"Strong President" Najib Bukela begins a second term in El Salvador "Strong President" Najib Bukela begins a second term in El Salvador

"Strong President" Najib Bukela begins a second term in El Salvador

"Strong President" Najib Bukela begins a second term in El Salvador
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El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele, more popular and influential than ever, will be sworn in for a second term on Saturday.

The 42-year-old, who was re-elected in February with more than 85 percent of the votes, will hold the presidential position for another five years with almost complete control over Parliament and other state institutions.

The ceremony is scheduled to be attended by prominent figures, including Spanish King Felipe VI and Argentine President Javier Milley.

Donald Trump Jr., the son of the former US president, also arrived in El Salvador on Friday to attend Bukele's inauguration.

Very high approval rate

Bukele , who describes himself as "the most wonderful dictator", enjoys a very high approval rating thanks to his tough crackdown on criminal gangs, which has restored some kind of normalcy to a society exhausted by violence.

That campaign sparked criticism from human rights groups, but made Bukela the most popular leader in Latin American countries, according to a regional poll.

This popularity was translated into an almost overwhelming victory for the New Ideas Party, led by Bukela, in the legislative elections, winning 54 seats out of 60.

However, experts warn that he may lose that popularity, as economic concerns exceed safety concerns in public discourse, with a large government debt and a rapid rise in consumer prices in a country where more than a quarter of the population suffers from poverty.

Bukela, who uses social media well, downplays criticism of his authoritarian tendencies.

Public policy expert Carlos Carcass told Agence France-Presse that Bukele showed that the law is not important and that he can do what he wants and however he wants, considering Bukele a "strong" president.

Eliminate gangs

Bukele, who prefers to wear jeans and a baseball cap, came to power in 2019 after a campaign in which he promised to eliminate gangs responsible for 120,000 killings over three decades.

He fulfilled his promises to arrest more than 80,000 alleged gang members under a state of emergency that has been in effect since March 2022, allowing him to arrest people without arrest warrants.

He built the largest prison in Latin America to accommodate inmates, and he boasted that the result was to transform “the murder capital of the world, the most dangerous country in the world, into the safest country in the Western Hemisphere.”

Bukela stresses that radical measures are necessary to heal the country from the "cancer" of gangs.

Wider powers and prosperity

The president will have broader powers in his second term after the Legislative Council approved a reform that will make it easier for him to move forward with constitutional amendments.

Many hope he will use this to implement his re-election campaign promises of a "period of prosperity" in a country where poverty has reached more than 27 percent and food price inflation has outpaced salary increases.

Another problem arises for Bukele. During his rule, El Salvador's public debt rose to more than $30 billion, or 84 percent of GDP.

Growth is expected to decline to three percent this year compared to the rate recorded in 2023, which reached 3.5 percent and exceeded expectations, for reasons the most important of which, according to Boukaila, is a decrease in violent crimes.

In an effort to revitalize El Salvador's economy, which depends on the dollar and money transfers, in 2021, Bukele made Bitcoin a legal currency, a first for a country in the world .

He invested an undisclosed amount of taxpayer money in the cryptocurrency despite warnings from global institutions about the risks of volatility.

Since then, the value of Bitcoin fell to $16,000 and then rose in March to a record level of $73,797.

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