The president of El Salvador is a political phenomenon. Nayib Bukele was elected in 2019 as a 37 year old third party candidate. He has a hipster’s disposition and his trademark outfit is a backwards hat with jeans. Like millions of other millennials he lives his life on Instagram.
Bukele is wildly popular in El Salvador. His approval ratings are typically north of 90% and his tenure, so far, has coincided with a sharp drop in gang related violence and homicide that has long plagued El Salvador.
Bukele is also very much an authoritarian.
During his time in office, El Salvador has experienced significant democratic backsliding. He has targeted independent media and is undermining checks and balances against his rule. On May 1, after his party won a super-majority in the legislature, he moved to oust a number of judges deemed insufficiently loyal. This prompted international rebuke, including from the United States.
On the line to explain the rise of Nayib Bukele and the demise of democratic checks and balances in El Salvador is Frida Ghitis. She is a world affairs analyst and columnist for World Politics Review and contributing columnist to the Washington Post and regular contributor to CNN Opinion.