El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele has taken steps toward running for re-election in the upcoming 2024 presidential election, slated for February. Bukele, known for his advocacy of Bitcoin, received substantial public support on October 26 when his political party officially nominated him for a second term.
El Salvador’s Bukele wants to continue progress
Addressing a massive crowd of Salvadorans, Bukele expressed his ambition for “five more [years], five more and not one step back,” emphasizing the necessity for additional time to further enhance the country’s progress. His ascension to power in 2019 marked a significant departure from the long-standing dominance of the Nationalist Republican Alliance and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). Despite his overwhelming popularity, critics, including Salvadoran lawyer Alfonso Fajardo, point to constitutional limitations that prohibit Bukele from pursuing a consecutive term.
Fajardo emphasized the constitutional restriction on immediate presidential re-election, despite a Supreme Court ruling in September 2021 allowing consecutive presidential runs. Bukele’s party, New Ideas, reportedly enjoys the backing of about 70% of the country’s voting population, presenting a significant lead over its nearest competitor, which secured merely 4% of the total votes, as indicated by a study conducted by a Salvadoran university cited by Reuters. The political landscape saw legal challenges against Bukele’s government, notably a lawsuit filed by the FMLN in June 2021.
National progress and the challenges ahead for Bukele
The lawsuit contested the constitutionality of Bukele’s Bitcoin adoption program. However, El Salvador formally recognized Bitcoin as legal tender three months later in September 2021, despite these legal contentions. Under Bukele’s leadership, the government introduced several tech-friendly policies aimed at boosting the nation’s economy, including the elimination of taxes on technological innovations, signaling a supportive environment for the growth of tech industries in El Salvador.
Gabor Gurbacs, a strategy advisor at VanEck, expressed optimism about El Salvador’s potential to become the “Singapore of the Americas,” highlighting the country’s strides toward becoming a regional tech and economic hub. A significant factor contributing to Bukele’s popularity is his aggressive crackdown on MS-13, a notorious multinational gang that played a substantial role in El Salvador’s history of recording the world’s highest homicide rates six years ago. This crackdown led to a remarkable decline in the country’s homicide rates, plummeting by 92.6% from its peak of 106 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015 to a significantly lower rate of 7.8 in 2022.
El Salvador now boasts one of the lowest crime rates in Latin America, largely attributed to Bukele’s resolute stance against criminal organizations. However, despite these achievements, criticisms have surfaced from the United Nations and human rights advocates. Concerns have been raised about El Salvador’s alleged breach of human rights laws by imprisoning 65,000 individuals without affording them adequate legal rights for their defense. The upcoming presidential election in El Salvador, scheduled for February 4, 2024, promises to be a pivotal moment in the country’s political trajectory.