Editor’s Note: On June 9, El Salvador voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would make bitcoin legal tender in the country, making it the first country in the world to give bitcoin legal tender status.
This was made possible by Salvadoran President Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez.
Middle Eastern descent, businessman family, socialite …… The 80-year-old president has quite a few labels on him.
He left school for business at 18 and abandoned business for politics at 30; he was elected mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlán in 2012; and was elected president of El Salvador in 2019.
Known for his toughness and iron fist, Buclay ordered the borders closed and the army deployed to arrest violators of the quarantine ban during the New Crown epidemic. This approach ensured low infection rates, but it also sparked controversy over unconstitutionality. Buclay’s iron fist was not only in the fight against the epidemic; he sent the army to occupy Congress and advocated the use of lethal weapons against gangs, raising concerns inside and outside El Salvador.
Under his rule, however, El Salvador’s murder rate plummeted. in 2015 El Salvador had the worst homicide rate on the continent, with 103 murders per 100,000 people – 21 times the rate in the United States that year. By 2018, that rate drops to just 51 murders per 100,000 people, and to less than 20 per 100,000 by 2020.
In addition, as a young president, Buclay makes good use of social media, with 2.62 million Twitter followers, knowing that El Salvador’s population is only about 7 million. He is known to be a tweeter and a fan of “Twitter rule”, as he is often surprising and reckless on social media.
Perhaps the president’s “bitcoin tag” will be more of a concern afterwards, as he pushes for bitcoin to become legal tender in El Salvador. Until then, let’s take a look at the Buclay story.
This article originally appeared in Weekend Illustrated, June 1, 2020, under the headline “The New Force in Central American Politics: Buclay, the Powerful Politics of a Millennial President” and was written by Zhu Yi.
Since March this year, the president of the Central American country of El Salvador has been in the media spotlight for his iron-fisted fight against the epidemic. The businessman-born, social media-skilled millennial president, NAYIB BUKELE, won the election last year. The economic downturn, high murder rates and corruption have left Salvadorans weary of the two traditional political parties. Bukile became the first president since the end of El Salvador’s civil war in 1992 to not belong to either of the two major parties. Buclay took tough measures to deal with the new crown epidemic, closing the border and deploying the military to arrest violators of the quarantine ban. This approach ensured low infection rates, but it also sparked controversy over unconstitutionality. Buclay’s iron fist was not only in the fight against the epidemic, but he sent the army to occupy Congress and advocated the use of lethal weapons against gangs, raising concerns inside and outside El Salvador. The political “outsider” persona made voters expect him to bring change to a corrupt political system, and while the presidential election heralded change, his strongman tactics did the opposite.
Last September, Bouclay took a selfie before his first UN General Assembly speech and uploaded the photo to Twitter.
Supporters celebrate the victory of their candidate Bukele in the presidential election in El Salvador on Feb. 3, 2019.
Few national leaders have been so polarized in their handling of the new crown outbreak as Nayib Bukele. In March, before there were any cases of neo-crown in El Salvador, Bukele took tough measures, closing his country’s borders, enforcing quarantines and deploying the military to arrest violators of the ban. He said El Salvador had to act before the outbreak began. Some Salvadorans praise him for taking decisive action that has saved the small Central American country from the worst effects of the coronavirus. But others say he is becoming a strongman who violates his own country’s constitution and tries to solve all problems by force.
The controversy over Buclay has not stopped since he was elected president last February. Salvadorans were gambling when they elected Boucle as president: He was only 37 years old at the time, had no extensive political experience, and his campaign was conducted mostly through social media, but he provided few concrete details about how he would govern. Nonetheless, Salvadoran voters put him in the presidency, hoping that a new force would bring change to improve a country long plagued by corruption, poverty and the world’s highest murder rate.
In Salvadoran politics, Boucle is indeed a new and different player. Last September, he spoke for the first time at the United Nations General Assembly, and before he began Buclay told his audience, “Hold on, please, let me take a selfie first.” Then he nonchalantly pulled out his phone, smiled and took a picture with the UN logo behind him, and tweeted it. He often reveals such “millennial” traits. He likes to wear a leather jacket, jeans and a baseball cap, even in formal situations. His wife, Gabriela Rodriguez, a psychologist and ballerina, accompanies him to most political events. Last January, Bouclay tweeted an ultrasound photo announcing that he would soon become a father.
Buclay comes from a business family and started his first company at the age of 18, a company that sells and distributes Yamaha products in El Salvador. in 2012, Buclay began his political career by being elected mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlán. during his tenure as mayor, Buclay has demonstrated the ability to engage the public through social media by social media campaigns to bring attention to the coffee town. Three years later, Buclair was elected mayor of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. Amparo Marroquin, a professor of communication and culture at Central American University (CAU), said, “He has been careful to cultivate his presence on social media since the beginning of his political career.” Buclay rarely attends campaign speeches in the country, does not participate in candidate debates and does not give media interviews that might challenge him, which has led critics to believe he lacks tolerance. During his tenure as mayor of San Salvador, he helped rebuild the historic center, sponsored a children’s orchestra and built a library, all of which were popular with voters. “But he avoided taking on projects that could have political costs, such as controlling the city’s congested traffic or introducing recycling programs.” That’s how Alvaro Artiga, a political science professor at Universidad Centroamericana, describes Bouclay’s political savvy.
Bouclay visits “The Martha MacCallum Story” at the Fox News Channel studios in New York on Sept. 26, 2019.
Bouclé and his wife, Gabriela Rodriguez, a psychologist and ballet dancer, the two often attend events together.
A fish out of water
He ran for office in 2012 and 2015 under the banner of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front party (FMLN), a left-wing party. In last year’s presidential election, however, he joined a small right-wing party, the Grand Alliance for National Unity (Gana). This is because he was expelled from the party in 2017 for being an outspoken critic of the Liberation Front on several occasions. In the light of the results, leaving the FSLN may be the only way to win the election. “In terms of results, the departure from the FSLN was probably the most crucial factor in Buclay’s election victory.
In 1992, El Salvador ended a 12-year civil war between the military government and the FSLN. After that, El Salvador fell into a two-party system. “Two parties, the Frente Libertadores and the conservative Republican Nationalist Alliance (ARENA), controlled most of the power in Salvadoran politics. However, the economic downturn, high murder rate, and political corruption have made Salvadorans weary of both parties. In El Salvador, both traditional political parties are easy targets. In this situation, Buclair made corruption the centerpiece of his campaign, and was a fierce critic of successive presidents. His campaign slogans include “There is enough money if no one steals it” and “Return the money that was stolen. He took aim at the funding problems that arose during the administrations of former presidents Francisco Flores and Antonio Saca. In the end, Buclay, from a small political party, was successfully elected with 54 percent of the vote in the general election.
The dramatic victory of Buclay, 37, who ran as an outsider, underscores the deep shame that has engulfed El Salvador’s traditional parties. Voters seemed willing to gamble on a relatively new party to fight the country’s poverty and violence. Although Buclay was attacked from both the left and the right during the campaign, it did not seem to have much effect on his popularity, and Buclay used his expertise in social media to portray himself as a reformer willing to challenge the rigid political system. Roberto Canas, a political scientist at Universidad Centroamericana, believes the victory “wasn’t because of his plans or his speeches. It’s because the voters are tired, angry, tired of corruption, tired of going back on their word”. Another political strongman?
“Today, we have turned the page on the post-war era.” Boukry, wearing blue jeans and his trademark leather jacket, said after his election. His popularity reached a staggering 91 percent shortly after his inauguration, and he has 2 million followers on Twitter. The political “outsider” persona raised expectations among Salvadoran voters, who hoped that Bouclé could bring change to a corrupt political system. However, that expectation began to falter not long into 2020. Bouclé’s actions in recent months have worried many Salvadorans – lawyers, business leaders, human rights advocates, journalists and others. They suspect that Buclay is moving toward an authoritarian approach to leadership that the country struggled to overthrow in its civil war. Sonja Wolf, an expert on El Salvador at the Mexican Institute of Economic Studies, said Buclay won the election because he portrayed himself as an outsider coming in to clean up the mess left by successive governments. But his popularity makes him a bit arrogant.”
In February, Bucclei sent armed forces into Congress to intimidate lawmakers into passing a bill.
Bouclair has taken tough measures in response to the new crown outbreak, closing its borders, ordering the military to patrol the streets and arresting violators of the quarantine ban.
In March of this year, when the New Crown virus spread globally, unlike other Central American countries, Buclay implemented strong government intervention and began sealing the borders before there were even confirmed cases in his country. CNN commented that the spread of the epidemic provided Buclay with another opportunity to act boldly or, as his critics say, use it to seize more power for himself. After closing the border, Buclay imposed strict quarantine measures that also provided food and money to impoverished Salvadorans. He ordered the military to arrest people for violating the new measures and sent thousands to government “quarantine centers. The Supreme Court ruled that the arrests were unconstitutional and ordered him to stop, but Buclay ignored them and soldiers continued to patrol the streets. “Five men will not decide the death of hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans.” Buclay tweeted. More than 90 percent of people in polls approve of his handling of the crisis, and the draconian measures appear to have been effective in reducing infection rates. As of May 21, there were 1,571 confirmed cases of the new crown in a population of 6.4 million Salvadorans, including 31 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracking report.
Bouclay has also stirred up a lot of controversy with his series of actions in the fight against criminal gangs. He first advocated the use of deadly force in operations against criminal gangs and later unveiled a series of measures aimed at punishing jailed gang members and released photos depicting the harsh treatment they received in prison. The images show hundreds of shaved, topless inmates huddled on the floor as guards stand over them with guns raised. “It’s a shame to have everyone half-naked, touching each other in public view,” said José Miguel Cruz, an expert on organized crime in El Salvador at Florida International University.
Among Buclay’s strongman tactics, the most controversial was the occupation of Congress in February of this year. In February, Bouclay led armed forces into Congress to intimidate lawmakers into passing a bill. Earlier, Buclay had tried to call a special session to get lawmakers to approve a $109 million loan for security equipment, including police cars, uniforms, surveillance equipment and a helicopter. But representatives called for more time to study the issue. Buclay brought the military directly into Congress to pressure lawmakers. El Salvador’s Supreme Court later ordered Buclay to stop using the military, arguing that the practice “violates constitutional purposes and endangers the republican, democratic and representative form of government. Many in El Salvador view such actions as blatant intimidation and a return to a time when the country was ruled by political violence. “In his career, he is no longer the ‘cool’ president of the international community.” said Oscar Martinez, editor of the Latin American digital newspaper El Faro. In the fiery editorial, Martinez said, “With the military takeover of Congress, the last doubts about his (Boucle’s) character were removed: he is arrogant, populist, anti-democratic and dictatorial. He has turned a dark page in the history of our young democracy with the most despicable tricks.”
Leather jacket, jeans, baseball cap, fond of selfies and adept at social media – until this year, Bouclay was a young, energetic image of a change agent. in 2017, Time enthusiastically praised Bouclay as mayor of San Salvador for “fighting crime with creativity ” and “stopping violence with social work.” When he was elected president, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador expressed optimism about Buclay’s “pragmatic way of looking at things.” A year later, however, he projects a strongman image in stark contrast to that of the time. The persona of the political “outsider” made voters expect him, and the presidential election heralded change, but unfortunately his strongman strategy was the opposite.
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