El Salvador, a small Central American republic on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, held its presidential elections in early February. The elections resulted with the appointment of Nayib Bukele, the previous major of the country’s capital San Salvador, as their new president. A descendant of Palestinian immigrants, Bukele set out his campaign with an agenda based on fighting corruption and leftist-leaning policies. Under the small party GANA, he was able to break a system of political hegemony where the country’s two largest parties, right-wing ARENA and left-wing FMLN, had dominated politics for almost 30 years. He was able to incorporate people’s frustration over this system in his campaign, promising a change that allowed him to win 53% of the votes.
Despite breaking the traditional political two-party system. However, I tend to be weary of Latin American candidates whose political platform are solely centered around political change. In recent Latin American history, we have had many controversial figures who gained political power with this promise of anti-corruption and change. One of the most recent and notorious of these controversial figures is Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing candidate whose racist, misogynistic, and homophobic statements have become notorious for their controversial nature, leading to an attempt on his life. Infamous blatant disregard for human rights and the environment, Bolsonaro used the unease and frustration the Brazilian people had following the impeachment of their president to his advantage.
Another example is Venezuela’s Chavez, who was able to win the 1998 elections by using the similar strategy of providing an alternative to the traditional two-party system, much like Bukele. Although not as explicitly outspoken as Bolsonaro, Chavez, just like his political party and his hand-picked successor, held many controversial views that were evident in their ineffective policies, despite claiming to be left-wing. Both of these political leaders have authoritarian tendencies, controversial views on human rights, and questionable political actions that infringe on personal liberty. Therefore, one cannot help but scrutinize this new president.
I cannot help but feel sympathy for the Salvadorian people. They yearn for a break from this system, a feeling many Lebanese youth can relate to. Just like the Salvadorians, we want a change of the political system that has been ruling our country for age. We are frustrated and tired of the rampant corruption and ineffective policies that have lowered our standards of living, while the political elite remain unaffected.