While Honduras and Guatemala increasingly exhibit signs of worsening government corruption and other major migration drivers in the Northern Triangle, El Salvador just might take a different path – or at least, that’s the hope.
Both hopeful and despairing Salvadorans head to the polls on February 3, and a political shakeup of the small Central American country is expected. After ten years in power, the left-leaning Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) seems likely to be unseated by the young, wealthy, shapeshifting former mayor of San Salvador, Nayib Bukele, who recently took the mantle of the young Great National Alliance (GANA). But Bukele’s compromises to old-guard conservatives and his easy embrace of the right-wing GANA—despite the fact that as recently as 2017 he was a member of FMLN—makes it hard to judge which way he would take the country if elected.
The topics that typically bring El Salvador into the US news cycle—migration, caravans, and gangs—are hardly the predominant themes of the current Salvadoran election cycle. The candidates typically avoid speaking about gangs, as their parties (or themselves, in Bukele’s case) stand accused of being involved in negotiating with the gangs in the recent past, and migration remains a consistently sore subject. And yet, with the cancellation of Temporary Protected Status in the United States—a policy that gave around 200,000 Salvadorans deportation relief, and which is now held up by an injunction in the courts—and with Washington recently threatening to remove El Salvador from the CAFTA-DR free-trade agreement, US relations are something the Salvadoran candidates must contend with.