After Arresting 1% of Nation, He Easily Wins Reelection

Nayib Bukele, who calls himself the 'world's coolest dictator,' cruises in El Salvador
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 5, 2024 7:25 AM CST
El Salvador Reelects 'World's Coolest Dictator'
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele waves to supporters after voting in general elections in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024.   (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

Voters in El Salvador appeared to give Nayib Bukele a second term as president, putting him well on his way to a landslide victory in an election that for many hinged on the tradeoff of curtailed civil liberties for security in a country once terrorized by gangs. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal said late Sunday that with ballots from 31% of polling places tallied, Bukele had 83% of the vote, far ahead of his nearest competitor's 7%, per the AP. The self-described "world's coolest dictator," 42, had soaring approval ratings ahead of the vote and virtually no competition.

That despite concerns that Bukele's government slowly chipped away at checks and balances in his first term. Under a "state of emergency" approved in March 2022, the government has arrested more than 76,000 people—more than 1% of the Central American nation's population. The assault on the gangs has spurred accusations of widespread human rights abuses and a lack of due process, but violence has plummeted in a country known just a few years ago as one of the most dangerous in the world.

"Why are there so many eyes on a small (Latin) American country?" Bukele said on the balcony of the National Palace. "They're afraid of the power of example." Throughout his presidency, Bukele has been accused of taking undemocratic steps that concentrated power in his hands, something observers have worried will only grow with Sunday's election. Opposition lawmaker Claudia Ortiz, of the party VAMOS, urged voters to support candidates outside Bukele's party in order to preserve checks and balances. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely," she said in a video recorded from polling stations.

(More El Salvador stories.)

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