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El Salvador under the management of Bukele: controversies and criticism of his policies

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Organized crime groups have a devastating social and environmental impact. In El Salvador, the most vulnerable communities have been the most affected by the violence of these organizations.

During the last decades, organized crime groups have had a completely negative impact in El Salvador, both socially and environmentally. These groups, which are also known as maras o gangs, have caused the rate of violence, extortion and territorial control to increase exponentially in a large part of the country.

These types of gangs have had a really negative impact in Salvadoran society, since they have caused thousands of deaths a month and have generated an important atmosphere of fear and insecurity in a large part of the country. In addition, the gangs have imposed several extortions on businesses of people at risk of exclusion, generating a climate of mistrust and impunity in the authorities in charge of protecting the population.

The territorial control that these gangs have imposed in some areas has allowed illegal activities, such as felling trees, illegal hunting and fishing, or mining, to increase significantly exponential, causing serious environmental damage and affecting food security, the economy and the health of local communities.

Since Nayib Bukele assumed the country's presidency in 2019, the homicide and violent crime rate has dropped thanks to the implementation of the Plan Control Territorial; a seven-phase plan whose strategy is to protect Salvadorans and eradicate gang groups increasing the police and military presence in the areas of greatest violence and crime. Before the implementation of this plan, between 20 and 30 homicides were registered daily, now only one or two.

Also, he has promoted policies to encourage economic development and investment in the country, including tax incentives and the creation of a public-private investment fund, and has launched a series of initiatives to improve education in El Salvador, including the creation of an online platform for distance learning and the construction of new schools throughout the country, in addition to improving health infrastructure and strengthening international relations.

Even so, critics have pointed out that there is a significant lack of transparency in the methods that the Bukele government uses to reduce this violence, accusing him of violating human rights and ending violence with more violence. There are many who say that the policies implemented by the president are not the most correct, calling him authoritarian and polarizing, in addition to being criticized for using social networks to repeatedly attack his opponents.

And it is that as much as the irregular policies of the president have seemed to work, the environment has been left stranded once again. Attempts have been made to implement some measures to improve the management of natural resources, but the Territorial Control Plan has not addressed it effectively. Experts point out that there has been a lack of communication with civil society, showing little interest in caring for nature, which was seen -and continues to be- affected by organized crime groups.

It could be said that the Nayib Bukele's management as president of El Salvador has been a combination of successes and controversies. On the one hand, it has implemented policies to improve security, economic development, education and health in the country. It has also strengthened El Salvador's international relations with other countries, especially the United States.

However, his authoritarian leadership style and lack of respect for institutional boundaries and democracy have been a matter of concern to many citizens and international observers. Bukele has used his social networks to attack political opponents and critical media, and has tried to control the judiciary and other independent institutions.

Besides, some of his policies, such as the use of military force in citizen security tasks and the violation of human rights in the COVID-19 pandemic, have been questioned for their effectiveness and their impact on civil liberties and human rights in the country.

That's why Bukele's management in El Salvador is a controversial issue that will continue to be the subject of debate between those who applaud his achievements and those who question his authoritarian approach and lack of respect for institutional limits and democracy, since not everything should be fair Politics.

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