politics

El Salvador’s New President Represents A Change In The Country’s Political System

nayibbukele / Instagram

After three decades of control by two political parties, the people of El Salvador have voted in a new politician to lead the country. Nayib Bukele, 37, won nearly 54 percent of the votes to become president of a country that has faced political corruption and rampant street violence. Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, ran on a platform to stop corruption and create job opportunities. Yet, it was his campaign as an alternative to the country’s two main political parties: the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), that made him standout.

Bukele is the first president of El Salvador since 1992 who doesn’t belong to either countries main parties.

Bukele is now leading the Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA), a small and new conservative political party in El Salvador. He outlasted Carlos Callejas of the ARENA party who got less than 32 percent of the national vote. Bukele started his political career with the FMLN party but was expelled in 2017 after repeatedly criticizing it. Just last year, he switched over to GANA, which is far-right compared to his start with the FMLN.

The country’s youngest-ever president-elect had an unconventional path to the office but it’s a reflection of what to expect when he takes office in June. Bukele ran his campaign almost entirely on social media and became quite popular due to his informal and relaxed image. He appeared in blue jeans and a leather jacket for his victory speech. He didn’t follow traditional campaign practices like having rallies around the country and even refused to participate in a traditional debate.

“Today we won in the first round and we made history,” Bukele told supporters at a celebratory rally. “We have turned the page on power.”

El Salvador has been plagued by poverty, scandals and rampant violence linked to gangs.

All presidential candidates ran on similar platforms that spoke of job growth and increasing safety measures across El Salvador. Yet, it was Bukele who set himself apart when it came to talking about the issue of widespread corruption in both opposing parties. Corruption has become a widespread issue across political systems in Latin America and even more prevalent in El Salvador.

Former President Tony Saca, representing ARENA, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty last year to charges of embezzlement and money laundering. Mauricio Funes, representing FMLN, fled to Nicaragua in 2016 after he was accused of embezzling $351 million. This past history made both parties easy targets for Bukele who often used campaign slogans like “There is enough money when nobody steals it.”

After El Salvador’s civil war ended in the 1990s, the country has faced economic hardships among other rampant issues that have caused many families to leave. It’s also a major reason that some Salvadorans have headed north to try and come to the United States looking for safety and jobs.

One of Bukele’s promises is to create a commission to investigate official corruption.

Being an outsider from the traditional two party system worked in his favor during his campaign but now comes the harsh reality for the president. GANA currently has only 10 seats in the legislature, well short of the 43 votes needed to pass laws. This could make his proposed investigation difficult.

One of his campaign promises is to adopt a similar version of the international anti-corruption commission that neighboring Guatemala implemented. Bukele will have to form an alliance with the right-wing parties, which currently dominate Congress with 49 house seats.

What does the election mean for El Salvador moving forward?

Similar to other recent Latin American countries elections, Bukele represents a new voice for a country that was tangled in a two-party system that it’s citizens couldn’t trust anymore. Two-party systems have fallen apart in countries like Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Honduras in the last two decades.

As populist leaders continue to get elected, Bukele’s victory is a reflection of the continuing decline of the traditional two-party system. His message of anti-corruptness and stopping violence made him a popular choice. The real challenge will be putting these promises in action especially in a country where change  is desperately needed.

“I feel like my heart could break open with happiness. He gives us a new hope for El Salvador,” Nancy Fajardo, who works in a call center told VICE News. “He has new ideas. And we need someone young who represents us and knows what we need.”


READ: What You Need To Know About The Growing Turmoil In Venezuela That Has Left At Least 40 People Dead

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President Trump And Beto O’Rourke Both Speak In The Same City, On The Same Night, Here's What Happened

politics

President Trump And Beto O’Rourke Both Speak In The Same City, On The Same Night, Here’s What Happened

realdonaldtrump / betoorourke / Instagram

On Monday night, President Trump spoke to about 6,500 supporters in El Paso, Texas, in what is the first of many such rallies leading up to the 2020 election. His rallies, which mostly consist of his own supporters, are nothing new and have been a common sight since he took office. Yet, for Trump, Monday’s rally was different. Less than a mile away from his rally, El Paso native Beto O’Rourke, who came close to unseating Sen. Ted Cruz in November, was the one stealing all the headlines.

It’s not every day that an ex-congressman can get under the skin of the president of the United States.

O’Rourke, who has yet to announce a candidacy for president, held a rally aimed at promoting the reality of the situation at the border. He tried to debunk many of the claims Trump has made in the last few months arguing for his border wall.

“We are making a stand for truth against lies and hate and ignorance and intolerance. We are going to show the country who we are,” O’Rourke said at his rally. “We’re going to make a stand to ensure that we live up to our promise, to our potential, to our purpose as a country.”

There are substantive disagreements between both men and Monday’s dual-rallies showed these differences. For Trump, holding his rally in El Paso was strictly a political move because of its close location on the U.S.-Mexico border. For O’Rourke, it was an opportunity to spell the truth of what’s really happening in his home district’s backyard.

There were false claims of crowd sizes from the president.

From the start, there was already misleading statements from President Trump about the size of his rally crowd. “We have, let’s say, 35,000 people tonight, he has 200 people, 300 people — not too good,” Trump said in reference to O’Rourke’s rally. He would later claim that the actual size was 10,000 people but in reality, the El Paso County Coliseum holds about 6,500 people. In comparison to O’Rourke, following a mile-long march, he drew at least 7,000 people at his rally.

Trump claimed El Paso had one of the highest rates of violent crime in America before a wall was put in place, after which it became one of the nation’s safest cities. That is inaccurate.

At last Tuesday’s State of the Union address, the President claimed that El Paso had one of the highest rates of violent crime in America. Trump claimed that a barrier constructed at the border helped make El Paso one of the nation’s safest cities, El Paso’s mayor, Dee Margo corrected him. “El Paso was NEVER one of the MOST dangerous cities in the US,” he tweeted. O’Rourke chimed in on Trump’s claims about El Paso and the effectiveness of a border wall.

“El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States of America,” he said. “Safe not because of walls, but in spite of walls. Secure because we treat one another with dignity and respect. That is the way that we make our communities and our country safe.”

According to Vox, El Paso has constantly had the second-lowest violent crime rate of similarly sized cities, a ranking it had both before and after a partial barrier was installed near the border in 2008.

“We have so much to give, so much to show the rest of the country,” O’Rourke said in a rebuttal the president. “Here, a city that has been one of the safest in the United States of America for 20 years and counting. … Walls do not save lives. Walls end lives.”

While O’Rourke spoke about the things that unite Americans, President Trump used his rally to take aim at O’Rourke and fellow Democrats.

At his rally, President Trump took jabs at O’Rourke saying he is a “young man who’s got very little going for himself except he’s got a great first name.” He also used his rally to attack the media, which resulted in the attack of a cameraman, poke fun at the Green New Deal and falsely accuse Virginia Governor Ralph Northam of supporting the murder of newborn babies.

O’Rourke went the other direction as he spoke about how the great hopes he has for the country. He spoke about the reality of what many Americans are currently facing including rising health costs, economic disparity, and job opportunities. Whether O’Rourke will run for president or not, the truth is he has gotten the attention of President Trump. That is a fact.


READ: Texas Officials Attempt To Purge Voters From Rolls But Get Sued Over Claims Of Voter Suppression

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