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Gellman on El Salvador’s Facade of Democracy: The Conversation

Associate professor of political science and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative Mneesha Gellman writes for the academic news site The Conversation about El Salvador “in crisis” after President Nayib Bukele recently fired five supreme court justices and the attorney general, in a troubling move for democracy.

“An independent judiciary is essential to democratic governance,” said the U.S. State Department said of the justices’ dismissal.

Bukele – who at 37 was the world’s youngest president and belonged to neither major party – pledged to tackle all these problems. But life for most Salvadorans has not improved under his leadership. People are still fleeing El Salvador en masse.

Last year, during the pandemic, 12,590 Salvadorans were deported by U.S. immigration enforcement; in 2019, nearly 19,000 were. Some analysts consider El Salvador a “failed state,” while others have labeled it a “flawed democracy.”

In my analysis, Nayib Bukele’s presidency has simply removed the façade that El Salvador ever became a full democracy. Free and fair elections aside, its regime is a work in progress. Under Bukele’s leadership, El Salvador is inching back toward its authoritarian past, while Salvadorans continue to hope for change.

Read The Conversation piece.

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