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El Salvador's Bukele: The posterboy for popular authoritarianism
El Salvador's Bukele: The posterboy for popular authoritarianism | GZERO World

El Salvador's Bukele: The posterboy for popular authoritarianism

Here's one country where democracy is on the backslide, and the increasingly authoritarian leader could not be more popular. El Salvador's Nayib Bukele won the presidency at 37, as Latin America's youngest elected head of state, as an outspoken candidate on social media with an affinity for cryptocurrency.

In a wide-ranging interview on the state of global democracy in 2024, Stanford's Francis Fukuyama explains Bukele's crime-fighting appeal: "El Salvador legitimately elected Nayib Bukele as president, but he embarked on this massive effort to simply round up people that he thought were gang members and put them in prison, no trial, no, judicial process to find out whether they're actually guilty or not. And as a result, around 10% of the young men in the country are now sitting in prison. Uh, and it's been quite successful in reducing the level of gang violence in El Salvador by like 90%."

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El Salvador's president wins big. What does this mean for the country and its neighbors?

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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