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US election seen from El Salvador: Will the "demonization" of migrants end?

US election seen from El Salvador: Will the "demonization" of migrants end?

Sergio Arauz is a political reporter for the newspaper El Faro, in El Salvador. Our conversation has been translated from Spanish and edited for length and clarity.

Alex Kliment: What are a few areas in which the US election could affect El Salvador?

SA: I think the presidential election in the US could have an important influence on Salvadoran politics because of the close relationship that the American embassy has with the administration of [Salvadoran president] Nayib Bukele.


If Donald Trump loses, I think that Bukele would be losing an important source of political support. I believe there have already been statements of concern from the Democratic side in the United States about the weakening of democracy that has occurred under the Bukele government.

There have been a number of negative actions — such as what happened in February when president Bukele burst into the Congress with a hundred heavily armed soldiers and police with the clear intention of taking over Congress. And not a single member of the US administration has criticized him. In fact, the [American] ambassador has referred to him as a friend and they've taken photos eating lobster together.

AK: Would you expect any changes in US migration policy if Biden wins?

SA: All the [Salvadoran] governments of the past 30 years, since the end of the civil war, have suffered the same problem: the huge number of Salvadorans who flee the country because of the violence, the threats, the poverty, or because they want to seek asylum. We have more than 3 million Salvadorans in the United States and the desire to go there has never ceased. During the Obama administration, El Salvador received the largest number of deportations ever in a four-year period, a historical record, and the people kept going. But now, with Trump you have the building of walls and the demonization of Latinos and migrants — a kind of public politics of racism that calls migrants rapists and criminals. And I think Trump has succeeded in scaring people into thinking twice about going.

The only thing that would change, depending on who wins the election, would be the ways in which my compatriots are able to make that journey. I don't think there would be a fundamental change in how the US views Latinos. There would simply be a change that might lower the temperature in the way that the word "migrant" has been demonized or the implications of being "Latino."

AK: How is the US role in the world seen by Salvadorans?

SA: The United States in my view has always been like a godfather. But there are many reasons in our history to not call the US a particularly kind godfather. We have a history marked by political help from Americans who were practically war criminals. The massacre of Mozote, and so on.

But more recently, the United States has tremendous influence over our government and over what Salvadorans think of our government. Polls show that Salvadorans really care about the relationship between their government and the United States. So it's important. If you like, the US is like the big strong friend of the poor kid who gets bullied in school.

AK: What are the main things on the minds of most Salvadorans today?

SA: We are living a triple crisis. An institutional crisis, a pandemic crisis, and the crisis which we are suffering as result of the pandemic which is poverty. In El Salvador wherever you go you will see the white flags flown on the homes of people in need of basic food. This is something we haven't seen in a long, long time. And the impact of this crisis of poverty is something that we are only just beginning to see clearly.

This interview is part of the GZERO project Global voices on the US election, which you can find in full here.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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