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Central America: Controversial President of El Salvador ahead in election

Central America: Controversial President of El Salvador ahead in election

The smallest country in Central America has long been considered one of the most dangerous places in the world. Then President Bukele took action against the gangs – at the expense of civil rights. The voters reward him.

El Salvador’s controversial President Nayib Bukele is on the verge of a clear victory in the presidential and parliamentary elections in the Central American country – even though he would not be allowed to run for a second term according to the constitution.

After counting 70 percent of the ballot papers, the conservative head of state has a vote share of 83 percent, as the Supreme Electoral Court announced. Bukele is known for his tough approach to crime and his authoritarian course.

While the votes were still being counted, the 42-year-old declared himself the winner of Sunday’s elections. His Nuevas Ideas (New Ideas) party also won at least 58 of the 60 seats in parliament, he wrote on the online platform X, formerly Twitter. “It would be the first time that there is only one party in a fully democratic system,” Bukele told his supporters. “The entire opposition was pulverized.”

“El Salvador was the murder capital of the world”

Thousands of cheering supporters gathered in front of the National Palace in the capital San Salvador to celebrate. Around 6.2 million citizens were called to vote, including 741,000 Salvadorans abroad. “There is no division here. Salvadorans voted in full freedom and democracy to continue on the current path,” Bukele said. “You have seen El Salvador go from one of the most dangerous countries to one of the safest. Now you will see what we will do in the next five years.”

In a press conference on Sunday, Bukele rejected accusations that he was ruling his country autocratically and imprisoning innocent people en masse. “El Salvador was the murder capital of the world,” said the former advertising executive. Now it is the safest country on the American continent. The election result will clearly express the will of the Salvadorans.

El Salvador’s constitution actually prohibits the direct re-election of the president. However, constitutional judges loyal to the government allowed Bukele to run for a second, five-year term. In order to circumvent the ban, the head of state took a leave of absence for six months on December 1st – until the day of the planned inauguration on June 1st. Meanwhile, a loyal official formally took over day-to-day political affairs, meaning Bukele’s influence remained virtually unimpaired.

More than 75,000 suspected gang members arrested

The former mayor of the capital San Salvador has been president since 2019 and, among other things, introduced the digital currency Bitcoin as legal tender in El Salvador. In the fight against the criminal gangs in the country, the so-called Maras, he declared a state of emergency in March 2022. As a result, basic rights such as freedom of assembly were restricted. More than 75,000 suspected gang members have since been arrested. Critics warn of a further weakening of the separation of powers and democratic control under Bukele’s aegis in Central America’s smallest country.

The federal government called on Bukele to protect civil rights. Even in a determined fight against crime, human rights and the rule of law must be observed, said a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office in Berlin on Monday.

Source: Stern

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