The Salvador of El Salvador?

Here is a sentence you have read some version of many, many times in recent years:

The candidate surged to a once-unlikely victory over his establishment opponents after a campaign in which he skillfully deployed social media, railed against traditional political parties, and pledged to stamp out corruption.

On Sunday, Salvadoran businessman Nayib Bukele, a former mayor of his country's capital, became the latest political outsider to fit this description, winning the first round of El Salvador's presidential election outright with nearly 54 percent of the vote.



His victory was a sharp rebuke to the country's two main parties – the FMLN and ARENA. They grew out of warring factions of the country's brutal civil war and have run El Salvador for more than a quarter of a century since.

The youthful Mr. Bukele, who sports a leather jacket rather than suits and ties, and who campaigned under the bold slogan "there's enough money if nobody steals," will now take control over one of the most violent countries on earth.

Nearly 70,000 Salvadorans belong to gangs, and though the murder rate has fallen in recent years, it still trails only Venezuela as the most violent country in the world's most violent region.

Bukele has pledged to stamp out graft, help the poor, and continue the crackdown on crime. If he is able to do so, it would represent a remarkable turnaround for a deeply scarred country. What's more, instability in El Salvador has affected its neighbors, contributing to northward migration flows that are the subject of such bitter political rancor in the United States.

But Mr. Bukele also has a problem that is all too common for many of today's political upstarts – his party, GANA, controls just 11 seats out of 84 in congress, meaning that in order to make good on his promises, he'll have to work with precisely the parties he railed against on the campaign trail.

Being an outsider is an increasingly good way to win elections. But as elsewhere, it remains to be seen whether Bukele can actually deliver on the outsized promises that carried him to victory.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

More Show less

The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

More Show less

Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.

3: The US has recruited Australia to join its nascent mission of protecting ships in the critical Strait of Hormuz. Along with Britain and Bahrain, Australia is now the third country to join the US-led maritime mission, as high seas brinksmanship with the Iranians continues.

More Show less