Colombia did it twenty-five years ago. At that time, one of the world’s most violent countries found a way to reinvent itself. Today, another Latin American country aims to do the same.
Can it work?
That’s the question weighing on the shoulders of President Nayib Bukele, the 38-year-old millennial and the youngest head of state in El Salvador’s history. Roughly a year into office, the Twitter-savvy technocratic populist has made good on his promises to tackle corruption and homicide, albeit with a whiff of authoritarianism. In the process, he aims to shift the immigration debate both in El Salvador as well as in the United States.
President Bukele likes to see himself as a controversial “doer” — and there’s no doubting he gets things done. Case in point: On March 11, El Salvador became the first country in the Americas to ban entry to all foreign citizens in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus, despite the fact there were as yet no confirmed cases in El Salvador.
But President Bukele is also trying to lift the country up by its economic bootstraps and give Salvadorans a reason to stay. If President Bukele succeeds — while respecting the nation’s democratic institutions (and this last item is not so obvious) — he could provide a new blueprint for migration policy around the world.