Nayib Bukele decreed for the first time in March of last year the emergency regime in El Salvador. A long list of constitutional rights were suspended for the sake of security. It was the recipe of the Salvadoran president, ironically calling himself “the coolest dictator in the world,” to appease the spiral of violence. The Central American country had experienced 48 hours of utter terror. The gang a total of 87 people were murdered on that weekend at the end of March after the Government broke its secret pact with the Mara Salvatrucha, according to the revelations of the digital medium “El Faro”.
Since then, the state of exception has remained in force and Bukele has maintained his agenda without counterweights, without opposition. He jailed 71,000 suspected criminals without due process, built the San Salvador mega-prison, militarized the country, launched mass trials and, as a result, decapitated the gangs. The streets of El Salvador, once hijacked by gangs, are comparatively safer. Crime rates and the homicide rate register tangible improvements. At the cost, yes, of arbitrary arrests, torture, overcrowding in prisons and other violations of human rights. In addition to a forceful democratic throwback.
Bukele is today the highest valued president in Latin America and the Caribbean. He enjoys popularity levels unattainable for any other regional leader. He is supported by 90% of Salvadorans, according to the Latinobarómetro public opinion study. For this reason, many want to copy his method, “bukelize” to satisfy a public opinion surrounded by insecurity that he has a positive perception of the controversial action of the Bukele government. The president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, was the first to export this model.
But Ecuador is no stranger to this dynamic either. Its president, Guillermo Lasso, drew up a somewhat less forceful security strategy that has proven to be unsuccessful. Only in the first quarter of 2023, the INEC recorded a total of 1,356 violent deaths. In his almost two years in power, Lasso has decreed more than a dozen states of exception to mitigate the violence, without success. The latter were in response to the murders of Augustine Intriagomayor of the town of Manta, and Fernando Villavicencio, one of the eight candidates for the presidential elections on August 20.
«The country is facing these elections plunged into a very serious crisis. Added to the acute wave of insecurity, fueled by the rise of drug trafficking and the massacres of prisoners in prisons, is an alarming economic and growing threats to freedom of expression due to organized crime»says Daniel Zovatto, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).
“Affirming that the security crisis in Ecuador comes from recent years would be quite simplistic,” says the strategy director of the ALEPH Educational Institution, Gabriela Ortega, in dialogue with LA RAZÓN. “We had a pretty turbulent period in the early 90s and late this century in which we changed up to three presidents.” At that time, a series of incipient bands began to operate locally, which were a stronghold for the gangs. Insignificant compared to the cases of Colombia or Peru. «In 2007, already with the Government of Rafael Correa, these organizations became legalized. In fact, in Correa’s campaign they had a lot of presence. Many of its members ended up forming part of Alianza PAIS. The fact of having members of these gangs was normalized. Later, they began to have ties to drug trafficking in neighboring countries.. This has led us, 23 years and three governments later, to the situation in which we are, “explains Ortega.
Villavicencio’s campaign, riddled with shots on Wednesday as he left a rally in Quito, precisely proposed building a high-security prison in a military compound in the Ecuadorian jungle for drug lords, murderers and criminals linked to mafia structures. A measure with echoes of bukelismo. He dreamed of an “impenetrable prison” that could only be accessed by plane: «These criminals, drug lords, organized crime, rapists and murderers will be completely isolated in the depths of the jungle. This military compound must be expropriated immediately and we will begin construction, likewise, immediately.”
However, Villavicencio had more baggage in the fight against corruption than in the fight against drug trafficking. «Within the campaign he did not leave that speech behind, he openly confronted organized crime groups, even giving several of the names of the bosses of these organizations. He pointed out the cases of correísmo corruption and accused his candidate, Luisa González », Ortega emphasizes.
After his murder, the political scientist believes that her vote “will be blurred around the other three applicants with options: Otto Sonnenholzner, who can rally the youngest vote; Yaku Pérez, who can unite the less ideological vote as he comes from the left; and finally Jan Topic, as the main candidate in security matters. The latter cut more similar to Bukele.
Ortega guarantees that the speech of the president of El Salvador would be successful in Ecuador. “People ask for a dictator, a guy like Bukele to end insecurity”. However, she is skeptical of the achievements of the Salvadoran leader. “Within public opinion, the image of a government that has reduced crime levels has spread. But if you scratch a bit and investigate the published data, you will see some alterations, which do not include those homicides or deaths caused by security forces or that speak of homicide rates and not crime rates.