President of El Salvador Goes on Firing Spree of Government Officials — over Twitter

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, speaks asking for permission to leave the country in official trips during an ordinary session at the National Assembly on San Salvador, on June 3, 2019. (Photo by Oscar Rivera / AFP) (Photo credit should read OSCAR RIVERA/AFP/Getty Images)

The newly-elected President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, used his first week in office to fire a host of government officials via Twitter, taking many within the country’s political establishment by surprise.

Addressing his 740,000 Twitter followers, the 37-year-old leader announced the firings of officials in various institutions, often referencing their family’s political connections and their sizeable salaries.

“CEL President William Granadino is ordered to remove Claudia Sánchez Villalta, daughter of former President [Salvador] Sánchez Cerén, from her position,” he wrote in one such post on Tuesday. “Do not hire a replacement”:

“I hereby order the removal of Carlos Armando Cotto Castaneda, brother of the former police Director, Howard Cotto Castaneda, as president of the @FONAES, with a salary of $4,400 monthly,” he wrote in another post on Thursday:

His supporters welcomed the firings, with people using the hashtag #SeLesOrdena, meaning “I Hereby Order,” in jest. Critics within the country’s political establishment denounced his behavior as autocratic.

“This is not a monarchy,” Norman Quijano, the president of the Salvadoran Congress, told reporters. “The absolutist monarchies were a thing of the Middle Ages and we are in the 21st century, where institutionality must be respected.”

Luis Assardo, a journalist and researcher based in Guatemala, told Reuters that Bukele likes to use social media to bypass the traditional media and speak directly to his electorate. “He does not need the press,” Assardo said. “He does not need any kind of intermediary to deliver the information that interests him.”

“I’m officially the coolest president in the world,” he wrote in response to a fan video praising his uncompromising stance:

Bukele, a former mayor of the capital of San Salvador, won a landslide victory in El Salvador’s presidential election in February after forming a populist coalition that transcended the traditional left-right divide. Some of his campaign pledges included rooting out rampant corruption, reducing gang violence, and improving the country’s decrepit infrastructure.

Following his inauguration last weekend, President Donald Trump sent a congratulatory message to Bukele, stating that the U.S. “stands ready [to] advance prosperity in El Salvador and the hemisphere”:

During a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, in March, Bukele said he planned on forging closer ties with the United States and blamed the previous socialist administration of Sánchez Cerén for damaging ties between the two countries.

“The U.S. and El Salvador have had a relationship where, for over 100 years, it has been a great relationship. And El Salvador has been an ally of the United States forever,” he said. “But the fact is, the last ten years, we had a government that has been eroding the relationship with the United States, siding with Venezuela, siding with Nicaragua, the international organizations.”

“What happened is that we have been eroding our relationship with our greatest ally, our greatest friend. And it just doesn’t make sense,” he continued. “So the election gives us an opportunity to fix that relationship, basically. It’s a change of government that is not only a change of government but also a change of era for El Salvador.”

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