For many observers, a tumultuous year in Central America hardly shows any signs of improving. Corruption, poverty, crime and other deeply entrenched, systemic societal ills are driving thousands to emigrate for Mexico and the United States. Citizens in the region and International observers alike are quick to point to responsive, transparent governance as the quick and easy solution – putting the spotlight on El Salvador’s recently elected ‘outsider’ candidate, Nayib Bukele.
Bukele, the winning candidate, has promised to do just that, with a security plan that focuses on violence prevention through sports and cultural programs and the revival of public spaces. He has also promised to create more jobs, particularly for youth. But he has a daunting task ahead of him: El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates per capita in the world, with more than 3,300 murders last year in a country the size of Massachusetts. The ongoing violence has caused thousands to leave the country in the last few years.
To address root causes of migration, the incoming administration has to “lay the groundwork for someone to be able to survive and thrive in their own context and community,” said Celina de Sola, the co-founder and vice president of programs at Glasswing, a nongovernmental organization that works in vulnerable communities in El Salvador.
Bukele believes he is the man for the job, and he has had some success through past projects as the mayor of two major cities in El Salvador, including the capital. But analysts worry that his plans are not developed enough to address the complexity of violence and insecurity on a national level. Superficial proposals, along with a lack of alliances in the country’s legislative assembly, could make it difficult for Bukele to bring about real change and provide hope to Salvadorans that they can improve their situation while staying in the country.