El Salvador’s Millennial President Gets Mixed Reviews on Coronavirus Leadership

Virus Outbreak El Salvador Bukele

Image via AP/Salvador Melendez

By Angela Lang

April 3, 2020

The self-appointed “president of Twitter” has capitalized on his social media following to keep the country safe, but some fear his measures ignore the realities of the poor.

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic. A few hours after the announcement, Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, one of the poorest and most violent countries in the world, declared a 30-day national quarantine, banned gatherings and foreigners from entering the country and imposed a 30-day quarantine on Salvadorans entering from abroad. The session was stream on Facebook. Everything happened before a single case was confirmed in the country. 

Вukеlе also suspended thе рауmеntѕ оf utilities, mоrtgаgеѕ, реrѕоnаl lоаnѕ, сrеdіt саrdѕ, tеlерhоnе, cable and іntеrnеt for three mоnthѕ. Salvadorans will hаvе two уеаrѕ tо рау оff thе ассruеd сhаrgеѕ. 

As per April 2, the country has just 32 positive cases and no deaths.

The son of a Muslim chemical engineer of Palestinian origin and a Christian mother, Bukele became the 46th president of El Salvador in June, 2019.

During his campaign, he used mostly Twitter to reach his constituency, promising to tackle gang violence and corruption. His victory ended three decades of a two-party dominance, between the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA) and the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN). He won under his own party, Nuevas Ideas (New Ideas).

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Just a few days after his inauguration, Bukele continued his social media-savvy strategy, and used Twitter to fire from public office some of the children and relatives of his predecessor, Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

Bukele also advocated for the use of technology during his participation in the United Nations General Assembly, on September 26, 2019. He started his speech taking a selfie from the podium.

“Believe me, many more people will see this selfie than will hear this speech,” said the President during the event, held in New York. 

Then he urged the United Nations to change with the times and the world leaders to do more to connect with their countries youth.

Know as the Pulgarcito de America for being the smallest country in Central America, El Salvador, endured a 12-year Civil War with more than 75,000 deaths in the 90s. It continued to have one of the highest homicide rates in the world, due to gang-related violence and abuses by security forces. On Bukele’s first six months, the murder rate dropped to half of 2018 levels. 

In February, Bukele experienced his first political crisis when he deployed military and police officers to the Legislative Assembly to persuade the deputies to change their vote and approve a $109 million loan that would help finance a security strategy. After that incident, the Constitutional Court asked him to refrain from using the Armed Forces, and he agreed. The act put a finger in El Salvador’s wound, recalling past dictatorial styles.

Lately, he is also being accused of sabotaging his quarantine, after Salvadorans in financial distress broke the social distancing protocols to go claim the $300 dollars COVID-19 crisis incentive. The president decided to close the centers to avoid the crowds and is motivating people to claim the incentive online, just as he would.

RELATED: Quarantine Diaries: My President Took Extreme Action On Coronavirus. It Was The Right Move.

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