Q24N (VOA) On the social network X (formerly Twitter) on September 6, a post has circulated with a misleading message about what the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, has done in his administration.
The post says: “Bukele in power: he put an end to the gangs and terrorists. He has led Google and foreign companies to invest in El Salvador. 440 days without homicides in the country. Tourism growth by 23%. Approval of 91% of citizens. Demonized by NGOs and Mainstream Media.”
However, the message omits information about security and foreign investment, experts explain. The publication was sent by the audience to the VOA Verifica WhatsApp account to review its veracity. It has more than 550,000 views, more than 9,000 likes, more than 2,000 reposts, and more than 300 comments.
Security situation in El Salvador
Part of the message in X ensures that President Nayib Bukele “put an end to the gangs and terrorists” and also assures that there have been “440 days without homicides in the country”, however, this is misleading.
The gangs have indeed decreased their presence in relation to past reports. As has been shown in some reports made by VOA. But, the data for 440 days without homicides is inaccurate. It is omitted to say that they have not been consecutive and that on other days there were murders of alleged delinquencies that were not counted in their statistics.
For example, on Friday, September 30, 2022, the Bukele government said it had ended a day with “zero homicides” when in reality the death of four alleged “terrorists” was recorded, as the Salvadoran authority called them, and exempted them in the count for allegedly “attacking” police officers. Something similar happened on May 17, 2022. And other days have been recorded.
The exclusion is made despite the fact that, according to the Bogotá Protocol on the quality of homicide data in Latin America and the Caribbean, deaths “committed by public agents” must be considered in murder statistics, “even when they are legal”, as well as the deaths that occurred in the exercise of legitimate defense.
And although the official figures of victims of homicidal violence have generally decreased from January to June 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, according to data from the Attorney General’s Office of El Salvador, these data have been questioned by experts.
Douglas Farah, president of IBI Consultants, a Latin American security consulting company, told Voice of America that El Salvador has changed the definition of homicides since the Bukele government, so there is no “real data.”
“It has taken away a large portion of what would be homicides and you can’t judge when the rules of the game are changed halfway, so we don’t know.”
He said that although public information has been requested, there is no transparency in the figures. However, he said that an analysis carried out at the beginning of 2023 “the number of missing people was almost equal to the reduction in homicides.”
Reports of missing persons increased by 16.9% (28 more reports) between January and June 2023, compared to the same period in 2022, according to an analysis last August by Infosegura, with official data.
In a past analysis, Jeannette Aguilar, a researcher on violence, citizen security and gangs in El Salvador, told VOA that in statistical terms, the country’s homicide rate “does not reflect all the violent deaths that have occurred.”
Aguilar explained that part of the fact that not all violent deaths are reflected is because the gangs have also opted for “the clandestine burial of the remains of many of the victims.”
On the other hand, a report by Elementos Magazine with data from secret reports from the Intelligence Subdirectorate of the National Civil Police (PNC), obtained through the Guacamaya hacking group, revealed that in the first months of the emergency regime, they hid homicides and did not appear in the official numbers.
Google in El Salvador
Although the publication claims that President Bukele called on Google to invest in El Salvador, what it fails to say is that a recently approved law must guarantee the technology company a budget allocation of at least US$500 million dollars.
Although Google has announced that it will set up offices in the country, it does so under an agreement in which it will provide services to the state.
We’re partnering with @PresidenciaSV to build a technological hub in Central America.
We will open an office and bring digital infrastructure to El Salvador – with cloud tech at the center of the country’s modernization in areas like govt services, healthcare and education. pic.twitter.com/EVfqppxIBz
— Google Cloud (@googlecloud) August 29, 2023
“In any case, it will be guaranteed that all of the budget allocations of the State Entities that sign Individualized Affiliation Agreements or any other type of commitments, contracts, agreements or instruments with the “strategic partner” (Google LLC), linked to “This Strategic Alliance, together, may amount to at least FIVE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in total, during the fiscal years established in the second paragraph of this article,” states the fifth paragraph of article 4 of the General Law. for the Digital Modernization of the State of El Salvador.
For Rafael Lemus, an economist at the Central American University (UCA) of El Salvador and a master in business economics at INCAE, a former political candidate, the arrival of Google would not be about an investment, but rather a government contract with the technology company.
Lemus told VOA that “the government of El Salvador is committed, through an agreement that is not public, but a law that it approved, to carry out contracts for goods and infrastructure services offered by Google, for at least US$500 million dollars in a period of 7 years, that is, the government of El Salvador commits to a service contract.”
The analyst mentioned that Google’s hiring was also done with a process that “is not competitive” and with a “supplier that is not unique” in the area, which he said would violate constitutional principles.
Although it is indicated that Google and foreign companies have been encouraged to invest in El Salvador, from 2021 to 2022 there was a reduction in foreign investment rates according to the latest ECLAC report.
“El Salvador registered negative FDI inflows in 2022 (-101 million dollars), which means a variation of -133% compared to 2021. This situation is explained by disinvestments in the manufacturing sector (-294 million dollars), which could not be offset by investments in services, which were also reduced compared to 2021 (-35%)”, highlights ECLAC.
In his message to the UN, President Nayib Bukele also reported his agreement with Google to digitalize the State, however, he omitted to tell the costs to his government.
What is true is that according to the latest survey published last June by CID Gallup, President Nayib Bukele maintains 90% approval of his management’s work.
At the same time, the survey indicates that 34% of those who responded to the survey say they are hungry.
Therefore, because the message provides true information and omits data according to experts, the publication is considered misleading.