El Salvador president re-election bid draws strong reaction

Sep 15, 2022, 8:26 AM | Updated: Sep 16, 2022, 3:14 pm
Anti-government protestors march on Independence Day in San Salvador, El Salvador, Thursday, Sept. ...

Anti-government protestors march on Independence Day in San Salvador, El Salvador, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. The opposition are demanding an end to the state of emergency decreed in March by President Nayib Bukele and what they call human rights violations. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

(AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — In the hours since El Salvador President Nayib Bukele announced he would seek re-election despite a constitutional ban, opinion quickly divided.

Those who want to give more time to the man who has arrested more than 50,000 people in the past six months for alleged gang connections voiced their support while a vocal minority who see it as one more unsurprising step toward authoritarianism rejected the move.

Bukele announced he would seek re-election in a televised speech Thursday night, El Salvador’s Independence Day, riding a wave of popularity from his crackdown on gangs.

Bukele’s current five-year term ends in 2024, but observers had long expected the announcement, especially since the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, handpicked by his supporters in congress, ruled last year that re-election was permitted and ordered the electoral court to allow it.

“I don’t understand that about the constitution, but the man is doing a good job, he’s finishing with the gangs, and yes I support him,” said Estela Sánchez, a produce vendor in the San Salvador suburb of Santa Tecla.

Constitutional lawyers have said re-election violates at least four articles of the constitution, including one that limits the presidential term to five years and states that the person who serves as president will not continue in their functions for one day more.

Vice President Félix Ulloa, predictably, sees it differently. “Of course it isn’t unconstitutional,” Ulloa said. “One of the things that has concerned me my entire life has been to respect the rule of the democratic and constitutional state.”

However, some observers have voiced doubts for years about Bukele’s commitment to democratic institutions.

His popularity and sweeping electoral victories are unquestioned, but that power has been wielded to intimidate lawmakers — he took soldiers into the Legislative Assembly when opponents balked at voting on part of his security plan — to remove Supreme Court justices who had challenged some of his measures early in the COVID-19 pandemic and the attorney general.

Congresswoman Dina Argueta of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, the party Bukele began his political career in, said that the announcement came as no surprise because Bukele had been working toward it. “However, we must establish that our constitution does not allow re-election in any moment,” she said.

Juan Pappier, senior investigator in Human Rights Watch Americas Division, has been a frequent Bukele critic and the human rights organization one of those that Bukele regularly rails against.

“This constitutional breach was predictable,” he said via Twitter. “El Salvador for some time has been on the path to be a dictatorship and many, for ideological blindness, cowardice, geopolitical interests or obsession with immigration did not want to raise the voice in time or help to stop it.”

Within El Salvador, the crackdown that began in late March after gangs killed 62 people in one day, has maintained its popularity despite a rising number of documented human rights violations. Nearly 53,000 people have been arrested since it was put into place March 27 and then renewed monthly ever since.

Human and civil rights organizations have documented more than 3,000. Still, recent polling has shown support for the measures, including suspending some constitutional rights under a state of exception, to be above 90%. Bukele’s own popularity has remained above 80%.

Under President Joe Biden, the U.S. government has been more critical of Bukele’s administration, sanctioning some members of his inner circle and accusing officials of exchanging benefits with gang leaders in return for keeping homicides relatively low during the first half of his term. Bukele has repeatedly denied any such pact, something his government has prosecuted officials from previous administrations for doing.

Eduardo Escobar, a lawyer with the nongovernmental watchdog Citizen Action, said “it is prohibited in the constitution, he has not right to seek re-election, that’s the rule. If he does it, it is contrary to the constitution and takes us closer to Nicaragua. It’s that simple.”

Nicaragua is Central America’s most ominous example. President Daniel Ortega was elected to his fourth consecutive term last November after jailing all of his serious potential opponents. But a constitutional ban on re-election did not stop former Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández from seeking re-election either. A friendly court gave him the green light.

Still, Manuel Torres, a bank employee waiting for a bus Friday, was willing to give Bukele the benefit of the doubt.

“Some say it is not legal, we’ll have to see what happens,” Torres said. “There’s a lot of time before the elections, but I would vote for him.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Authorities and local residents save a migrant during a large-scale rescue operation on the island ...
Associated Press

Dramatic rescues as boats sink off Greece; at least 15 dead

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Residents of a Greek island pulled shipwrecked migrants to safety up steep cliffs in dramatic rescues after two boats sank in Greek waters, leaving at least 15 people dead and dozens still missing. The coast guard said 15 bodies had been recovered near the eastern island of Lesbos after a dinghy […]
1 day ago
FILE - Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss makes a speech at the Conservative Party conference at th...
Associated Press

With division at home, UK’s Truss seeks to thaw EU relations

LONDON (AP) — After an acrimonious divorce and years of bickering, Britain’s government looks like it wants to make up with the European Union. The tax-cutting economic plans of the country’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, has her feuding at home with financial markets, the opposition and chunks of her own Conservative Party. But abroad, […]
1 day ago
FILE - Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to right-wing opposition party membe...
Associated Press

Israel’s Netanyahu leaves hospital after overnight stay

JERUSALEM (AP) — Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was released from a Jerusalem hospital on Thursday, his party said, a day after he was admitted complaining of chest pains. Netanyahu, 72, was taken to the city’s Shaarei Tzedek hospital a day earlier after feeling unwell at synagogue services for the Jewish fasting day of […]
1 day ago
FILE - From left, Moscow-appointed head of Kherson Region Vladimir Saldo, Moscow-appointed head of ...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Russia’s military woes mount amid Ukraine attacks

Even as the Kremlin moved to absorb parts of Ukraine in a sharp escalation of the conflict, the Russian military suffered new defeats that highlighted its deep problems on the battlefield and opened rifts at the top of the Russian government. The setbacks have badly dented the image of a powerful Russian military and added […]
1 day ago
A commuter waits in the rain in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. Sydney notched up its we...
Associated Press

Sydney beats 1950 rainfall record with 3 wet months to spare

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s largest city, Sydney, has been soaked by its wettest year on record with almost three months of expected above-average rain to spare. The city of 5 million people beat its 1950 record of 2,194 millimeters (86.4 inches) at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday when 27.2 mm (1.07 in) of rain had fallen […]
1 day ago
Images are displayed of 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, left, with her mother Jasleen Kaur, her father Ja...
Associated Press

‘Our worst fears’: Kidnapped baby, parents, uncle found dead

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A baby girl, her parents and uncle were found dead in a central California orchard two days after they were kidnapped at gunpoint from their business, police said. “Our worst fears have been confirmed,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said at a Wednesday night news conference. Warnke did not release any […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
El Salvador president re-election bid draws strong reaction