El Salvadoran president coolly brushes off Ilhan Omar’s election meddling, then flips her critique

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) took a break from
Somali politicking Wednesday to call on the Biden administration to meddle in El Salvador’s domestic affairs ahead of its national election.

El Salvador’s hugely popular president thanked the radical congresswoman for sparing him from her endorsement ahead of his likely re-election Sunday. After indicating precisely what her “attacks” meant to him, President Nayib Bukele flipped the script on Omar and other concern-mongers.

A ‘threat to democracy’ supported by 90% of voters

Bukele, 42, has transformed El Salvador from a blood-soaked gangland into a nation with the second-lowest homicide rate in the Americas — all inside a five-year window.

There were 51 homicides per 100,000 in 2018, the year prior to Bukele’s initial election. The homicide rate fell to 7.8 in 2022 under his leadership, such that El Salvador saw fewer homicides that year (495) than were reported in Chicago during the same period (695). The homicide rate in El Salvador last year was reportedly 2.4 per 100,000.

To achieve this end, Bukele’s administration has taken extreme measures,
admittedly overstepping and cracking down on some civil rights. His administration has also allegedly thrown over 2% of the adult population behind bars, most of whom are supposedly suspected or known gang members.

Bukele’s crackdown on crime, selective suspension of civil liberties, and warrantless arrests have earned him the loathing of both Democrats and liberal publications — the Economist said he was poised to “become Latin America’s first Millennial dictator.” However, his ability to bring relative peace to El Salvador has also won him the support of his countrymen.

According to Reuters, Bukele’s approval ratings hover around 90%. The South China Morning Post indicated that a January 2024 opinion poll from the University of Central America’s Public Opinion Institute indicated 82% of voters supported Bukele. By way of contrast, the latest Economist/YouGov poll put President Joe Biden’s disapproval rating at 54%.

Tyler Mattiace, Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch, characterized Bukele as “one of the biggest risks for human rights and for democracy that we see in Latin America right now” but acknowledged the president is popular because of his perceived efficacy.

“Bukele is incredibly popular,” said Mattiace. “We see a growing number of people in countries across Latin America who are supporting this kind of authoritarian populism because they believe that it could be the only way to address rising levels of violence.”

Bukele’s approach might be appealing to those nations that observed the utter failure of leftist Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s “hugs not bullets” approach.

Omar gets involved in another foreign election

Just days after
supporting the re-election of Said Abdullahi Deni, head of the northeastern Somali state of Puntland, Rep. Ilhan Omar led other leftist Democrats in urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “address ongoing threats to democracy and human rights in El Salvador.”

“President Bukele is amassing power and establishing authoritarian rule in El Salvador. The Members of Congress are urging the State Department to review its relationship with El Salvador and use America’s diplomatic influence to defend democratic values,”
said a statement accompanying the letter.

Democrats and the liberal media have in recent weeks
increasingly conflated democracy and its well-being with electoral results they find preferable.

“President Bukele has also, during his first term, overseen the militarized harassment of the legislature, a significant erosion of judicial independence, and the
de facto criminalization of civil society,” said the letter. “Much of this persecution has been done with the active complicity of El Salvador’s judicial system.”

While Omar’s letter suggested that “it is not the place of the United States government to determine who is eligible to run for President in a foreign country, nor to pick winners,” she nevertheless suggested that the United States lean on El Salvador ahead of its election.

The letter tells Blinken to

  • “restrict security assistance and other support for the Salvadoran police and military”;
  • rework aid mechanisms to ensure direct funding to NGOs and “Salvadoran civil society” rather than through intermediaries;
  • denounce the legal mechanism by which Bukele has curbed gang violence; and
  • send “an unequivocal message on the importance of respecting constitutional and democratic norms.”

“The State Dept must review its relationship with El Salvador and defend democratic values,” added Omar. “The Salvadoran people deserve free and fair elections without fear of repression.”

The congresswoman’s post was quickly slapped with community notes highlighting that Bukele was democratically elected with a clear majority in 2019; his party secured a majority in the legislative assembly; and a “president can be re-elected in El Salvador if in the 6 months prior to taking office he was not in charge.”

Bukele thanks Omar

Bukele responded to Omar Wednesday on X,
writing, “We are HONORED to receive your attacks, just days before OUR election.”

“I would be very worried if we had your support,” added Bukele. “Thank you.”

In addition to retweeting Omar’s post, ostensibly as a badge of honor, Bukele turned Omar’s critique around, writing, “I think the United States should have free and fair elections.”

The El Salvadoran president continued trolling Omar, sharing a critic’s
comment noting, “Democrats ask to interfere in El Salvador’s elections so that they are ‘clean.’ The joke tells itself.”

Bukele also shared a comment
stating, “Considering recent history, perhaps [Bukele] could send some Salvadorian electoral officials to the US to help ensure free and fair elections.”

Milena Mayorga, El Salvador’s ambassador to the U.S.,
added, “Then they say they do not interfere in our elections.”

Soon, others piled on, ridiculing Omar and celebrating Bukele’s response.

Former Rep. Mayra Flores Vallejo (R-Texas)
wrote, “We need more Presidents like [Bukele] in the world. @Ilhan doesn’t represent America. She has not love or respect for our country.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)
noted that Bukele “is bringing peace and prosperity to El Salvador. He’s doing a fantastic job of ridding their streets of violent cartel thugs and fighting for his people!”

Roger Kimball, editor and publisher of the New Criterion,
stressed that Bukele, “along with Javier Millei, is the most impressive leader in the Western hemisphere.”

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