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El Salvador knows dictatorship, and we aren’t going back

The government of El Salvador stands ready to work with the Biden Administration on areas of mutual interest for the benefit of our nations and our people.
5 Feb 2021 – 08:17 AM EST
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El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele, accompanied by members of the armed forces, speaks to supporters outside Congress in San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb 9, 2021. Crédito: Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

On February 28, the Salvadoran people will go to legislative and municipal elections; they will speak loudly to confirm their commitment to democracy and their voices are welcomed by President Bukele.

Current indications give President Bukele reasons to be hopeful, and to believe that his policies are working. If the president’s party gains seats in government in the February 2021 election, the resulting shift will usher in yet another piece of a political realignment that will result in a stronger relationship with the U.S. It will also provide the best chance for my country to achieve the development goals necessary to deter northbound emigration.

Our administration hopes that the people will confirm and expand their support for President Bukele – but, whatever the outcome, the administration respects the will of the people. These upcoming elections will pave the way for a reform agenda that will deliver on the promise of democracy – a promise for which millions of Salvadorans have struggled for generations.

The Bukele administration is emphasizing democracy and the rule of law as we seek to align our reform agenda with the Central America plan outlined by the Biden administration. In the meantime, my government’s message for the U.S. is simple: We support the growth and free exercise of democracy in our country and our region, and we stand ready to work with the Biden Administration on areas of mutual interest for the benefit of our nations and our people.

The Salvadoran community in the United States is an integral part of both countries’ national character and plays a key role in Salvadoran political and economic life. The diaspora’s overwhelming support for President Bukele is not part of a partisan mobilization, but rather derives from the fact that family members in El Salvador are telling their relatives in the U.S. that their homeland is improving in ways that have not been witnessed in decades of political back-and-forth between two established and corrupt parties.

I would encourage anyone in New York City or Washington, D.C., to ask a Salvadoran what they think of President Bukele. The answers will be instructive. For the first time in a generation, El Salvador is knocking on the door to a path towards social stability, economic prosperity, and popular political reform. The Salvadoran people have chosen this path for themselves, and have put aside an establishment politics in favor of tangible
change that has made us and our country more stable, more prosperous, and more free.

Salvadorans are excited about the prospect of reform and revival mostly because, for much of the country’s history, they have seen neither. In fact, for generations, the establishment Salvadoran government struggled to meet the basic needs of its people while remaining their only option.

Decades of bloody civil war ultimately did conclude with the absence of conflict, but not the presence of justice. Successive governments – administration after administration – failed to lead with the interests of the people first and foremost.

But now, no longer content with civil war combatants for leaders, the Salvadoran people have widened their gaze beyond the status quo to overwhelmingly support and usher in a new generation of leadership, ready to break the mold.

President Nayib Bukele is this new leadership – a solutions-oriented president who seeks to fix the problems that make life harder for his people. For President Bukele, this meant starting with spurring investment and job creation.

But El Salvador is not the U.S. In El Salvador, a conversation about jumpstarting the economy shifts quickly from managing tax rates, wages, and capital investment to addressing regional security, drug trafficking, gang violence, and systemic public corruption. The latter must be addressed to create an environment in which the former can thrive.

Effective policies, then, require truly meaningful change. Not surprisingly, our current administration’s efforts to build support across a government that has historically served the interests of a select few have drawn criticism from those few whose interests have been so comfortably attended to.

President Bukele was elected in February 2019 with 53% of the vote. The remainder of the vote was divided between the traditional parties who retain a majority in the Congress, pending February National Assembly elections, during which time our democracy will be on full display.

The members of El Salvador’s corrupt establishment have not only imposed their will on local institutions, but in Washington and elsewhere, they are attempting to pervert President Bukele’s efforts, policies, and leadership into a twisted illusion of “emerging authoritarianism” for a reason as simple as it is transparent: their power is being threatened.

Thankfully, democracy is alive and well in El Salvador, thanks in large part to President Bukele and his policies.

Alexandra Hill Tinoco is the Foreign Minister of El Salvador

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