The case of the enigmatic Mr. Bukele

Carlos Alberto Montaner

By: Carlos Alberto Montaner - 13/03/2023

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His name is Nayib Bukele—a Palestinian name— and he has done something before turning 41 that for his many supporters is a success, but for his adversaries it is the confirmation of their worst nightmares. He inaugurated a jail that will house 40,000 imprisoned gang members. They call it CECOT, the acronym in Spanish for “Terrorist Confinement Center.” It doesn’t matter that they’re not exactly terrorists. We are in a battle for controlling the words. For the purposes of the rule of law, they cause the same damage as terrorism. Terrorism is one of the negative words, unequivocally negative. In El Salvador there are no investments and, therefore, there are no jobs. They collect “vaccines” (extortions) under the threat of killing their “clients” after torturing them. Ergo, they are terrorists.

Visitors will not be allowed in the new prison. It’s a prisoner warehouse. No phone calls. No mobile phones. The prison even has an electronic device that prevents phone calls to everyone outside the facility. Not even mats that can be used to hide phones or weapons. They have to sleep on concrete. Zero conjugal visits. Nor is there the possibility of redemption or change. There are only two toilets and one shower per one hundred of the potential inmates. Jail is escape-proof. Around the prison there is an electrified barbed wire net with a charge of 15,000 volts. One false step is enough to sense the heat and the smell of the burned corpse.

The White House has said, without much emphasis, that civil rights cannot be skipped. They know that Bukele came to power with the majority of the votes and that today he is very popular in El Salvador and in the Central American region, precisely because of his strong hand against the gangs. They know that something has to be done in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to stop social violence in the entire northern triangle, but in Washington they have no idea of what is best for those countries. Except send them the criminals. They have verified that the worst of these gang members have been formed in Los Angeles or Texas, from where they were deported, after learning how to disarm a terrifying Glock-18 pistol with a large capacity magazine or how to restore a modified AR-15 to the homicidal grace of the burst.

I imagine that Mr. Bukele knows that the most ruthless of the gang members has rights, and this includes certain mandatory benefits in terms of number of people per bathrooms, and access to conjugal visits in case the inmates are married. Precisely, the State cannot engage in revenge or torture, and must treat criminals with dry respect. Exactly the behavior that they didn’t show when committing their crimes.

Jacobo Alcutén affirms that Nayib Bukele’s leitmotiv is “total war against gang members.” In a splendid note written in March 2023, he says, verbatim, “With fire and sword, the young president has managed to drastically reduce violence in a country dominated by gangs and his figure has been tinged with almost messianic overtones among Salvadorans.” And he adds, “His recipe is clear—violence is no longer carried out by gang members, it is carried out by the State.” That’s obvious. And behind the State, led by Bukele, lies 66% of the electorate. This was seen in the February 2021 elections, when he cleanly seized parliament from his opponents.

In other words, Bukele has all the powers of the State. The three classic powers—the executive, the legislative and the judicial. And a fourth power should be added—"Internet,” where Bukele is a master. The ability to inform public opinion (or not inform), or misinform distortedly, which is usually even more serious due to the damage caused by “conspiracy theories,” especially when they are mixed with sexual perversions. For example, the crazy news that there was a relationship between the rape of orphans and a certain political party.

I will not be the one who opposes the party of “the new ideas,” as Bukele calls his political formation. I love new ideas, unless they try to retire old ones, like there is a link between studies and financial success. But I have reflected on the art of governing properly and I believe that Don Nayib deserves the support that the Salvadoran people have given him, as long as:

First. Remember that your country is small and weak. But it has the approximate size of Israel (about 20 thousand square kilometers and eight million inhabitants.) Nevertheless, Israel has become rich, and El Salvador has become poor. That must be the model. Check with the Prime Minister of Israel. Don’t be afraid of your Palestinian background. Those are incentives.

Second. There is no silver bullet to kill underdevelopment. Not even the bitcoin. (That was a bad idea.) The key is to work hard, save and invest. More than a million Salvadorans live in the US. They must be turned into a political booty so that they reach their specific weight within the American structure.

Third. Create a true political party and not some people to help you govern. Organize primary elections. You are the master there. But refute those who think you are a cool dictator. There is no good dictator. Give Salvadorans a chance to govern themselves when you’re not around. If in 40 years you, or your party, or any of the current parties in your country manage to develop El Salvador, then you will have succeeded. [©FIRMAS PRESS]

*@CarlosAMontaner. CAM’s latest book is Sin ir más lejos (Memories.) Published by Debate, a label of Penguin-Random House, the book is available through Amazon Books.

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