El Salvador’s president plans to run for reelection in light of the gang wars

When Francisco Villegas alighted from his airplane into El Salvador, there was no mistaking his political colors. Clad with a banner featuring the likeness of President Nayib Bukele, he wore pale blue, the hue of Nuevas Ideas, the ruling party. “We’re going to win!” he said, drawing acclaim and cheers from the small group of people outside the arrivals room who were waiting for their loved ones. Francisco, like hundreds of other Salvadorans residing overseas, is a devoted follower of El Salvador’s divisive president to the point where he made the trip back from Pennsylvania to cast his ballot.

 

“Quite honestly, in the past, I didn’t care who won,” he states. “However, after observing the shifts over the past five years, I felt compelled to come to offer my support.” The change has been a complete 180. I now feel secure here.” Mr. Bukele’s campaign spots in the lead-up to Sunday’s election have featured grieving relatives of victims of the 18th Street gang and MS-13, the nation’s two largest gangs. In heartfelt testimonies, they express gratitude to the president for his brutal military-led campaign that has transformed El Salvador from one of the world’s most dangerous countries to one of the safest in Latin America. The slogan says, “Never again.”

 

It’s a powerful message in a nation that has endured as much suffering as El Salvador, and Mr. Bukele is sure to be re-elected with a wide margin since it implies that voting for the president’s opponents will allow the gangs to re-establish a foothold. According to the most recent surveys, his primary opponents will share a meager 12% of the vote. One of their opponents, the left-wing FMLN party, was the one that constructor Armando Grande used to fervently support. Because of the changes he has seen in the neighborhoods where he works, he intends to vote for President Bukele this time. “He accomplished in five years what we believed would take decades. “I give his first term only a ten out of ten,” he remarks.

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