{"code":"24259","sect":"Columnas","sect_slug":"columnas","hits":"1031","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202004\/columnas\/24259","link_edit":"","name":"El Salvador Needs More than Savvy Messaging","slug":"el-salvador-needs-more-than-savvy-messaging","info":"","mtag":"Politics","noun":{"html":"Jorge E. Cu\u00e9llar","data":{"jorge-e-cuellar":{"sort":"","slug":"jorge-e-cuellar","path":"jorge_e_cuellar","name":"Jorge E. Cu\u00e9llar","edge":"0","init":"0"}}},"view":"1031","pict":{"cms-image-000033335-jpg":{"feat":"1","sort":"33335","name":"cms-image-000033335.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000033335.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000033335.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000033335-jpg","text":"<p>La procesi\u00f3n se top\u00f3 con dos realidades: la cuarentena y el popular mercado de domingo. Cada domingo, los agricultores de las zonas rurales m\u00e1s remotas llegan al mercado a comerciar los frutos que han cultivado en sus peque\u00f1as parcelas durante la semana. Es un mercado popular, una fiesta de sabores. Esta vez, las autoridades controlaron el acceso para evitar las aglomeraciones en la plaza. Los trabajadores municipales manten\u00edan un acceso ordenado al mercado municipal y rociaban a los compradores y vendedores con desinfectante.\u00a0<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003ELa procesi\u00f3n se top\u00f3 con dos realidades: la cuarentena y el popular mercado de domingo. Cada domingo, los agricultores de las zonas rurales m\u00e1s remotas llegan al mercado a comerciar los frutos que han cultivado en sus peque\u00f1as parcelas durante la semana. Es un mercado popular, una fiesta de sabores. Esta vez, las autoridades controlaron el acceso para evitar las aglomeraciones en la plaza. Los trabajadores municipales manten\u00edan un acceso ordenado al mercado municipal y rociaban a los compradores y vendedores con desinfectante.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000033175-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"33175","name":"cms-image-000033175.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000033175.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000033175.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000033175-jpg","text":"<p>Los trabajadores del gobierno de San Salvador limpian el mercado de Tiendona, la central de abastos de frutas y verduras de San Salvador. Foto de El Faro: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003ELos trabajadores del gobierno de San Salvador limpian el mercado de Tiendona, la central de abastos de frutas y verduras de San Salvador. Foto de El Faro: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a.\u003C\/p\u003E"}},"pict_main__sort":33335,"date":{"live":"2020\/04\/10"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2020","data_post_dateLive_MM":"04","data_post_dateLive_DD":"10","text":"\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIt was a few days after Bukele announced a \u201cstate of exception\u201d in El Salvador that the human rights ombudsman (PDDH) sounded the alarm, noting the abhorrent \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/pddhelsalvador\/status\/1238681638965522433?s=21\"\u003Equarantine conditions\u003C\/a\u003E for arrivals in the hastily-outfitted Jiquilisco detention center that all but confirmed the government\u2019s severe incapacity to face the novel coronavirus. Reports from the makeshift quarantines told of careless intermingling from different flights and countries, evidence of hasty planning. Recent COVID-19 cases have been attributed to these facilities, likely from transmission in this initial phase. \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.laprensagrafica.com\/elsalvador\/Aqui-no-hay-ningun-tipo-de-plan-no-tienen-ningun-tipo-de-orden-vocalista-de-grupo-catolico-en-centro-de-Jiquilisco-relata-la-cuarentena-por-coronavirus-20200313-0069.html\"\u003ECitizen videos\u003C\/a\u003E circulated via social media displayed their spartan and disordered state, exposing the medical understaffing, poor nutrition, and overcrowding. The conditions and confusion swelled into an uproar which later forced Bukele to backpedal, to rethink how to better accommodate incoming persons. In response, Bukele \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/nayibbukele\/status\/1240081597573054464?s=20\"\u003Epublicized\u003C\/a\u003E transferring people from the Jiquilisco center to hotels, and also highlighted improved food offerings made possible through donations by major restaurant chains. Contrary to Bukele\u2019s \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/nayibbukele\/status\/1240029166554185728?s=20\"\u003Etweets\u003C\/a\u003E, however, it appears that not everyone has been blessed with changed circumstances. The myriad missteps are not isolated events. They have been a common occurrence in Bukele\u2019s quarantine plan, and have forced him to repeatedly shift strategies midstream in attempts to assuage discontent and downplay bad publicity.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBukele\u2019s media presence is, allegedly, aimed at providing transparency, a direct line to presidential operations. In practice, however, at least during the pandemic, it has proved inadequate, often reactive, and beset with bungles. No amount of public relations can compensate for crude measures that fail to address the aching needs of the poor and newly precarious, that when mishandled, effectively ridicule popular economic realities. This administration, whose tendency has been to wed \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.radicalhistoryreview.org\/abusablepast\/nayib-bukele-and-the-punitive-option-in-el-salvador\/\"\u003Epunitive populism \u003C\/a\u003Ewith media savviness, routinely dismisses human rights defenders and critics that spotlight the mismanagement and excesses of state power. Bukele\u2019s messaging is a well-timed distraction, designed to solicit citizen trust in him by reminding followers of the pandemic while praising the work done on his forthcoming \u201c\u003Ca href=\"http:\/\/www.fosalud.gob.sv\/gobierno-del-presidente-nayib-bukele-avanza-en-la-construccion-de-hospital-en-el-cifco-para-atender-a-los-pacientes-con-covid-19\/\"\u003Elargest hospital in Latin America\u003C\/a\u003E\u201d to treat coronavirus patients. This messaging misleads the public and sidesteps the hard truths of healthcare, of the deep vulnerabilities created by lasting inequality and the gutting of social support systems. Bukele\u2019s mandate then, in part, is to control the virus narrative to preserve his well-intentioned, if flawed, savior narrative. And yet, this has proved impossible, especially as instances of institutional shortcomings leak into the public domain.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EMarch 10, the day when Bukele broadcast his decree that turned El Salvador into an ambiguous national quarantine to stop the spread of COVID-19, feels so long ago now. The then-forward-thinking measure has resulted in, at the time of writing, 83 active cases, 5 recovered, and 5 deaths, according to \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/covid19.gob.sv\/\"\u003Egovernment numbers\u003C\/a\u003E. Bukele\u2019s \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.asamblea.gob.sv\/node\/10203\"\u003Enow-renewed\u003C\/a\u003E \u201cstate of exception\u201d has revealed endemic problems in the country stemming from improvisational execution, systemic miscalculation, but, above all, from inconsistent messaging. From Casa Presidencial, to the Sal\u00f3n Azul, and onto the streets of every marginalized canton, Salvadorans are confused, frustrated, and panicked by every passing measure. Bukele\u2019s approach, while applauded uncritically the world over, is not without issues\u2014Bukele himself has repeatedly noted that \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/nayibbukele\/status\/1244479871344050179?s=21\"\u003Ethere would be errors\u003C\/a\u003E\u2014but these repeated procedural shortcomings have harmfully expressed themselves on the social terrain: they have exposed a long-tolerated yet unsustainable inequality, eroded the safety nets of countless in the \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202003\/ef_foto\/24133\/\"\u003Einformal sector\u003C\/a\u003E, caused preventable deaths, fanned police violence, and have uncovered a deep antagonism for the poor\u2014an aporophobia\u2014that the government seeks to somehow alleviate yet fails at every turn.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EQuarantine Quagmires\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe all-hands-on-deck approach that Bukele calls the \u201c\u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/nayibbukele\/status\/1241945995400949762?s=21\"\u003Ethird world war\u003C\/a\u003E\u201d has siphoned already-limited resources from hospitals and clinics away from the routine functions of health institutions. In Hospital Salda\u00f1a, for example, there were reports of two \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.elsalvador.com\/noticias\/nacional\/hospital-saldana-muerte-mujer-falta-atencion-medica\/701046\/2020\/\"\u003Ediabetic senior citizens\u003C\/a\u003E who passed away \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.elsalvador.com\/noticias\/nacional\/cuarentena-anciano-muerte-albergue-hospital-saldana-falta-atencion\/700984\/2020\/\"\u003Edue to negligence\u003C\/a\u003E, the inability of a strained health system to treat illnesses beyond the coronavirus. Others have described, in detail, the \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.elsalvador.com\/eldiariodehoy\/jiquilisco-san-salvador-hospital-saldana-coronavirus-cuarentena-estado-de-excepcion-albergues\/701020\/2020\/\"\u003Esqualor in hospital rooms\u003C\/a\u003E shared with strangers, offering no privacy or safety from contagion for families and their children. In the wake of these deaths, as if to dispel any competing narratives, Bukele posted impressive images of \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/nayibbukele\/status\/1244443786253664261?s=21\"\u003ESalda\u00f1a\u2019s coming remodeling\u003C\/a\u003E. Despite this emergency refurbishing, however, El Salvador\u2019s healthcare system remains on life support.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe real conditions of Hospital Salda\u00f1a demonstrate that no amount of media messaging can remedy the long-term neglect and divestment that has impacted Salvadoran public health. In another case, at Hotel Beverly Hills, Dina de M\u00e9ndez learned, belatedly, of the passing of her husband \u00d3scar M\u00e9ndez likely due to an untreated fever. Se\u00f1ora M\u00e9ndez, however, received \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.revistafactum.com\/incertidumbre-hospital-saldana\/\"\u003Elittle to no information\u003C\/a\u003E detailing the circumstances of his death. Subsequently, M\u00e9ndez took to social media for an explanation from medical authorities, enlisting PDDH to accompany her pursuit \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/gatoencerrado.news\/2020\/04\/02\/las-muertes-no-contadas-por-el-gobierno\/\"\u003Efor official answers\u003C\/a\u003E. As her press conference circulated, Bukele tweeted that \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/nayibbukele\/status\/1245780444861390851?s=21\"\u003Eopposition forces were instrumentalizing\u003C\/a\u003E the woman\u2019s grief, claiming that their behavior obstructed the state\u2019s response to the viral crisis. Bukele would follow that thinly-veiled attack with an order to newly-appointed Health Minister, Francisco Alabi, to \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/gatoencerrado.news\/2020\/04\/02\/las-muertes-no-contadas-por-el-gobierno\/\"\u003Efollow-up \u003C\/a\u003Ewith Se\u00f1ora M\u00e9ndez only to receive an oversimplified account of respiratory failure. Again, what we see here is Bukele's attempt to course correct as a result of \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.revistafactum.com\/bitacora-covid19-d17\/\"\u003Emedia shaming\u003C\/a\u003E, following \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/deborahadiaz\/status\/1245792814497009664?s=21\"\u003Epublic demands\u003C\/a\u003E made by citizens. \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.laprensagrafica.com\/elsalvador\/Yo-entre-donde-estan-los-pacientitos-con-covid-19...-hay-una-gran-falta-de-directrices-enfermeras-de-Hospital-Amatepec-denuncian-falta-de-proteccion-y-protocolos-ante-pandemia-20200406-0154.html\"\u003ENurses, too, publicly denounced\u003C\/a\u003E the lack of medical supplies at Amatepec Hospital, pushing Bukele to later pledge state \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/presidenciasv\/status\/1247639185428791304?s=21\"\u003Esupport\u003C\/a\u003E.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EVehicular checkpoints, that double as sanitation stations, have become a mainstay in quarantine El Salvador, leading to over \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/_elfaro_\/status\/1245926471299809286?s=21\"\u003E700 people detained\u003C\/a\u003E for violating orders to stay indoors. PDDH, among others, soon uncovered that officer discretion made these captures exceptionally frivolous, prompting calls of constitutional violations, bias, and illegal \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202004\/el_salvador\/24215\/Los-primeros-detenidos-en-la-cuarentena-fueron-tratados-como-reos.htm\"\u003Ejailing\u003C\/a\u003E. Human rights groups have called for an end to this practice and suggested officers arrange, instead, people be returned home. These lapses in judgment, execution, and tone are, from the government\u2019s perspective, unfortunate missteps, yet they have been harmful and disparaging to ordinary Salvadorans. Bukele, meanwhile, has accused human rights monitors of \u201c\u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/nayibbukele\/status\/1244370925815988226?s=21\"\u003Ebeing on the side of the virus.\u003C\/a\u003E\u201d In a time where security forces might prove effective to conscientize people about ever-evolving measures, there is instead an alarming tendency towards intimidation, discipline and punishment\u2014in fact, during his April 6 national broadcast, \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/presidenciasv\/status\/1247368250876465153?s=21\"\u003EBukele suggested\u003C\/a\u003E police and military bend wrists and impound the vehicles of anyone found breaking quarantine.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EThe Contempt for the Poor\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003E\u003C\/strong\u003EOn March 29, hundreds of people sought\u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202004\/el_salvador\/24240\/Bukele%E2%80%99s-Quarantine-Meets-the-Reality-of-Poverty.htm\"\u003E a promised $300 subsidy\u003C\/a\u003E that quickly overwhelmed Citizen Services Centers (CENADE) across the country. CENADE was unable to disburse this money which would alleviate, if momentarily, \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202003\/ef_tv\/24208\/Tenemos-hambre.htm\"\u003Ecollective hunger\u003C\/a\u003E. As crowds grew beyond allowable limits outside CENADE, Bukele announced \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/_elfaro_\/status\/1244651685689151488?s=21\"\u003Eimmediate office closures\u003C\/a\u003E and turned that Sunday, as \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202003\/el_salvador\/24207\/El-d%C3%ADa-en-que-el-Gobierno-fall%C3%B3-a-los-m%C3%A1s-vulnerables.htm\"\u003Eone reporter\u003C\/a\u003E put it, into a day the government failed its most vulnerable. Disillusionment turned into anguish and then morphed into anger, fueling calls for Bukele to deliver the promised assistance. Videos of distraught people rapidly circulated online, with many\u2014primarily women\u2014yelling, crying, and frustratingly \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/goalu_\/status\/1244819375980494848?s=21\"\u003Espeaking on their lived poverty\u003C\/a\u003E, describing injustices and the neglecting of the Salvadoran poor. In San Salvador, the \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/prensagrafica\/status\/1244646022904786945?s=21\"\u003Ebreadlines that turned into a protest\u003C\/a\u003E were met with police calls to disband, while in Soyapango, officers were caught \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/radio102nueve\/status\/1244627329265160192?s=21\"\u003Epepper-spraying people\u003C\/a\u003E. These images offered more evidence of the mismatch between popular needs and the incapacity of government, lacking technical and logistical know-how, to distribute relief. The entire debacle saw Bukele\u2019s subsidy website crash and exposed the randomness of eligibility criteria. Later, after two were charged with looting and \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.lapagina.com.sv\/nacionales\/sujetos-que-supuestamente-intentaron-saquear-negocios-en-centro-de-san-salvador-seguiran-proceso-en-libertad\/\"\u003Edisorderly conduct\u003C\/a\u003E, Bukele would issue a passive-evasive \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/gatoencerradosv\/status\/1244728818553819138?s=21\"\u003E\u2018nonpology\u2019 via Facebook\u003C\/a\u003E, and in an expected about-face, devise a \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/presidenciasv\/status\/1245937801390145536?s=21\"\u003Eclearer schedule\u003C\/a\u003E for people to withdraw the subsidy.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBukele, it appears, is unable to reliably communicate beyond fear mongering or congratulatory tweets that reference the achievements of his administration. His messaging largely targets media-engaged Salvadorans connected to his \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.latinorebels.com\/2020\/03\/25\/residenteinterviewsbukele\/\"\u003Esocial media feeds\u003C\/a\u003E, in a country that has \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.statista.com\/statistics\/942437\/el-salvador-internet-user-penetration-access-location\/\"\u003Ewell-below average Internet penetration\u003C\/a\u003E compared to the rest of Latin America. Many are overlooked by his incoherent messaging; even those tuned in are often left confused by unclear directions. The CENADE episode showed Bukele\u2014even in rare apologetic form\u2014exhibiting a concerning pattern of displacing responsibility for his failures to prior administrations, to blaming the money-grubbing \u2018bad culture\u2019 of Salvadorans, chastising people for not following instructions. Bukele repeated classist stereotypes to justify the logistical failures that have plagued his emergency response. These are recurrent truisms of the traditional Salvadoran elite, of conservative ideologues, of elected leaders who seldom admit personal wrongdoing. The enduring tensions inside containment centers, the detaining of people for violating quarantine or not social distancing, to the dysfunctions of subsidy distribution, are the centerpieces of a plan that has, recurrently, misfired. It is, as Bukele says, early in the virus\u2019 course in El Salvador. Yet, if these early mishaps are to be learned from, the government must be able to prepare for all scenarios while \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.contrapunto.com.sv\/sociedad\/ddhh\/fespad-pide-a-organismos-internacionales-revisar-regimen-de-excepcion\/13414\"\u003Eprotecting fundamental rights\u003C\/a\u003E, respecting civil society and human rights organizations, dropping wartime discourse, and allow for others, like \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/noticias.uca.edu.sv\/pronunciamientos\/ante-la-situacion-provocada-por-la-pandemia-del-covid-19-en-solidaridad-con-el-pueblo-salvadoreno\"\u003Epublic and mental health experts\u003C\/a\u003E, to help define national COVID-19 strategy.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThere is a growing chasm between Bukele\u2019s sense of the people and the actual people he purports to safeguard. The state of human rights in El Salvador now and in the future depends on fostering a collective voice that isn\u2019t distracted by Bukele\u2019s charm, that questions his policy choices and mathematical projections, demystifies his populist guise, adjusts his scornful panic-inducing discourse, and forces him to accept failure without excuses. Enabling civil society to accompany his governing efforts might be the cure\u2014moving past this venal pursuit of authority, applause, and saviorism\u2014to empower Salvadorans themselves to partake in supporting one another and, in turn, ensure the survival of the perennially unprotected.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp\u003E\u00a0\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"}