Bukele: Biden ‘Not Very Interested’ in El Salvador; Trump Treated Us ‘Much Better’

President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conferen
Anna Moneymaker/Getty

The President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele said on Thursday evening that the Biden Administration never showed interest in collaborating with his government — unlike the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Bukele, who delivered a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday, received a question from a Spanish-language journalist asking how he felt about the Biden administration’s treatment of his government.

“Well, we have always been willing to work but I think it is not in the priorities of the current administration,” Bukele answered. “For us, the United States is always our first partner in every way, economically — a large part of our population lives here — the currency, etc. In fact, the influence of the United States is in every sense of the word.”

“We will always be willing to work. Unfortunately, the [Biden] administration has not been very interested in working with us since the beginning,” he continued. “It might be a priority that they don’t have.”

The reporter continued by asking Bukele, “So would you say that the relationship with the previous Trump administration was better?”

“Yes, it was much better, of course,” Bukele answered. “There was more interest on their part and our interest has always been there.”

The reporter also asked Bukele to send a message to all Latinos in the United States in light of the upcoming 2024 elections.

“A hug to all Latinos, a lot of strength, always working to move this country forward as you have always done,” Bukele said. “Working, leaving the best of yourselves and well, in the elections, each one [chooses] but with intelligence, with love, and asking God for wisdom.”

The reporter concluded by asking Bukele who he would vote for. Bukele responded by laughing, “No, I’ll leave that to the people.”

The Biden Administration has maintained a critical position against El Salvador regarding both the ongoing crackdown on gang violence and Bukele’s reelection.

In 2022, the Biden administration expressed “concerns” over a Salvadoran law that criminalizes “reporting on certain gang activities” – which, according to the Department of State, could lead to “attempts to censor the media.” Bukele responded by accusing the Biden administration of siding with the gangs.

The Biden administration also objected to Bukele’s recent landslide reelection, El Salvador’s constitutional prohibition against presidential reelection, and the circumstances that allowed Bukele to run for a new consecutive term.

Although the Salvadoran constitution explicitly forbids a president from being reelected, Bukele was able to run after the nation’s top courts issued a ruling that opened a pathway for Bukele if he stepped down shortly before the election.

The Department of State deemed the ruling, issued in 2021, was “undermining democracy.” In October, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols asserted that Bukele’s reelection “deserves a debate on legality.”

Bukele won February’s election after obtaining nearly 85 percent of the vote. The Organization of American States (OAS) recognized his victory as legitimate but made special note of the unprecedented circumstances that allowed Bukele to successfully run for reelection.

The Biden Administration also imposed sanctions on several members of Bukele’s cabinet, such as Salvadoran Vice Minister of Justice and Public Security Osiris Luna Meza and the Chairman of the Social Fabric Reconstruction Unit Carlos Amilcar Marroquin Chica. Both were sanctioned in 2021 by the Department of Treasury for their alleged participation in undercover negotiations with leaders of MS-13 and 18th Street, criminal gangs.

Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), after meeting with Bukele, criticized President Joe Biden for “alienating” Bukele and other Central American allies.

“So how does the Biden administration react to this [Bukele’s gang crackdown]? By badmouthing the guy, by sanctioning people in the government, by going after them because they’re being too tough and too harsh, and so forth,” Rubio said in a video posted on social media. “And on top of everything else, this is a guy that has tried to be friendly and an ally to the United States, and we have a problem with our foreign policy. We treat our enemies better than we treat our friends.”

“We have an administration that bends over backwards to try to accommodate [Venezuelan socialist dictator Nicolás] Maduro, an administration that’s afraid to do anything tough on [communist dictator Daniel] Ortega in Nicaragua, on the regime in Cuba,” Rubio continued, “but on the other hand decides, ‘I’m going to crack down on El Salvador and sanction them and badmouth them and try to make them a global pariah.’”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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