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"Let the President Control Everything"

Carlos Barrera

“I’m voting for Nuevas Ideas because I want the president to have control of everything.” This is how one college student supporting Nuevas Ideas, Nayib Bukele’s party, views El Salvador’s February 28 legislative elections. All reputable polling indicates that Nuevas Ideas will emerge from the elections having consolidated its position as the greatest political force in the country. This is the general sense of people in the streets as well, despite warnings from numerous civil society organizations and the editorial pages of the press that the party’s legislative campaign lacks any real concrete proposals.

In El Salvador, political proselytizing revolves around the figure of the president. Billboards on highways outside the capital and in the streets of San Salvador make the campaign’s personality cult clear: enormous sky-blue rectangles featuring a giant white “N” and nothing more. Nuevas Ideas markets itself as “the N for Nayib,” even though the president is not running for reelection. 

The party that originally brought Bukele to the presidency, GANA (Grand Alliance for National Unity), has tried to take advantage of this branding and pass itself off as the party of Bukele, in order to win votes. Only a few years ago, GANA used orange imagery and featured its name prominently on its flag. Now, GANA has changed its colors to cyan, a shade close to that of Nuevas Ideas, and features the party logo — a white silhouette of a soaring swallow, the iconic logo of the movement to elect Bukele during his 2019 presidential campaign — on its flag instead of its name. 

In their death throes, ARENA (Republican Nationalist Alliance) and the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), have committed to distancing themselves from Bukele, and are selling themselves as the only viable opposition. The February 28 elections are being defined by a man who does not even appear on the ballot.

“Filling the Legislative Assembly with Nuevas Ideas deputies would be the best thing to happen for the president to pass everything he wants for the country,” said Miguel Sánchez, a business owner in San Salvador’s Centro Histórico, or historic downtown district. His sentiment perhaps best sums up the spirit of tens of thousands of the party’s supporters: they want the president to have all the power. 

When we asked party supporters which proposal from the 84 Nuevas Ideas legislative candidates they liked the most and why, the answers all revolved around the president and little else. What follows is a modest attempt to collect and present some of these views and opinions. In downtown San Salvador, we interviewed ten people who said they were planning on voting for Nuevas Ideas, and asked them why. Not a single person interviewed knew who the candidates for Legislative Assembly were. Not one. Everyone claimed, in one way or another, that their reason for voting for Nuevas Ideas boiled down to a single factor: Bukele.

ElFaro.net / Publicado el 25 de February de 2021

“The president has done great things. For example, seeing lots of soldiers in the streets gives us security, and this is why we’re going to support and vote for Nuevas Ideas. This is our opportunity to punish ‘los mismos de siempre’ (‘the usual suspects,’ a common epithet for the country’s political class), and for Nayib Bukele to have all the authority he needs to lead the country.” Marvin Vega, 31, barista and manager at a restaurant in San Salvador.
 
“The president has done great things. For example, seeing lots of soldiers in the streets gives us security, and this is why we’re going to support and vote for Nuevas Ideas. This is our opportunity to punish ‘los mismos de siempre’ (‘the usual suspects,’ a common epithet for the country’s political class), and for Nayib Bukele to have all the authority he needs to lead the country.” Marvin Vega, 31, barista and manager at a restaurant in San Salvador.

 

 

“Let’s not fool ourselves here. Hardly anyone knows who the candidates [for the Legislative Assembly] are, but that’s not important. What’s important is that we all vote for Bukele’s ‘N’ flag. Every vote for Nuevas Ideas is a vote for the president.” Mardoqueo Machuca, 54, vendor in San Salvador’s Centro Histórico and a resident of the municipality of Santo Tomás.
 
“Let’s not fool ourselves here. Hardly anyone knows who the candidates [for the Legislative Assembly] are, but that’s not important. What’s important is that we all vote for Bukele’s ‘N’ flag. Every vote for Nuevas Ideas is a vote for the president.” Mardoqueo Machuca, 54, vendor in San Salvador’s Centro Histórico and a resident of the municipality of Santo Tomás.

 

 

“We, the Nuevas Ideas voters, are like the water in the sea; we’re moved by a strong wind, and that wind is Nayib Bukele. Don't ask me about the deputies and their proposals. My whole household is voting for the party of the president — the president God wanted us to have.” Ana Cortez, 49 years old, housewife. 
 
“We, the Nuevas Ideas voters, are like the water in the sea; we’re moved by a strong wind, and that wind is Nayib Bukele. Don't ask me about the deputies and their proposals. My whole household is voting for the party of the president — the president God wanted us to have.” Ana Cortez, 49 years old, housewife. 

 

 

“Before, I used to vote for the FMLN, but while they were in power they did nothing. Now, look at the president, who in such little time has done so much. There’s also no corruption, since the things that they say about him are lies made up by the media. They had never given me a single bag of food and Nayib has given me five. How could I not vote for him?” Rogelio Mendoza, 57, vendor of lottery tickets in San Salvador’s Centro Histórico.
 
“Before, I used to vote for the FMLN, but while they were in power they did nothing. Now, look at the president, who in such little time has done so much. There’s also no corruption, since the things that they say about him are lies made up by the media. They had never given me a single bag of food and Nayib has given me five. How could I not vote for him?” Rogelio Mendoza, 57, vendor of lottery tickets in San Salvador’s Centro Histórico.

 

 

“I’m going to vote for Nuevas Ideas, so the president controls everything. At the university he has our total support, even more so now that the U is going to be free. On February 28, the president is going to win.” Carolina Roque, 22, student of international marketing at the University of El Salvador.
 
“I’m going to vote for Nuevas Ideas, so the president controls everything. At the university he has our total support, even more so now that the U is going to be free. On February 28, the president is going to win.” Carolina Roque, 22, student of international marketing at the University of El Salvador.

 

 

“When have we ever seen a president give away food to the country’s poorest? This had never happened before. I believe that people should turn out and support the president with their votes. What he’s done has been worth it because now he can have his deputies in the Assembly.” Jaime Fabián, 45, shoeshiner at the San Miguelito market, San Salvador.
 
“When have we ever seen a president give away food to the country’s poorest? This had never happened before. I believe that people should turn out and support the president with their votes. What he’s done has been worth it because now he can have his deputies in the Assembly.” Jaime Fabián, 45, shoeshiner at the San Miguelito market, San Salvador.

 

 

“In 2019, I voted so that Nayib would become president, and now giving him power is the priority, so that he can continue to pass laws in our favor, since the current Assembly has blocked him at every turn. But on the 28th, they’ll be ousted.” Gabriela Espinoza, 24, vendor at the San Miguelito market in San Salvador. 
 
“In 2019, I voted so that Nayib would become president, and now giving him power is the priority, so that he can continue to pass laws in our favor, since the current Assembly has blocked him at every turn. But on the 28th, they’ll be ousted.” Gabriela Espinoza, 24, vendor at the San Miguelito market in San Salvador. 

 

 

“A lot of people say that giving the president all the power will be a dictatorship. Well, then it will be a good dictatorship. With everything he’s done for the people, he deserves an Assembly that approves everything he asks for. Everyone in my household will be voting for Nayib Bukele.” Álex Perdomo, 23, shoeshiner at one of the entrances to Libertad Park, in San Salvador’s Centro Histórico.
 
“A lot of people say that giving the president all the power will be a dictatorship. Well, then it will be a good dictatorship. With everything he’s done for the people, he deserves an Assembly that approves everything he asks for. Everyone in my household will be voting for Nayib Bukele.” Álex Perdomo, 23, shoeshiner at one of the entrances to Libertad Park, in San Salvador’s Centro Histórico.

 

 

“I’m going to vote for Nuevas Ideas because if any of them commits an act of corruption, the first thing the president will do is put him in jail. He doesn’t beat around the bush to speak truth to the corrupt, and that’s why I’m not going to vote for individual faces. I’m voting for the party with the letter of our leader.” Rogelio Marroquín, 84, street vendor.
 
“I’m going to vote for Nuevas Ideas because if any of them commits an act of corruption, the first thing the president will do is put him in jail. He doesn’t beat around the bush to speak truth to the corrupt, and that’s why I’m not going to vote for individual faces. I’m voting for the party with the letter of our leader.” Rogelio Marroquín, 84, street vendor.

 

 

“Filling the Legislative Assembly with Nuevas Ideas deputies would be the best thing to happen for the president to pass everything he wants for the country. Our hope is that the traditional political parties will disappear and only one popular force will remain, and we’ll see this start to become reality on February 28. You [journalists] should disappear, too; all you do is contradict the president.” Miguel Sánchez, 32, shopkeeper in downtown San Salvador.
 
“Filling the Legislative Assembly with Nuevas Ideas deputies would be the best thing to happen for the president to pass everything he wants for the country. Our hope is that the traditional political parties will disappear and only one popular force will remain, and we’ll see this start to become reality on February 28. You [journalists] should disappear, too; all you do is contradict the president.” Miguel Sánchez, 32, shopkeeper in downtown San Salvador.