The Bukele Regime Shows Its Authoritarianism

By Plataforma de la Clase Trabajadora El Salvador (Working Class Platform El Salvador), translated by Carlos Jara
9F[1] was just to prologue to what is now occurring following the consolidation of a majority of the representatives of the Legislative Assembly in El Salvador. The government now has total control over the three branches of bourgeois government: the executive, legislative, and judicial.
In addition to controlling the military apparatus and the police, President Bukele also controls the General Prosecutor’s office, and threatens to control other key institutions of the state.

Nayib Bukele, an essentially authoritarian project

If some had had doubts about the authoritarian nature of Nayib Bukele’s political project, they were further clarified this past May 1st. It was on that day that the self-declared #BancadaCyan (lit. #TealBench, a parliamentary faction of President Bukele’s New Ideas Party), at its first plenary session just a few hours after taking their posts, dismissed the Constitutional Chamber (a key body of the judicial branch) with a stroke of a pen, as well as naming new justices which appear to be aligned with their politics. Next, they dismissed the General Prosecutor of the Republic and replaced them with one more to their liking; this is suspicious, as the Prosecutor was carrying out corruption investigations against members of Bukele’s cabinet in relation to the misappropriation of funds for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. As if that was not enough, the national police force and the military personally accompanied the new justices and the new General Prosecutor to their offices, and journalists representing independent media outlets were barred from entering the government buildings where the proceedings took place.

The people celebrate authoritarianism

Not too long ago in 2011, the right-wing parties did something similar, if on a smaller scale, attempting to limit the Constitutional Chamber’s decision making by issuing Decree 743. At that time, a torrent of criticisms and nearly immediate protests successfully made the government retract its decree, and the naming of a new chief justice was declared unconstitutional.
Today, to the contrary, the governments’ measures enjoys a significant amount of support, thanks to the popularity of the president and his New Ideas party, although it must be said that this popularity is the result of the bad, abusive, and corrupt administration by both the left-wing FMLN and the right-wing ARENA, which generated a deep discontent that Bukele has been able to take advantage of for the benefit of his political project.
This is why these measures, which in any self-respecting democracy would inspire mass protests by the people and mass resignations from the government itself, have been met only by applause in El Salvador, as if what was being signed into law was a popular stimulus bill.

More dismissals of second-level functionaries announced

All signs suggest that these dismissals and appointments of second-level functionaries will continue in the new legislative assembly’s second plenary session. The list of positions that are likely to be reorganized are the Human Rights Defense Attorney, Attorney General of the Republic, Justices of the National Judiciary Council, Justices of the Court of Accounts of the Republic, and Justices of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
Bukele takes advantage of his popularity to push through measures.
Although these measures are not the only things that Nayib Bukele’s regime has in store, they stack the deck for the government to be able to crack down on any glimpse of popular resistance. Bukele has taken control of the repressive apparatus (The National Civil Police and the Armed Forces), of the Judicial branch (which is in charge of prosecuting crimes), and of the General Prosecutor of the Republic (which is in charge of investigating crimes).
The regime is also preparing to take over the Attorney General of the Republic (in charge of public defense), the Defense Attorney for Human Rights (in charge of ensuring that the state does not violate human rights), the National Judiciary Council (which is in charge of appointing judges), the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (which certifies electoral proceedings), and the Court of Accounts (which is in charge of auditing the state’s budget).
But these measures only overshadow the governments’ key actions, which are economic measures.

The fiscal adjustment to come: a deal with the IMF

The fiscal crisis is El Salvador’s primary problem, even though it was practically ignored during the last electoral campaign and is hardly discussed across the multitude of forums on social media and in academic and political circles.
The country faces an exorbitant fiscal deficit which has been increased under the pretext of fighting the pandemic, to the point that public debt is now nearly 90% of GDP.
This situation is extremely serious as our government is in the red, which will force the government to enter into a precautionary agreement with the International Monetary Fund in order to continue receiving funds from international organizations.
This is the key measure which Bukele’s government is set to approve; the measure will go hand in hand with a harsh fiscal adjustment that will fall on the shoulders of the working class and general public: an increase in sales tax, the privatization of public services that remain in state hands, the reduction or elimination of subsidies to the poor, mass layoffs of government workers, freezing the minimum wage and social expenditures, as well as other austerity measures. These measures will cause a definitive break with the public as the belt tightens and hunger lurks, and Bukele and his accomplices are well aware of this. That is why they are passing such extreme measures right now, because they know that their window of popularity will soon close.

What is the role of revolutionaries in this situation?

As the Working Class Platform, official section of the International Workers’ League, we are for the destruction of the bourgeois state, its government and its institutions, for the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat, where the working class and the people will govern by direct democracy, that is to say a government of the majority imposed upon the minority, a government for the many against the few. Although we do not defend the bourgeois-democratic regime and are for its destruction, we are nevertheless in favor of democratic liberties for all sections of the working class, and the Bukele faction’s concentration of power represents a threat to the whole working class.
For this reason, our program for revolutionaries is as follows:

  1. We must position ourselves against the consolidation o0f power within the Bukele regime, with unity in action across all political, popular, and trade unionist organizations.
  2. Nonetheless, we believe that it is important to differentiate ourselves within this struggle, advancing our own program and democratic slogans:
    1. For a recall election, for a referendum
    2. For the participation of working class parties in elections, which means lowering the barriers to the participation and registration of parties in the electoral process, in turn radicalizing democratic representation
    3. For the direct election of second-level government functionaries: justices, general prosecutors, attorneys, etc.
  3. We must also position ourselves against the Fiscal Readjustment, which will reappear in public discourse sooner rather than later.
  4. And most importantly, we must take up this opportunity to build a revolutionary party of the working class, and to engage in ideological struggle in working class organizations, unions, cooperatives, and among popular sectors, to confront the reformists, led by the FMLN (who bear the primarily responsibility for this situation) who intend to reconnect with the masses in the struggle for democracy. We need to raise awareness of their culpability for this situation and to establish independent organs of class struggle.

For the expansion of democratic rights!
For the establishment of the revolutionary party!
For unity among revolutionaries!
Everyone to the struggle!
The original version of this article can be found in Spanish here


[1] On February 9th, 2020, President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele interrupted a session of congress with a military contingent, sat himself down in the congressional president’s chair, and threatened to dissolve it, threatening as well to refuse to attend a plenary that he himself had convened against the advice of his cabinet, with the goal of voting for a security budget.

Leave a Reply