Tags: el salvador | bukele | populism | trump | bolsonaro | runde

Is New Salvadoran President Another 'Tropical Trump' or Just an Outsider?

Is New Salvadoran President Another 'Tropical Trump' or Just an Outsider?
Nayib Bukele (AFP/Getty Images)

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Tuesday, 12 February 2019 06:35 AM Current | Bio | Archive

One week after Nayib Bukele became president of El Salvador in a landslide and defeated candidates of both major parties, American observers are exploring just who the former mayor of San Salvador is and whether he represents a new wave of populism in Latin America.

The election of Bukele, 37, was effectively a rejection of the two parties that have dominated politics in El Salvador since it threw off military rule in the 1980’s:  the ruling FMLN (hard-leftists) and the ARENA (pro-business conservatives).

Like Donald Trump, Bukele is a successful businessman who has belonged to different parties over the years.  Once a member of FMLN, he unsuccessfully tried to qualify his new Nuevas Ideas party for the ballot. 

Failing that, he ran as the candidate of the small Gana Party and rolled up a whopping 53 percent of the vote against the two established parties. As much as an outsider as Trump was, he nonetheless ran on a platform that spelled out specific stands on issues such as trade, illegal immigration, and life.  The same is true of Jair Bolsonaro, elected president of Brazil on a hardline platform of capitalism and law and order.

As for Bukele, the Financial Times summarized his platform as one of “I’m not them.”  Eschewing debates and focusing on social media, he “states out loud what many have been feeling about El Salvador’s politicians and political parties,” according to the FT.

“Bukele’s voter voted for a rejection of the two-party system,” Daniel Runde, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Newsmax, “He has made some early positive signs such as calling [Venezuelan strongman Nicolas] Maduro a ‘dictator.’”

Runde urged the Trump administration to “cautiously but quickly seek a new partnership in El Salvador after ten years of leftist mis-government.”

Dr. James Lucier, former director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under the late Sen. Jesse Helms, R.-N.C., disagrees.

“My impression is that the country is in a social collapse, ruled by gangsters and petty gangs,” Lucier told us, “Ordinary life is dangerous and violent. Both parties are exhausted and morally bankrupt. Bukele is presented as a savior. But he comes from a wealthy family that supported the FMLN. And he himself was thrown out of the FMLN. Pardon my cynicism, but did he forget to bribe the right people, or to kick back enough?”

To Lucier, Bukele is “like Macron of France, a man of the left, who came out of nowhere, with no organized party, who now represents the bankers of El Salvador, and promises to clean up corruption. Good luck. It may not be long before the yellow jackets appear.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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One week after Nayib Bukele became president of El Salvador in a landslide and defeated candidates of both major parties, American observers are exploring just who the former mayor of San Salvador is and whether he represents a new wave of populism in Latin America.
el salvador, bukele, populism, trump, bolsonaro, runde
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2019-35-12
Tuesday, 12 February 2019 06:35 AM
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