SeriesLIVE
El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele won a landslide reelection last Sunday. Calling himself the “world’s coolest dictator”, Bukele has won popular support by taking a “mano dura” approach to El Salvador’s gangs. With 83% of the country’s support, he managed to...
+ READ MORE

What does El Salvador Want?

Journalist Bianca Graulau and Professor Michael Paarlberg share what the people of El Salvador want and why President Nayib Bukele, the self-described “world’s coolest dictator”, is on the precipice of what Vice President Félix Ulloa calls “eliminating [democracy], replacing it with something new.”
Show transcript
00:00
So El Salvador's president,
00:01
President Bukele is celebrating his recent landslide re-election victory.
00:07
But the interesting thing is that he's using his victory to call
00:10
out his international critics.
00:12
And I guess, quote unquote his haters.
00:14
Have you heard about this?
00:15
I have, I mean,
00:16
I've heard some good some not so good.
00:21
but also some people are just scared of,
00:23
they're afraid to talk about this.
00:25
You know, it's like a touchy subject.
00:27
I feel like you know,
00:29
we have our version one,
00:31
well, not our version but the,
00:32
the version, the media feeds us because we're not in El
00:35
Salvador. So we have that and then there's the actual people
00:40
living in El Salvador that have to,
00:42
you know, that they're going through this.
00:44
Yeah, it's just like I would love to hear what they
00:46
have to say how they feel here to explain what the people
00:50
of El Salvador want from their leader is Professor Parl Beg,
00:54
assistant professor of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University and journalist Bianca
01:00
RAA from Puerto Rico.
01:02
Her latest documentary is a about President Bukele.
01:05
So thank you guys so much for joining us.
01:08
We really appreciate it.
01:09
Thank you for having us.
01:10
Professor, you recently posted about a survey to find out
01:15
what matters most to voters in El Salvador.
01:18
What did the survey results say?
01:20
Yes, I ran some models off of survey data collected
01:24
by Vanderbilt University called the America's Barometer.
01:28
And I looked at what issues Salvadoran voters care about the most
01:33
And what was interesting was that at the top of the
01:36
list was not gangs and crime,
01:39
which is what is mostly important in the news,
01:42
but rather the economy and unemployment by far,
01:46
Salvadoran voters were more concerned about those things.
01:49
Interesting. And it seems like we were talking earlier about
01:52
social media, like he seems to be really popular and there's
01:54
a lot of support for Bukele.
01:56
What's the story there?
01:57
Well, Prince Bukele is a publicist by background.
02:00
when I lived in El Salvador,
02:03
in San Salvador, I lived across the street from his Yamaha
02:05
dealership. So he is a businessman by background,
02:08
but his primary business has always been publicity.
02:11
So he was always very good at pr and especially at social
02:15
media and he uses social media,
02:17
especially Twitter, also Facebook to reach voters directly without going through
02:22
the media. And I wanted to ask,
02:24
Bianca, you were recently in El Salvador.
02:27
did you feel that residents actually support Bukele?
02:31
Yes, absolutely. It is true and obvious that Bukele is
02:36
enjoying overwhelming support in El Salvador and outside of El Salvador
02:41
However, there is this discomfort in some of these very same
02:45
communities that used to be victims of the gangs where they're starting
02:48
to see how the state of exception is affecting them directly and
02:52
how they starting to feel powerless when they cannot defend themselves when
02:56
they're accused of being gang members and they're brought to jail sometimes
03:00
for months. And what happens to anyone who is critical
03:04
of Bukele and his policies like the press community.
03:08
Well, it depends like the professor said,
03:11
Bukele has a contentious relationship with journalists.
03:14
I collaborated for this story with the independent newspaper,
03:18
El Faro. El Faro does not have a good relationship with
03:21
Bukele right now. What we're seeing is that these journalists have
03:24
become the target of attacks by the president.
03:28
He will either mock them,
03:30
he will not provide them interviews to be questioned for his
03:34
policies. And there is a concern that as Bukele remains in
03:39
power, that people who are critical of the government will
03:43
have less and less space to voice those opinions you mentioned right
03:47
now, he's a president.
03:48
However, I've seen that he called himself the world's coolest dictator
03:53
is that doesn't connect at least to my mind in my mind
03:57
Like what does he mean by that?
03:59
Well, Bukele has been accused of becoming a dictator and
04:03
those accusations come from the fact that he now controls all three
04:06
branches of government his party has control of the legislature
04:13
But also when his party you know,
04:17
became had so many members in the legislature,
04:21
they started replacing judges.
04:23
So the concern here is that he has consolidated power in a
04:27
way that, you know,
04:30
democracy is being dismantled.
04:32
And I wanted to ask Professor,
04:35
what are some challenges that El Salvador and its people continue
04:39
to face? Well,
04:40
that is entirely based on his security policy,
04:43
which has involved locking up 75,000 people arbitrarily without charge.
04:48
And and basically flooding the streets with with police
04:52
He has been far less capable when it comes to steward
04:54
of the economy. Salvadorans have been seeing inflation go up
04:58
prices rise. The country is deeply in debt and the government
05:01
is reliant on foreign financing which is say loans from abroad to
05:06
continue operating. So I think we will see how long the
05:09
president's popularity can, can last based purely on security
05:16
a lot there, but I feel like going scratching the surface
05:18
but we want to thank you for your time.
05:21
We'll obviously follow this closely and hopefully we can have you both
05:23
back soon. But before we let you go,
05:25
where can people find you on social or you know,
05:28
any websites, blogs,
05:29
stuff like that? Well,
05:30
I am on Instagram,
05:32
tiktok on social media as my name Bianca Rolo Bianca Gura.
05:38
So you can find me there and I'm primarily on Twitter
05:42
also blue sky at MP A ARLB er GM PBG,
05:49
right. Well, there you have it guys,
05:51
make sure to check them out and obviously,
05:53
you know, follow,
05:55
keep following with us and we hope we see you guys soon
05:57
Thank you for your time.
05:58
Thank you very much.