El Salvador’s New President: Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez

Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez is the 43rd President of El Salvador and has recently been re-elected despite discussion of his re-election being unconstitutional. Prior to his time as President of El Salvador, Bukele served as Mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlan from 2012 to 2015 and then as Mayor of the capital of El Salvador. Nayib was expelled from his political party in 2017 and eventually formed his own political party: New Ideas. He ran for President in 2019, and won with a 53% vote. Bukele has made a name for himself at the international stage after implementing a plan to get rid of gangs and crime in El Salvador.

Bukele’s plan was implemented into phases and increasingly built up. Among a few of his phases was declaring prisons in a state of emergency after spikes in murder rates, territorial gain from gang territories, ‘mano dura’ (strong hand) policies, and crackdown of corruption within the government and police enforcement. Bukele’s actions drew notoriety from international human rights organizations after alarming reports of lack of due process of prisoners and treatment. Bukele targeted individuals boasting and fitting the profile of gang members; widespread gang tattoos over their bodies, namely around the face, head, chest, and back areas. Bukele in response said in 2022, “The focus is always on the rights of criminals, and for the vast majority of honest people? Nobody cares about their rights. In this country we spent thirty years being ridiculed, killed, raped, extorted, threatened, and living in fear, and no one said anything. But suddenly we grab them [criminals], and you have to consider the human rights of rapists. Yes, they have human rights, but the human rights of honorable people are most important.” 

Bukele’s crackdown on gang activity and crime decreased to 60% during his presidency in 2022, and further decreased in 2023 to 70%, the lowest homicide rate in any Latin American country. Bukele’s actions have brought a renewed sense of safety, stability, and security to many Salvadorans which has garnered him an impressive 90% approval rate among Salvadoran citizens. 

In late December 2023, Bukele announced he would be running for the 2024 Salvadoran General Election. Despite many Salvadoran citizens eager to have him as president once again, experts argued it was unconstitutional. Under the constitution in El Salvador re-election is prohibited under Article 154, in which it is stated that a President can only serve for five years. However, Bukele used a loophole under Article 155 that allowed him to step down from his presidency for the speaker of the assembly to take over as President in order for his term to not count completely. On February 4th, 2024, Nayib Bukele won the presidential election in a landslide vote.

Written by Events Intern, Diana Gonzalez