethlehem while his maternal grandmother was Catholic and his maternal grandfather was Greek Orthodox.[13] His father later converted to Islam and became an imam.[13]

Bukele studied law at the Central American University but later ended his studies and founded his first company at age 18.[11][12][14][15] According to a 2017 article in the digital newspaper El Faro, Bukele owned Yamaha Motors El Salvador,[16] a company that sells and distributes Yamaha products in El Salvador.[17] He was also the director and president of OBERMET, S.A. DE C.V. in 2011.[18]

Early political career[edit]

Mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlán[edit]

On 11 March 2012, he was elected mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlán, in the department of La Libertad, representing a coalition of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) with 2,754 votes (49.72%) and Democratic Change (CD) with 108 votes (1.95%), for a total of 2,862 votes (50.68%), defeating the incumbent Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), which won 2,585 votes (46.67%).[12][19] He took office on 1 May 2012.[11][12]

During his mayorship, he provided all adults of Nuevo Cuscatlán over the age of 55 a monthly basket to cover basic nutritional needs.[11] Before Bukele took office, Nuevo Cuscatlán had a around 12 homicides per year, but during his three-year term, only one homicide was reported.[11] He also offered scholarships to all youths with a GPA above a 3.5 to be able to go any university in El Salvador, believing that such awards for academic achievements would help combat crime among youths.[11] Throughout his term, he donated his salary to the scholarships that he was offering for youths in Nuevo Cuscatlán.[14] On 21 January 2015, Bukele inaugurated a new boulevard which connected Nuevo Cuscatlán with Huizúcar and Antiguo Cuscatlán.[20] Bukele performed much of his works as mayor with funding from ALBA Petróleos, an association owned by the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA.[21]

Mayor of San Salvador[edit]

Bukele with President Salvador Sánchez Cerén.
Bukele with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

In the municipal elections of 2015, he won the mayoralty of San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, representing a coalition of the FMLN and the Salvadoran Progressive Party (PSP) that won 89,164 votes (50.37% of total). His main challenger, businessman and former ARENA deputy Edwin Zamora in a coalition with the National Coalition Party (PCN), received only 82,288 votes (46.49%).[22] The latter party had controlled the city during the previous six years. Bukele took office on 1 May 2015.[11][12]

Upon taking office, Bukele reverted the names of two streets in San Salvador: Calle Mayor Roberto D'Aubuisson to Calle San Antonio Abad A La Vía and Boulevard Colonel José Arturo Castellanos to Boulevard Venezuela.[23] Both names were changed by his predecessor, Norman Quijano, during his term, the former being named after Major Roberto D'Aubuisson, who ordered the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero in 1980 during the Salvadoran Civil War and founded ARENA in 1981, and the latter being named after Colonel José Castellanos Contreras, who saved 40,000 Jews from the Holocaust in Central Europe by providing them fake Salvadoran passports.[23][24][25]

In February 2017, Bukele visited Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, and met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to "enhance" the sister city relationship between San Salvador and Taipei.[26] In February 2018, he attended the 32nd International Mayors Conference in Jerusalem,[13] where he was seen praying at the Western Wall,[27] and revealed that his wife's grandfather was a Sephardic Jew.[28] During the last months of his term, Bukele brushed up the historic center of San Salvador by expanding roads, remodeling buildings, and rebuilding electric and telecommunication lines, all costing around $5.7 million.[12][29]

Expulsion from the FMLN[edit]

On 10 October 2017, Bukele was expelled from the FMLN, accused by the FMLN Ethics Tribunal of promoting internal division within the party, verbally and physically attacking fellow party member Xóchitl Marchelli, performing defamatory acts against the political party, and heavily attacking and criticizing incumbent FMLN President Salvador Sánchez Cerén.[30][31] Bukele did not attend the hearing scheduled for 7 October 2017 by the FMLN Ethics Tribunal, arguing that they were biased in favor of the plaintiffs.[32] The FMLN lost 20 municipalities and 8 seats in the Legislative Assembly in the subsequent 2018 legislative election. Some political experts have speculated that the losses were in part due to the expulsion of Bukele from the FMLN.[12]

Election as president[edit]

President-elect Bukele and U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton.

After Bukele's expulsion from the FMLN, his aspirations towards 2019 moved in the direction of participating in the presidential elections as an independent who rejects the current political system.[33] He had wanted to run for president as a member of the FMLN, however, resistance from party leadership prevented him from doing so.[34] He established the political party Nuevas Ideas ("New Ideas") with the goal of making it a political party where he could run as a candidate for the presidency of El Salvador.[12][35]

Following the announcement of his presidential aspirations, he was opposed by both the ruling FMLN party on the political left, and ARENA on the political right, as they blocked any attempts for him to found his own political party and politically canceled any party that he has attempted to use for his candidacy, as they did so with Democratic Change.[12] His attempt to run with the party ended when the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) effectively dissolved the party.[12] Bukele eventually joined the center-right Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA) party to mount his presidential bid.[12][36]

On 3 February 2019, Bukele announced that he had won the presidential elections with ease.[12] Challengers Carlos Calleja of the ARENA[b] and Hugo Martínez of the FMLN conceded defeat. He won 53 percent of the vote, thereby eliminating the need for a run-off election. He is the first candidate to win the presidency since the end of the Salvadoran Civil War who did not represent either of the major two parties. In his victory speech he declared, "Today we have turned the page on the postwar period."[37]

Presidency[edit]

Bukele speaking at his inauguration.

Bukele assumed office on 1 June 2019, succeeding Sánchez Cerén.[38][39] Bukele announced a cabinet of sixteen people made up of eight men and eight women, who will serve until 1 June 2024.[39]

Bukele founded the International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES) (es) on 6 September 2019.[40] The institution's purpose is to combat a variety of crimes, including drug trafficking, corruption, and white collar crimes.[40] He also established an anti-corruption unit within the National Civil Police (PNC) which would cooperate directly with CICIES.[40]

Bukele and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In February 2020, Bukele wanted to secure a 109 million dollar loan from the United States to go to increase funding for the Territorial Control Plan.[41][42] His plan was opposed by the ARENA and the FMLN, citing that his previous policies regarding law enforcement had increased militarization of the National Civil Police.[43][44] Bukele rallied supporters to call upon the opposition to approve the loan,[43] and on 6 February 2020, Bukele invoked article 167 of the Constitution of El Salvador, calling on the Council of Ministers to convene in the Legislative Assembly on 9 February 2020.[45][46] When the meeting was supposed to occur, Bukele ordered soldiers into the Legislative Assembly to intimidate legislators to approve the loan.[47][48][49] The incident, known in El Salvador as 9F,[50] was condemned by the opposition as an attempted self-coup and the Supreme Court of El Salvador prohibited Bukele from exercising powers not granted in the Constitution.[51][52]

Bukele's Nuevas Ideas won a majority of the seats in the Legislative Assembly in the 2021 legislative elections, and on 1 May 2021, Nuevas Ideas made a coalition with three other political parties, gaining control of two thirds of the legislature.[6] On the same day, the Legislative Assembly voted to remove the five justices of the Supreme Court's constitutional court and Raúl Melara, El Salvador's attorney general.[53] The event has been condemned as a self-coup by opposition politicians, accusing Bukele and Nuevas Ideas of committing a power grab.[53][54][55] The incident was condemned by the United States and has been cited as an instance of democratic backsliding.[56][57][58]

On 17 May 2021, the United States named five of Bukele's ministers and aides as being corrupt.[59] The five officials named were Rogelio Rivas, Guillermo Gallegos, José Luis Merino, Sigfrido Reyes, and Carolina Recinos.[59][60] Following the report, the United States diverted funding to El Salvador away from government institutions, instead giving funding to civil society groups.[61] On 4 June 2021, Bukele placed Ernesto Muyshondt, who succeeded Bukele as Mayor of San Salvador from 2018 to 2021, under house arrest on suspicions of electoral fraud and illegal negotiations with gangs to gain votes for ARENA in the 2014 presidential election.[62][63] Muyshondt had just been named by Luis Almagro, the General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), as one of his anti-corruption advisors, and as a result, El Salvador withdrew from the Organization of American States' anti-corruption accord.[63]

On 3 September 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the president is eligible to serve two consecutive terms in office, overturning a previous ruling 2014 stating that presidents must wait ten years until being eligible to run for reelection.[64][65] The court ruling allows Bukele to run for reelection in the 2024 general election.[64] The Supreme Electoral Court accepted the court's ruling.[65] The ruling was protested by both ARENA and the FMLN, with a representative of ARENA calling the ruling a "precursor to a dictatorship," and a representative from the FMLN stating that the state is serving only one person, referring to Bukele.[65] The ruling was also condemned by the US government, as stated by Jean Elizabeth Manes, the chargé d'affaires of the United States to El Salvador, claiming that the ruling was "clearly contrary to the Salvadoran constitution."[65][66] According the Manes, the ruling was a direct result of the legislature replacing the judges of the Supreme Court in May 2021.[66] José Miguel Vivanco, the executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, stated that El Salvador was heading down the same path as Honduras and Nicaragua in allowing presidents to be reelected, adding, "democracy in El Salvador is on the edge of the abyss."[66]

On 30 October 2021, Bukele and Nuevas Ideas accused two deputies of the legislative assembly, José Ilofio García Torres and Gerardo Balmore Aguilar Soriano, of "conspiracy against the political institution" for allegedly being bribed with "perks" such as US citizenship by the embassy of the United States in San Salvador and Roy García, a vocal opponent of Bukele's presidency.[67][68] An audio recording of the two deputies allegedly recorded a meeting between the deputies, García, and the US embassy negotiating an agreement to fracture 15 to 25 deputies of Nuevas Ideas from the party to oppose Bukele's political agenda in the Legislative Assembly.[69] Both deputies were subsequently ousted from Nuevas Ideas amidst an ongoing investigation into the incident.[67] The US embassy denies the allegations made by Bukele and Nuevas Ideas, stating that none of its representatives were on the audio recording.[70]

On 11 November 2021, Bukele introduced a bill to the Legislative Assembly called the "Foreign Agents Law" with the goal of "prohibiting foreign interference" in Salvadoran political affairs.[71] Juan Carlos Bidegain, the Minister of the Interior, stated that the law was meant to "guarantee the security, national sovereignty and social and political stability of the country."[71] Bukele stated that the law was modeled off of the United States' Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), but critics have compared it to various Nicaraguan laws which institute press censorship by shutting down organizations and arresting journalists.[71] Human Rights Watch reported on 16 December 2021 that 91 Twitter accounts belonging to journalists, lawyers, and activists were blocked by Bukele and various government institutions.[72]

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

The first case of COVID-19 in El Salvador was confirmed on 19 March 2020.[73] As of 16 May 2022, El Salvador had 162,089 confirmed cases and 4,129 deaths, and as of 6 May 2022, 10,650,522 doses of the vaccine had been administered.[73]

On 21 March 2020, Bukele instated a nationwide lockdown in an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic which was to last 30 days.[74] During the lockdown, 4,236 people were arrested by the National Civil Police for violating the lockdown order.[74] Human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, have criticized the arrests, citing arbitrary arrests and police abuses.[74] Human Rights Watch also criticized the living conditions of prisoners in El Salvador following Bukele's authorization of the "use of lethal force" by the National Civil Police and the government's release of prisoners being lined up in San Salvador, referring to the living conditions as being "inhumane" and being critical of the move, especially as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic.[75] On 27 May 2020, the United States donated 250 ventilators to El Salvador.[76] During the press conference where Bukele received the ventilators, he stated that he took Hydroxychloroquine.[76] On 22 June 2020, Bukele inaugurated the Hospital El Salvador, the largest hospital in Latin America used exclusively for treating cases of COVID-19, having a capacity of 400 beds, 105 intensive care units, 295 intermediate care units, and 240 doctors.[77]

In January 2021, Transparency International cited both El Salvador and Colombia as examples of "an explosion of irregularities and corruption."[78] Transparency International cited the Corruption Perceptions Index of 2020 as its basis.[78] Twenty of Bukele's government institutions were under investigation by the attorney general on suspicions of corruption relating to the pandemic, however, the investigations were halted after the attorney general was removed by the Legislative Assembly on 1 May 2021.[53][79]

On 13 May 2021, Bukele donated 34,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to several towns and villages in Honduras after pleas from local mayors for vaccines.[80] At the time, El Salvador had received 1.9 million doses, while Honduras had only received 59,000.[80] Bukele donated 44,000 more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Honduras on 19 June 2021 after Mexico had donated 154,100 doses to Honduras the day prior.[81][82]

Adoption of bitcoin[edit]

A bitcoin ATM in El Zonte.

On 5 June 2021, Bukele announced that he planned to introduce a bill to the Legislative Assembly which would make El Salvador the first nation to make bitcoin a legal tender.[83] The Legislative Assembly approved the bill on 8 June 2021, and it was scheduled to come into effect on 7 September 2021.[84][85] On 17 June 2021, the World Bank rejected a request from El Salvador to assist with the implementation of bitcoin as legal tender, citing concerns over transparency and the environmental effects of bitcoin mining.[86] On 24 June 2021, Athena Bitcoin stated that it intended to invest one million dollars into installing 1,500 cryptocurrency ATMs which be able to exchange the US Dollar for bitcoin, or vice versa.[85]

On 6 September 2021, Bukele announced that the Salvadoran government had bought its first 400 bitcoins.[87] The following day, the Bitcoin Law came into effect, making bitcoin legal tender in El Salvador, which became the first country to make the digital currency legal tender.[88] The same day, bitcoin "crashed," falling from $52,000 per bitcoin to under $43,000, reaching, at one point in the trading, "its lowest in nearly a month."[89] Meanwhile, platforms such as Apple and Huawei weren't offering the Salvadoran government-backed digital wallet, named "Chivo",[90] while internet servers were forced to move offline after they were overwhelmed with user registrations.[89] Some "one thousand protesters" took the streets of San Salvador to express their opposition to the country's adoption of bitcoin.[89][91]

In November 2021, Bukele announced that he planned to build the world's first bitcoin city in the southeastern region of La Unión at the base of the Conchagua volcano, which would use geothermal energy to power bitcoin mining.[92]

By January 2022, the price of bitcoin had fallen by 45 percent since November, costing the national treasury up to $22 million in reserves. El Salvador bonds declined. Fears of diminished financial transparency stalled a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which urged El Salvador to drop bitcoin as legal tender. "El Salvador now has the most distressed sovereign debt in the world, and it’s because of the bitcoin folly," economist Steve Hanke told Fortune magazine. "The markets think that Bukele's gone mad, and he has."[93] The International Monetary Fund urged the Bukele government to strip bitcoin of its status as legal currency due to its large risks, indicating a major obstacle for the government's efforts to get an international loan from the institution.[94]

Murder rate and crime[edit]

On 20 June 2019, Bukele announced his "Territorial Control Plan" which would increase policing of certain areas of the country in an effort to combat high crime rates and gangs in the country.[43][95] Both the National Civil Police and the Armed Forces of El Salvador (FAES) would also be equipped with better firearms, ammunition, and vests as a part of the Territorial Control Plan.[95] As a result of his Territorial Control Plan, El Salvador's homicide rate fell from 52 homicides per 100,000 people in 2018, the highest in the world at the time,[96] to 36 homicides per 100,000 people in 2019.[97][98] In 2020, the homicide rate fell to 19.7 homicides per 100,000 people, and by 2021, it decreased again to 17.6 homicides per 100,000 people.[99][100] InSight Crime referred the homicide rate of 2021 as "unimaginable,"[100] as, only six years prior in 2015, the homicide rate was 103 homicides per 100,000 people.[101]

Accusations of negotiations with gangs[edit]

MS-13 is one of the largest gangs active in El Salvador.

In September 2020, the website El Faro accused Bukele of having secretly negotiated a deal with Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), the most powerful gang in the country, which stipulated the government granting the gang more flexible prison conditions for its members and other promises, in exchange for the gang pledging to reduce the number of murders in the country and to support Bukele's political party during the upcoming 2021 elections, similar to the gang truce formulated by President Mauricio Funes from 2012 to 2013 with MS-13 and 18th Street Gang (Barrio 18).[102][103] Bukele denied the allegations and shared photos of the prisons from that April, which showed gang members rounded up in cramped conditions.[75][104] Bukele subsequently launched an investigation into El Faro on suspicions of money laundering.[105]

On 8 December 2021, the United States Department of the Treasury accused Bukele of secretly negotiating with Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street Gang to lower murder rates in the country.[106][107][108][109] The department sanctioned Osiris Luna Meza, Vice Minister of Justice and Public Security, and Carlos Marroquín Chica, chairman of its Social Fabric Reconstruction Unit, alleging that they repeatedly negotiated with the gangs.[109] Bukele rejected the accusations, stating that the United States sought "absolute submission" from El Salvador instead of cooperation.[109]

2022 gang crackdown[edit]

On 26 March 2022, El Salvador recorded 62 murders committed in a single day, the deadliest day in Salvadoran history in 30 years since the end of the civil war.[110] Most of the murders were committed by MS-13 and 18th Street Gang.[111] The following day, the Legislative Assembly voted to enact article 29 of the Salvadoran constitution,[112] declaring a 30-day state of emergency which suspended some constitutional civil liberties and mobilized the military to neighborhoods controlled by the country's criminal gangs.[110] According the national police, 30,506 gang members, which Bukele and the police refer to as "terrorists," were arrested as of 16 May 2022, 50 days since the declaration of a state of emergency.[113]

In a speech to 1,450 newly trained soldiers, Bukele threatened to not allow the incarcerated gang members to eat if gang members outside of prison continued to commit criminal acts. In the same speech, Bukele criticized the international community, specifically human rights non-governmental organizations, for "not saying anything when these criminals killed tens of Salvadoran men and women, but they leaped at attention when we began to arrest them saying that we are violating their rights," adding that the NGOs are "against human rights." He also claimed that the NGOs "need us [El Salvador] to continue to have problems, so that they can continue to make their fat salaries."[114]

On 23 April 2022, Bukele expressed his desire to extend the state of emergency for 30 more days, stating that he met with the Council of Ministers to petition the Legislative Assembly to vote for such an extension.[115] The following day, the Legislative Assembly voted with 67 of the 84 votes in favor to extend the state of emergency by 30 more days.[116][117]

Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), called the actions of the police and army as resorting to an "unnecessary and excessive use of force."[118] In early-May 2022, Human Rights Watch claimed that there was "mounting evidence" and "credible allegations" that Salvadoran authorities were committing human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and deaths in police custody, throughout the state of emergency.[119] Groups which advocate for freedom of the press were "alarmed" when the Legislative Assembly authorized prison sentences of 10 to 15 years to news media which spreads messages from the gangs.[120]

Foreign policy[edit]

Bukele with U.S. President Donald Trump in September 2019

Bukele met with U.S. President Donald Trump on 26 September 2019 in Washington, D.C., where he called on Trump to promote legal migration in an effort combat illegal immigration, and to maintain the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) policy for Salvadorans living in the United States.[121] He later confirmed on 28 October 2019 that the United States was continuing TPS for Salvadorans.[122] Other world leaders Bukele has met with include Chinese President Xi Jinping in December 2019,[123] Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei in January 2020,[124] Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in January 2022,[125] and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in May 2022.[126]

Bukele considers Nicolás Maduro, the disputed president of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, and Juan Orlando Hernández, the former president of Honduras, to be dictators.[127] Bukele and the Legislative Assembly denounced the results of the 2021 Nicaraguan general election, which have widely been seen by several governments as fraudulent.[71]

Before becoming president, Bukele accused China of meddling in Latin American politics, especially after El Salvador withdrew recognition of Taiwan. In 2018, however, Félix Ulloa, Bukele's vice president, has stated that El Salvador would not restore relations with Taiwan.[128] In December 2019, Bukele signed a "gigantic" infrastructure agreement with China for an unknown amount.[128]

In June 2019, Bukele stated that his government would no longer recognize Maduro as the president of Venezuela, instead, recognizing Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate president amidst Venezuela's presidential crisis.[129] The action was welcomed by Ronald D. Johnson, the United States' ambassador to El Salvador.[129] On 3 November 2019, he expelled Venezuelan diplomats, who were appointed by Maduro, from El Salvador.[129] Bukele showed his displeasure when the United States spoke with Maduro in March 2022, accusing the United States of "deciding who is bad and who is good and also when the bad becomes good and the good becomes bad."[130]

Presidential approval rating[edit]

Polling aggregates
Nayib Bukele's presidential approval rating
  Approves
  Disapproves
  Unsure/No Opinion

Despite being described as an autocrat[131] and an authoritarian,[132][133][134] and despite self-proclaiming himself as the "Dictator of El Salvador,"[135] the "coolest dictator in the world,"[136] and the "Emperor of El Salvador," by way of irony by the accusations,[137] Bukele has retained a high approval rating throughout his presidency,[105][138] making him the most popular president in Salvadoran history.[139] He is considered by some journalists to be one of the most domestically popular world leaders and heads of state due to his approval ratings hovering around 90 percent.[105]

Polling group Date Sample size Approves Disapproves Unsure / No opinion Net ±


Cid-Gallup[140] 26 January 2022 1,200 84.0% 12.0% 4.0% +72.0%
La Prensa Gráfica[141] 24–29 November 2021 1,520 85.1% 11.7% 3.2% +73.4%
La Prensa Gráfica[142] 18–24 August 2021 1,506 84.7% 12.3% 2.9% +72.4%
Cid-Gallup[143] 18 August 2021 1,200 87.0% 11.0% 2.0% +76.0%
CIESCA[144] 24 May 2021 94.0% 6.0% 0.0% +88.0%
La Prensa Gráfica[145] 13–22 May 2021 1,103 86.5% 9.1% 4.3% +77.4%
Cid-Gallup[146] 2–10 March 2021 1,200 96.0% 3.0% 1.0% +93.0%
Cid-Gallup[147] 25 November–10 December 2020 1,200 89.0% 10.0% 2.0% +79.0%
Cid-Gallup[148] 7–16 November 2020 1,200 96.0%
La Prensa Gráfica[149] 11–22 May 2020 1,406 92.5% 5.4% 2.1% +87.1%
La Prensa Gráfica[150] 28 February 2020 85.9% 10.4% 3.7% +75.5%
La Prensa Gráfica[151] 10 September 2019 90.4% 0.4% 9.2% +90.0%

Personal life[edit]

Bukele with his wife, Gabriela Rodríguez, at a government event in 2019.

Bukele was born into a Christian household, although his father converted to Islam later in life.[152] As the son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, Bukele's religious beliefs were a controversial subject in the 2019 election,[153] with an image surfacing showing Bukele praying at the mosque in Mexico City.[152] In February 2018, The Times of Israel published an image of Bukele "in deep reflection at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City."[13]

Bukele has publicly stated he considers himself a believer in God first rather than religion.[13][154] In a 2015 interview he said that "I am not a person who believes much in the liturgy of religions. However, I believe in God, in Jesus Christ. I believe in his word, I believe in his word revealed in the Holy Bible. And I know that God does not reject anyone because of their origins."[13][155]

He married Gabriela Rodríguez, a psychologist and educator, on 6 December 2014.[156] In 2018, Bukele told the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, that Rodríguez has "Jewish-Sephardic blood".[13] The couple has one child, who was born during Bukele's presidency in August 2019.[157]

Bukele was listed by Time as one of the 100 most influential people of 2021.[158]

Political views[edit]

Public transport[edit]

Bukele promised to sanction bus carriers that increase the rates established by law. Elements of the Police were deployed in different parts of the country to guarantee compliance with the regulations.[159][160] During his presidential campaign, Bukele proposed the construction of a new airport in the east of the country to relieve congestion from El Salvador's main airport and bring an economic boost to the country's east.[161] On 26 April 2022, the Legislative Assembly passed a law to begin construction of the Airport of the Pacific and the Train of the Pacific. The new rail network will be 332 miles (535 kilometers) long, and the new airport will be 126,530 square feet (11,755 square meters) in size in La Unión.[162]

Social issues[edit]

Bukele stated that he is opposed to abortion, including in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother's life is at risk. Bukele has stated: "I think, in the end, in the future, we're going to realize that [abortion] is a great genocide that we’ve committed."[163] Bukele has stated that he is opposed to same-sex marriage and believes marriage is between "a man and woman."[163] In September 2021, Bukele stated that the Legislative Assembly would not decriminalize abortion, legalize same-sex marriage, or legalize euthanasia in any potential constitutional reforms.[164]

Emigration[edit]

In an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson, Bukele attributed mass emigration from Central America to the United States to the region's "lack of economic opportunity" and "lack of security," and described the status quo as "immoral," arguing that emigration not only strains the United States, but also impedes domestic efforts to improve living conditions in El Salvador.[165] In an interview with VICE News' Krishna Andavolu shortly after his inauguration, Bukele stated, "I share the same concern President Trump [has with] immigration, but for different reasons. [...] He doesn't want our people to go; I don't want our people to leave."[166]

Electoral history[edit]

2012 Nuevo Cuscatlán municipal election
CandidatePartyVotes%
Nayib BukeleFMLNCD2,86251.67
Thomas Alvarado RodríguezARENA2,58546.67
Other parties921.66
Total5,539100.00
Source: TSE
2015 San Salvador municipal election
CandidatePartyVotes%
Nayib BukeleFMLNPSP89,16450.37
Edwin ZamoraARENAPCN83,39647.11
Other parties4,4472.51
Total177,007100.00
Valid votes177,00799.18
Invalid/blank votes1,4570.82
Total votes178,464100.00
Source: TSE
2019 Salvadoran presidential election
CandidatePartyVotes%
Nayib BukeleGANA1,434,85653.10
Carlos CallejaARENAPCNPDCDS857,08431.72
Hugo MartínezFMLN389,28914.41
Josué AlvaradoV20,7630.77
Total2,701,992100.00
Valid votes2,701,99298.86
Invalid/blank votes31,1861.14
Total votes2,733,178100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,268,41151.88
Source: TSE

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bukele ran for president under the political affiliation of Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA), as Nuevas Ideas (NI) had not yet been registered by the Supreme Electoral Court.
  2. ^ Carlos Calleja was supported by a coalition of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), National Coalition Party (PCN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), and Salvadoran Democracy (DS).

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Álvaro Rodríguez
Mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlán
2012–2015
Succeeded by
Preceded by Mayor of San Salvador
2015–2018
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of El Salvador
2019–present
Incumbent