Things That Matter

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

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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People Have A Lot Of Opinions About The Argentina Episode Of Netflix’s ‘Street Food: Latin America’

Culture

People Have A Lot Of Opinions About The Argentina Episode Of Netflix’s ‘Street Food: Latin America’

Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images

Netflix has a new food show out and it has everyone buzzing. “Street Food: Latin America” is bringing everyone the sabor of Latin America to their living room. However, reviews are mixed because of Argentina and the lack of Central American representation.

Netflix has a new show and it is all about Latin American street food.

Some of the best food in the world comes from Latin America. That is just a fact and it isn’t because our families and community come for Latin America. Okay, maybe just a little. The food of Latin America comes with history and stories that have shaped our childhood. For many of us, it is the only thing we have that connects us to the lands our families have left.

The show is highlighting the contributions of women to street food.

“Street Food: Latin America” focuses mainly on the women that are leading the street food cultures in different countries in Latin America. For some of them, it was a chance to bring themselves out of poverty and care for their children. For others, it was a rebellion against the male-dominated culture of cooking in Latin America.

However, some people have some strong opinions about the show and they aren’t good.

There is a lot of attention to native communities in the Latino community culturally right now. The Argentina episode where someone claims that Argentina is more European is rubbing people the wrong way right now. While the native population of Argentina is small, it is still important to highlight and honor native communities who are indigenous to the lands.

The disregard for the indigenous community is upsetting because indigenous Argentinians are fighting for their lives and land.

An A Jazeera report focused on an indigenous community in northern Argentina who were fighting to protect their land. After decades of discrimination and humiliation, members of the Wichi community fought to protect their land from the Argentinian government grabbing it in 2017. Early this year, before Covid, children of the tribe started to die at alarming rates of malnutrition.

Another pain point in the Latino community is the complete disregard of Central America.

Central America includes Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, and Panama. Central America’s exclusion is not sitting right with Netflix users with Central American heritage. Like, how can five whole countries be looked over during a Netflix show about street food in Latin America?

Seems like there is a chance for Netflix to revisit Latin America for more food content.

There are so many countries in Latin America that offer delicious foods to the world. There is more to Latin America than Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, and Bolivia.

READ: This Iconic Mexican Food Won The Twitter Battle To Be Named Latin America’s Best Street Food

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Evelyn Hernandez – A Rape Survivor – Was Imprisoned Under Anti-Abortion Laws, Now She’s A Free Woman

Things That Matter

Evelyn Hernandez – A Rape Survivor – Was Imprisoned Under Anti-Abortion Laws, Now She’s A Free Woman

Oscar Rivera / Getty Images

It’s no secret that countries across Latin America have some of the strictest abortion laws in the world – El Salvador is no exception. In fact, it’s the only known country that that regularly prosecutes and imprisons women as a result of its abortion ban – even in cases where the women suffered  miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies.

But over the last decade, activists, lawyers, and international women’s groups have rallied behind Salvadoran women imprisoned for “obstetric emergencies.” Since 2009, more than 38 women have been released from jail, 16 remain incarcerated, and at least three — including Evelyn Hernandez — are in the middle of legal proceedings.

Evelyn Hernandez, of El Salvador, has been found innocent after a retrial.

Evelyn Hernandez’s case had made international headlines when she was tried for homicide charges after experiencing a stillbirth – when she didn’t even know she was pregnant.

But after years of maintains her innocence of any wrongdoing, Hernandez has finally been found innocent by El Salvador’s judicial system.

“I was made the victim of a justice system that is anything but just. I know that there are countless other women who have experienced the same in a country where miscarriages are still considered a crime and reproductive rights are nonexistent. We must stand up and demand that the Salvadoran government release all the remaining women who have been wrongfully put behind bars like me. The fight does not end here,” Hernandez said after the trial.

Her defense attorney added in a tweet, “I am about to explode with happiness.”

Amnesty International described the verdict as a “resounding victory for the rights of women in El Salvador” and called on the government to “end the shameful and discriminatory practice of criminalizing women”.

El Salvador has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world.

Since 1998, El Salvador has had a complete and total ban on abortion – with zero exceptions – including in cases where the woman’s life is at risk for the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. In fact, El Salavador is the only known country that regularly prosecutes and imprisons women as a result of its abortion ban – even in cases where the women suffered  miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies.

Typically, women found guilty face between two and eight years in jail but in many cases – as was the case with Evelyn – charges are increased to aggravate homicide, which carries a minimum sentence of 30 years.

Today, more than 20 women are in prison under trumped up charges of manslaughter, homicide, or aggravated homicide after being accused of having an abortion. In total, at least 50 women have been imprisoned.

Evelyn’s case had been in the headlines for years after repeated appeals by prosecutors.

Evelyn’s case started when she was a victim of sexual violence in her community – having allegedly been raped by a gang member at 18-years-old.

She was first arrested after the body of her baby was found on the property of her rural home. Evelyn says she had experienced severe stomach pains and bleeding and went to the toilet, where she passed out. It’s here where her baby was stillborn. But in 2017, a judge ruled that Evelyn knew she was pregnant and tried to conceal the baby’s birth. She was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison, of which she has already served 33 months.

In July 2017, the judge ruled that Ms Hernández knew she was pregnant and found her guilty. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison of which she has already served 33 months.

Evelyn’s lawyers appealed the judge’s decision. They said forensic tests showed that the baby had died of meconium aspiration, inhaling his own stool. This can happen while the baby is still in the uterus, during delivery or immediately after birth. 

The lawyers said the test proved that Evelyn had not tried to abort the baby but that it had died of natural causes. “There is no crime,” defense lawyer Bertha María Deleón said during oral arguments. In 2019, the country’s Supreme Court agreed and annulled Evelyn’s 2017 conviction and ordered a retrial with a new judge.

Evelyn’s case could have a major impact on several other women across the country accused of similar crimes.

Credit: Oscar Rivera / Getty Images

According to human rights experts, there are at least 17 other women who have been jailed under the country’s strict abortion laws. Campaigners have successfully managed to free about 30 other women over the last decade  – after winning hard-fought court cases.

Evelyn’s retrial is the first case to be heard under new President Nayib Bukele, who took office in June, and women’s groups are hoping he could usher in a more lenient stance on the issue. 

President Bukele has said that he opposes abortion but has expressed sympathy with women suffering miscarriages who then come under suspicion.

“If a poor woman suffers a miscarriage, she’s immediately suspected of having had an abortion. That’s where the issue of social inequality comes into play,” he said while he was running for president.

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