1707166965 El Salvador the day after Bukele39s party

El Salvador the day after Bukele's party

Yoseline Pineda had used up all the newspapers within a few hours. The 18-year-old saleswoman, who has been distributing press articles in the historic center of San Salvador for three years, believes that this Monday was her fastest sale; Nobody wants to be left without their copy. “Bukele re-elected!”, “Bukele president!” shout the front pages with the photo of the president and his wife Gabriela Rodríguez in the presidential palace in the capital. Nayib Bukele left after ten in the evening on Sunday to announce himself as the winner of the elections without waiting for the official results. The president said he received 85% of the vote and 58 of the 60 representatives in the assembly.

There are still traces of the party on Gerardo Barrios Square. A floor painted with white and blue confetti in the color of Bukele's “Nuevas Ideas” party. The balcony where the president announced that “it will be the first time there will be a single party in a fully democratic system” because “the opposition has been pulverized” is now bricked up. The president does not live there, but in a private residence called Los Sueños guarded by the army.

While the workers are dismantling the stage, René Chavarría takes a photo with the facade of the National Palace. He didn't have time to come to celebrate Sunday night, but “his heart was here,” so he came first thing in the morning. “The president is setting an example for the world,” he says. After living in the United States for 44 years, he is thinking about returning there for the first time: “I am rediscovering my country and doing tourism, thanks to the president's clever way of dealing with the situation.”

Workers remove scenery from election ceremonies at El Salvador's National Palace.Workers remove the backdrop of the election celebrations at El Salvador's National Palace. Gladys Serrano

In March 2022, Bukele introduced an emergency regime under which he dismantled the gangs and arrested 76,000 people. Human rights organizations have filed 6,000 appeals to the Constitutional Court for the release of innocent people. The country has now changed its face: the cities have been protected by security forces and the number of murders has fallen sharply. That was Bukele's message for his re-election, which is prohibited by El Salvador's constitution: “We have evolved from the murder capital to the safest country in the Western Hemisphere.”

Sonia was left with almost no sleep to be able to follow the president's speech. The woman wakes up at 3 a.m. to get to her job as a cleaning lady at a hotel in the capital, about 20 kilometers from her home. “But the long nights were worth it,” she says excitedly, smiling and showing her voice-stained finger. In the winding streets of his neighborhood, there were frequent gunfights and gangs' abandonment of corpses. She didn't sleep every time her children left the house to go to school. Now “everything is quiet,” he says.

Plaza Libertad in the center of San Salvador is full. Dozens of people spend the morning on the stone benches. Many are unemployed, they wait in the park because sometimes work shows up there: someone shows up who needs their house cleaned, a garden repaired, or their sink repaired. Some carry their work tools and backpacks with them when the opportunity arises. Unlike other areas, there is no party in the park. “Yesterday I went to the polls and I couldn’t find anyone to vote for,” says Pablo Castro, 63, summing up the corruption of the old majority parties ARENA on the right and FMLN on the left. and led the country into despair. “A champion emerged who told the gang members that that was all, and that was fine, we needed him, but the power in one hand was intoxicating, exalting. A dictatorship of a new elite is being established here. Meanwhile, the Salvadoran reality is in the parks,” says this 63-year-old sociologist with a sad look, who has been without a formal job for a decade and is waiting to see if something will appear today, even if it is temporary.

Unemployed people wait in Plaza Libertad for a job opportunity in the center of San Salvador.Unemployed people wait in Plaza Libertad for a job opportunity in the center of San Salvador. Gladys Serrano

In Bukele's government, extreme poverty has almost doubled from 4.5% to 8.5%, according to the El Salvador Multipurpose Household Survey. Food inflation has reached up to 16%, making the economy the first concern of Salvadorans in all polls conducted during the political campaign. Unemployment, high costs of living and poverty followed. Raúl Domínguez, 32, voted for Bukele because he did a good job but believes his re-election is unconstitutional. He also believes that now, without gangs, the president will have to worry about maintaining the network of schools and hospitals “that are abandoned and without investment.” Bukele won and celebrated, but after the party, work returns.

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