Latin America

Nayib Bukele: El Salvador’s incoming leader promises ‘new era’


A 37-year-old political outsider who has promised to bring "a new era" to his native El Salvador has been sworn in as the Central American nation's president.

During his five-year-term Nayib Bukele wants to tackle El Salvador's legacy of gang violence and corruption.

An avid social media user who projects a youthful, unconventional image, Mr Bukele also wants to break with the left-wing foreign policy alliances his predecessor in office, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, forged.

He says that instead he will prioritise El Salvador's ties with the United States and closely scrutinise the country's recently established relations with China.

Change at the top

Mr Bukele's convincing election victory on 3 February represents a break in the long-running dominance of the two traditional parties in El Salvador.

Key facts

  • Born on 24 July 1981 in the capital, San Salvador, he is of Palestinian ancestry
  • He managed his first business at 18 years of age
  • Began his political career with the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN)
  • Was expelled from the party for "disrespecting" the rights of women and throwing an apple at a local community leader
  • Has been described as "anti-system" and "opportunist" by analysts, having changed parties three times ahead of the election
  • Has named eight women to top government posts, seven of them as cabinet ministers

The left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the conservative Arena party had alternated in power since the end of the country's civil war in 1992.

It comes as little surprise therefore that Mr Bukele's Gana party should be seen as fresh start. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a recent opinion poll by CID Gallup said the expected his administration to be good or very good.

Mr Bukele wants to reduce the number of young people joining El Salvador's notorious criminal gangs by bolstering education. He has also called for social programmes to prevent them from being recruited in the first place, and for social reinsertion programmes to prevent reoffending.

He regards the recent rise in violence as "one of the greatest challenges that we have because it affects all matters like tourism, investment".

'In ruins'

According to Mr Bukele, previous administrations have left El Salvador "in ruins".

The former mayor of San Salvador wants to distance himself from the foreign policy of outgoing left-wing President Sánchez Cerén, who maintained close alliances with the left-wing rulers of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba.

Mr Bukele has said Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, whom he has called a "dictator", Read More – Source