President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton spoke to President-elect of El Salvador Nayib Bukele on Wednesday, bringing the country into the regional coalition to address the socialist crisis in Venezuela.
Bukele, a 37-year-old former mayor of San Salvador, won a commanding victory in El Salvador’s presidential election last week by forming a populist coalition from both the left and the right.
Today, I spoke with @nayibbukele to congratulate him on his historic victory and express U.S. support. We discussed ways to strengthen the U.S.-El Salvador friendship and to collaborate to restore democracy in Venezuela and counter Chinese predatory practices in the hemisphere.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) February 13, 2019
“Today, I spoke with @nayibbukele to congratulate him on his historic victory and express U.S. support,” Bolton wrote on Twitter. “We discussed ways to strengthen the U.S.-El Salvador friendship and to collaborate to restore democracy in Venezuela and counter Chinese predatory practices in the hemisphere.”
Bukele’s close advisor Federico Anliker told Reuters last week that the “President-elect would not be willing to support a totalitarian government that represses its people and disrespects human rights,” hinting support for the dozens of countries in the Americas that have rejected dictator Nicolás Maduro’s claims to the Venezuelan presidency.
Bukele himself responded to Bolton’s statement on Twitter, asserting, “The United States will find in El Salvador, not only an ally, but also a friend.”
The United States will find in El Salvador, not only an ally, but also a friend.
Thank you @AmbJohnBolton for your disposition on strengthening our relationship.
God willing, we will be able to do so much, for the benefit of our people. https://t.co/6KQbBY9eN2
— Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) February 13, 2019
El Salvador’s sitting president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, is one of the few regional leaders who has failed to denounce the crimes of the Maduro regime. Sánchez Cerén is a member of the far-left Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMNL) party, which is a strong ideological ally to Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Prior to his election win, Bukele was expelled from the party and shifted rightward.
Other far-left leaders, including Bolivian strongman Evo Morales and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have also failed to denounce Maduro while refusing to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate president, despite the majority of the world’s democratic states that have weighed in on the issue doing so.
Bukele’s willingness to collaborate with the U.S. in combating China’s predatory lending practices will also aid the Trump administration, which has repeatedly railed against Beijing’s unfettered influence in the region. Last November, Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping hosted Sánchez in Beijing with the promise of additional funding for education, health, and drought relief after the latter agreed to recognize Taiwan as part of Chinese territory.
Bukele is now likely to take a much tougher stance, with those close to him indicating he will also re-examine the past administration’s decision to no longer recognize Taiwan as an independent state.
“With the issue of China and China-Taiwan relations, we have to study them and put them in the balance, based on what is best for the nation, and not what is best for a political party, as the FMLN did,” Anliker said earlier this month. “We were not consulted, nor did they give us the reasons why they are pursuing relations with China, so now we have to investigate in detail.”