{"code":"24023","sect":"Columnas","sect_slug":"columnas","hits":"668","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202002\/columnas\/24023","link_edit":"","name":"Salvadoran Militarism and Bukele\u2019s Post-Postwar","slug":"salvadoran-militarism-and-bukele-rsquo-s-post-postwar","info":"","mtag":"Transparency","noun":{"html":"Jorge Cu\u00e9llar","data":{"jorge-cuellar":{"sort":"","slug":"jorge-cuellar","path":"jorge_cuellar","name":"Jorge Cu\u00e9llar","edge":"0","init":"0"}}},"view":"668","pict":{"cms-image-000032947-jpg":{"feat":"1","sort":"32947","name":"cms-image-000032947.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000032947.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000032947.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000032947-jpg","text":"<p>The National Army, under orders of President Nayib Bukele, is deployed outside the halls of the Legislative Assembly in an effort to pressure the passage of a $109 millon dollar security plan. Foto de El Faro: Carlos Barrera<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EThe National Army, under orders of President Nayib Bukele, is deployed outside the halls of the Legislative Assembly in an effort to pressure the passage of a $109 millon dollar security plan. Foto de El Faro: Carlos Barrera\u003C\/p\u003E"}},"pict_main__sort":32947,"date":{"live":"2020\/02\/13"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2020","data_post_dateLive_MM":"02","data_post_dateLive_DD":"13","text":"\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=32947\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"The National Army, under orders of President Nayib Bukele, is deployed outside the halls of the Legislative Assembly in an effort to pressure the passage of a $109 millon dollar security plan. Foto de El Faro: Carlos Barrera\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EThe National Army, under orders of President Nayib Bukele, is deployed outside the halls of the Legislative Assembly in an effort to pressure the passage of a $109 millon dollar security plan. Foto de El Faro: Carlos Barrera\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ENayib Bukele\u2019s recent power play\u2014 using the armed forces to intimidate members of the Legislative Assembly to approve some $109 million in funds for his Territorial Control Plan\u2014sent chills down the spines of many Salvadorans, of other Central Americans, of the Salvadoran diaspora, and of the international community at large. His theatrics triggered memories of some of the darkest moments of the Central American past, where authoritarian combinations of pressurized politics and military threats were preludes to open conflict.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EHis move checked our assumptions: that a functional democracy in El Salvador was not vulnerable to this kind of military reactivation. We assumed, blindly, that civil war tensions were a thing of the past, the so-called 'post-postwar' of Bukele\u2019s own proclaiming. Last month, he downplayed the public need to commemorate the 28 years since the signing of the \u201892 Peace Accords\u2014a troubling instance of political revisionism. Bukele\u2019s election to the presidency, and his June 2019 taking of power, both initially suggested a new opening, one that signaled an end to the bipolarity that had characterized Salvadoran elections since the civil conflict\u2019s end. Even then, as Bukele built his political r\u00e9sum\u00e9 as mayor of Nuevo Cuscatl\u00e1n and then as mayor of San Salvador, and as he moved people towards his millennial vehicle\u2014the right-wing Nuevas Ideas party\u2014critics voiced concerns about his narcissism and Trump-like brand of social media populism. Looking back now, the pieces of an emerging populist figure are all there.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe events of Sunday\u2014Bukele\u2019s using the military as a form of mob control and a source of political power\u2014while exceptional, are also, given trends in the region\u2019s recent political history, rather anticlimactic and expected. His use of the military for his televised address in front of the Assembly\u2019s gates, where he lambasted legislators to a crowd of 5,000 to 50,0000 (depending on who you ask) was both a display of military force and a weaponization of his political support\u2014one indistinguishable from the other. Bukele would confirm that his move was urgently needed as the rationale for modernizing the military and police via this funding package, that it was his mandate as head of state to protect Salvadoran lives. But by antagonizing legislators for not automatically approving the funding\u2014falling just short of calling them murderers themselves\u2014Bukele pitted these two forces against one another, \u2018flexing\u2019 his military-popular strength while crowds enthralled by his millennial mystique cheered him on to \u2018make the state work.\u2019 This, of course, was not an instance of deliberative democracy, but a deformed kind of strongman realpolitik.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp\u003EFor both Salvadorans and the international community, the display of force and military intimidation signaled a return to wartime tensions, echoing authoritarian figures throughout the 20th century, to the very caudillismos that defined nations like El Salvador from their beginning. However, it is in the unresolved militarisms\u2014which reached a rolling boil in the Salvadoran Civil War\u2014that we find most cause for concern. The war itself was prompted by a military coup staged by a revolutionary junta under right-wing military influence, which then prompted the escalation of the 13-year conflict. Leaving roughly 50,000 to 70,000 dead, the Salvadoran Civil War remains a case study to understanding the role of the military as a determining factor in the course of politics and society.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn recalling these bloody events, the use of the military to bully legislators into pushing through a funding bill for the armed forces and police does not seem too \u2018outside\u2019 the routine ways politics and militarism have co-evolved under Salvadoran governance. Bukele\u2019s justifications, in a telephone interview he gave to El Pa\u00eds the evening of the military occupation, confirms that he recognizes his own power, popularly and militarily, and its utility for pushing the punitive option as the only solution for El Salvador\u2019s enduring social problems.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEl Salvador is still not out of its war; it has just transformed into a protracted war against crime. The $109 million loan that is supposed to fund the modernization of the military and the national civilian police (PNC), is part of a larger need to unroll a surveillance apparatus in El Salvador and to over-criminalize and over-police sectors of society for the goal of making El Salvador investable for transnational capital and enclose people seeking to move. Bukele, as president-elect, promised as much to The Heritage Foundation in his first public speech in March 2019, kowtowing to the United States while offering, as bundled deliverables, to improve the \u201cinvestment climate\u201d and commit to stop outmigration and narcotrafficking. That same call to capital does not address the sources of these social deformations, a reduction in social spending and investing in people, in communities, in employment, in infrastructure, in the bases of Salvadoran society that will, in the long-term, reduce the influence and seduction of the gangs and criminality. Thus, Bukele\u2019s fundraising for the military and police, as one of his prescribed \u201cbitter medicines,\u201d will only worsen processes of forced migration northward, further entrench social exclusion, and again fail to mend the social fabric.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EScaling back, Nayib Bukele must also be thought of as part of the conservative wave in the region\u2014recall the 2009 Honduran coup that led directly to today\u2019s narco-president Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez; Guatemala\u2019s recent presidents from P\u00e9rez Molina to Jimmy Morales, both of whom gutted anti-corruption efforts in the neighboring nation, to the recently inaugurated warden-turned-politician Alejandro Giammattei. The optics of recent events in El Salvador must be seen in context of this region-wide shift, as well as in the very militarisms that converged with the punitive objectives of prior administrations (Mano Dura, Super Mano Dura, Plan El Salvador Seguro, and now Plan Control Territorial). Bukele\u2019s prompting of the masses sympathetic to punishment is also furthered by his now conventional acts of performative religiosity\u2014as his 'asking god for patience' evoked as he sat in the usurped seat of the Assembly. El Salvador, despite claims to the contrary, and especially now with President Bukele at the helm, has not moved beyond the shadow cast by the civil conflict\u2014in fact, it has simply rearticulated them in trendy populist guise. Bukele\u2019s tantrum clearly shows that for the many fiefdoms turned nations like El Salvador, the military and the state, sprinkled with the gospel, are indissoluble.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EJorge E. Cu\u00e9llar is Mellon Faculty Fellow (2019-2021) and Assistant Professor (2021-) of Latin American, Latino & Caribbean Studies at Dartmouth College.\u003C\/p\u003E"}