El Salvador: Nayib Bukele’s Second Term Begins

Re-elected in February 2024, the president explained that a “cure” is needed for the economy

After the “gang cancer,” El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, re-elected in February 2024 and taking office on June 1, now seeks to cure another “disease,” the economic one that afflicts the small Central American country of 6.3 million inhabitants, sandwiched between Guatemala, Honduras, and the Pacific Ocean.

In the first five years of his mandate, Bukele, a 42-year-old businessman of Palestinian origin, has focused on fighting organized crime, waging a real war on the city’s criminal gangs. And it has yielded results, given that the murder rate has dropped significantly. However, there is no shortage of criticism from associations defending human rights, as well as from the United Nations. In particular, the continued use of the “state of emergency” was challenged: “We recognize the difficult challenge El Salvador faces in fighting crime. However, weakening the rule of law and the integrity of the legal system by abolishing the right to a fair trial is not the answer,” explained Marta Hurtado, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in summer 2023.

In any case, Bukele dominated the February 2024 election with more than 80% of the vote, although the court ruled to make it possible for him to run again, which is prohibited by the country’s constitution.

“Salvadoran society is still hurting, but it no longer has cancer. Now that we have solved the most pressing issue, security, we will focus on the important issues, starting with the economy. And we may also have to take bitter medicine as part of this new cure to heal the economy,” Bukele explained in a speech after his inauguration.

El Salvador’s economy is stagnant, foreign investment is scarce, a quarter of the population lives in poverty, and unemployment is rising. In his previous mandate, Bukele sought, albeit with poor results, to turn the country into a sort of “Bitcoin City.” Under his leadership, the debt exceeded $30 billion, or 84% of GDP, Reuters reported.

The ceremony was attended by Argentine President Javier Milei and Donald Trump Jr., the son of former US President.