El Salvador over the weekend inaugurated its president, Nayib Bukele, who promised to bring about “a new era” by ending the nearly decade-long rule by the party linked to the left-wing, communist-leaning guerrillas that participated in the Central American country’s bloody civil war.
In the days leading to his inauguration on Saturday, Bukele vowed to combat violence, poverty, corruption and mass migration to the United States,
He “will have to do all that without a congressional majority” and very limited financial resources, Voice of America (VOA) acknowledged.
Rampant crime fueled by street gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), which originated in California, is one of the top hurdles the new president is facing.
While El Salvador’s per capita homicide rate of 51 murders per 100,000 inhabitants is about ten times higher than the United States, it is comparable (Baltimore) and even lower (St. Louis) than some American cities.
In February, Bukele won a landslide election as a third-party outsider — under the conservative party Great Alliance for National Unity (GANA). Prior to joining the new party, Bukele had been a member of, and was expelled from, the country’s main left-wing political coalition.
The victory of the 37-year-old former mayor of the country’s capital, San Salvador, ended the two-party system’s three-decade stranglehold over the Central American country of 6.2 million.
From 1989 through 2009, the conservative, right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) held the presidency. Then the country took a left turn, allowing the communist-leaning Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) that waged a bloody civil war against the U.S.-backed government to take power and held it until Bukele’s victory last year.
Both sides committed atrocities during the civil war that raged from 1979 thru 1992 and left up to 80,000 people dead.
Of the estimated 5,000 U.S. veterans of the civil war, communist guerrillas killed 21 in action.
Via Twitter on Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated Bukele, an avid social media user himself, for his victory.
Trump wrote, “The United States stands ready to work with @NayibBukele to advance prosperity in El Salvador and the hemisphere. Congratulations President Bukele on your inauguration”:
The United States stands ready to work with @NayibBukele to advance prosperity in El Salvador and the hemisphere. Congratulations President Bukele on your inauguration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2019
During a speech at the U.S. capital’s conservative Heritage Foundation in March, Bukele expressed his intention to give priority to El Salvador’s relationship with the United States.
Bukele, who is of Palestinian ancestry, also proclaimed that there is “common ground” on immigration between the Trump administration and his own, adding, “We know the [primary] origin of emigration is lack of opportunities and violence in our countries.”
Salvadorans are among the tens of thousands of Central Americans flocking towards the United States and overwhelming the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of them are seeking asylum, citing violence-fueled MS-13, a gang that previous Salvadoran administrations allowed to take control of whole regions.
Bukele said about the gangs:
They are a quasi-state because they function like one … they collect taxes. They provide security…but the fact is that these organizations, they have to end. …We haven’t done it because the previous administration and the current administration have been focusing on stealing money.
Other Salvadorans making the arduous journey to the United States as illegal migrants are seeking economic opportunities from the companies who are willing to hire them.
Referring to the exodus triggered by violence and economic conditions at Heritage, then-President-elect Bukele vowed to fight to end the “forceful migration” that forces people to leave their loved ones behind, noting that the act is “really shameful for our country.”
He also pledged to “end” violent gangs and stop the flow of deadly drugs trafficked to the United States through El Salvador.
Bukele offered to“refuse” American taxpayer-funded U.S. foreign aid “handouts” in exchange of “jumpstarting commerce” between the United States and El Salvador, particularly in the surfing tourism industry.
In a nod to his leftist past, however, Bukele also expressed a willingness to cooperate with the rogue communist regime of Cuba this week. Bukele allowed Cuba to send a representative to his inauguration and this week said his country has “a lot to learn” from Cuba’s healthcare system, which relies on hundreds of thousands of slaves to generate billions of dollars for the regime, which in turn does not invest the money into domestic health services.
On Saturday, Bukele vowed to cure El Salvador, which he described as a “sick child” following years of violence and emigration that has strained relations with the United States.
“Our country is like a sick child, now it’s up to all of us to take care of it,” Bukele declared, according to the Epoch Times. “We have to suffer a little now, we have to have a little pain, assume our responsibility and all as brothers to bring forward that child.”
One of his first acts as president was to reduce the size of the small country’s government by merging five top administrative positions created by the previous leftist administration into two.
The new president has distanced himself from the leftist regimes of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and China.