El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele Urges Americans at CPAC to Fight Globalism: ‘They Hate Our Success, and They Fear Yours’

The President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, speaks during the annual Conservative Politica

The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, issued what he described as a “warning to a friend” during his address at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday evening, asking Americans to fight “global elites” who “hate our success and fear yours.”

“They say globalism comes to die at CPAC. I’m here to tell you that in El Salvador, it’s already dead,” Bukele declared to applause.

Bukele took the opportunity to once again celebrate his historic victory in his nation’s presidential election this February, which he won by about 85 percent of the vote, and his party received an overwhelming majority in the federal legislature. Election observers declared the unprecedented results legitimate and the election itself free and fair, though noting that the Salvadoran Constitution does not allow presidents to be reelected and that Bukele got on the ballot thanks to a Supreme Court ruling many opponents questioned.

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR - JUNE 01: People show support to the Salvadoran president, Nayib Bukele, with a banner with the text in Spanish 'Nayib Bukele, Reelection 2024, Soyapango Is With You' during a report to the nation for the 4th year of the current presidential administration in the plenary session at the Legislative Assembly on June 1, 2023 in San Salvador, El Salvador. President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele marks his fourth year of government on June 1 as he seeks re-election in the 2024 elections for a further 5-year period, despite accusations of being unconstitutional. (Photo by Alex Peña/Getty Images)

People show support with a poster to the Salvadoran president, Nayib Bukele (Alex Peña/Getty Images).

He attributed his victory to the Salvadoran people “waking up” and opposing “globalism” – condemning billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundations by name – but lamented that it took the “unthinkable” to reverse his nation’s decline after decades of mismanagement, corruption, and negligence.

“You are not there yet,” he told his American audience, “and, believe me, you don’t want to be”:

His overwhelming success is largely attributed to widespread support for his policies against El Salvador’s notorious gangs, the most prominent among them in America being Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13). During his first term as president, Bukele instituted widespread government reforms, including replacing the entire Supreme Court, targeting prosecutors who were soft on crime, and dramatically expanding the ability of law enforcement officers to combat criminals.

FILE - In this March 26, 2012 file photo a gang member of MS-13 attends mass at a prison in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador. MS-13, or the Mara Salvatrucha, is believed by federal prosecutors to have thousands of members across the U.S., primarily immigrants from Central America. It has a stronghold in Los Angeles, where it emerged in the 1980s as a neighborhood street gang. (AP Photo/Luis Romero, File)

This March 26, 2012, file photo features an MS-13 gang member in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador. MS-13, or the Mara Salvatrucha, is believed by federal prosecutors to have thousands of members across the U.S., primarily immigrants from Central America (AP Photo/Luis Romero, File).

Bukele imposed a “state of exception,” a formal state of emergency decree, in March 2022, which continues to this day, limiting some constitutional freedoms, most prominently the freedom of assembly, to prevent gangs from being able to freely conduct their violent criminal behavior. He has also built massive “mega prisons” to house tens of thousands of suspected gang members, taking them off the streets and allowing law-abiding Salvadorans to walk the streets safely, take children to public parks, and otherwise enjoy normal lives for the first time in decades.

SAN VICENTE, EL SALVADOR - FEBRUARY 6: Inmates are seen in cells at CECOT in Tecoluca on February 6, 2024 in San Vicente, El Salvador. On February of 2023 El Salvador inaugurated Latin America's largest prison as part of President Nayib Bukele's plan to fight gangs. Since then, the UN and NGOs have raised concern about the treatment of inmates, minors being held and suspects incarcerated as gang members without sufficient proof. Meanwhile, Bukele claims El Salvador's murder rate has fallen from the world's highest to the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. (Photo by Alex Peña/Getty Images)

Gang members resting in metal frame cells at CECOT (Spanish acronym for counter-terrorism confinement center) in Tecoluca on February 6, 2024, in San Vicente, El Salvador. In February 2023, El Salvador inaugurated Latin America’s largest prison as part of President Nayib Bukele’s plan to fight gangs (Photo by Alex Peña/Getty Images).

Few debate Bukele’s assertion that he has decimated the gangs. El Faro, one of El Salvador’s most prominent newspapers, which has taken a skeptical position against Bukele, reported a year ago that “the gangs do not exist in this moment as El Salvador knew them for decades.” As a result, El Salvador has elevated its profile internationally as a tourist destination and notably hosted the Miss Universe pageant in November.

Bukele’s speech on Thursday used the metaphor of frogs killed in slowly boiling water, unable to notice when the water changes from pleasantly warm to fatally hot. America’s frogs are not boiling, he suggested, but, “just like the frog, people become complacent, and they don’t realize how bad things are getting until it’s too late.”

“Some might say I’m exaggerating, but we can clearly see the signs of a declining society because our own hit rock bottom decades ago,” Bukele told the crowd. “Big cities in decline like Baltimore, Portland, New York, just to name a few. Places where crime and drugs have become the daily norm and even accepted and promoted by the government.”

“How many young people have you lost to the streets of Philadelphia or San Francisco to fentanyl? Did we see these apocalyptic sights 15, 10, 5 years ago? Can you imagine how it will be in the next 5, 10, or 15 years?” he asked.

In El Salvador, he noted, politicians “failed to realize as a country the severity of them until it became a civil war. By the time we reacted, it was already too late. We were already boiled, like the frog.”

“It took us 50 years, two wars, 250,000 lives, and a third of our population displaced, and a near miracle to get our country back,” he lamented. His administration, he continued, “did the unthinkable to cleanse our society. We arrested the terrorists, but we had to remove corrupt judges and corrupt attorneys and prosecutors.”

Bukele also condemned “the so-called international community, the NGOs, and, of course, the fake news” for supporting a failing system that resulted in a failed state.

“As your friend, I want to issue this warning so you don’t make the same mistakes we did in the 60s and the 70s. It is not easy to pull yourself back once you’re in boiling water. In fact, all the experts said it was impossible. And, besides, you don’t want to wait 50 years and maybe hope for a miracle to get out of Hell. You can still jump before the water boils.”

Bukele repeatedly referred to himself as a “friend” of America, a contrast from his typically irreverent, dismissive, and generally annoyed attitude towards America. At the United Nations General Assembly in 2022, Bukele railed against his country’s “rich neighbor,” without naming them, for “correctly thinking that they own their country; but … incorrectly think[ing] that they also own ours.” A year later, at the same venue, Bukele asserted, “No country has a right to impose their ideas, to impose their way of doing things, especially when they don’t even work in our countries.”

On several occasions, Bukele has also mocked America on Twitter, dismissing the nation as a poor representative of “democracy.”

Bukele advised his “friends” at CPAC to “unapologetically fight ..  for your freedoms; fight for your rights.”

“America should listen to these words not because the El Salvador model should be replicated here, but because these specific examples apply to any nation that has lost or is losing its way,” the president said. “Ask yourself: Why is this happening? Who is supporting it? And whether it’s by ignorance or by choice. And fight it.”

“Fight it with all your heart and soul and be the beacon of hope … that your Founding Fathers, with all their faults, like every human being has, dreamt for your country. Fight for your freedoms, for your rights. Fight for the original purpose of these institutions and not their mere existence,” he encouraged.

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