In the age of democratic elections, it is extremely rare to see a political candidate command the support of more than 80% of an electorate as El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele did Sunday in the country’s presidential election.
It’s an eye-popping result for an entirely free election that underscores the extent to which Bukele, in his first term in office, has enacted foundational change to a nation that was once a hotbed of organized crime. And in addition to his landslide reelection, Bukele’s party Nuevas Ideas (New Ideas) is poised to win nearly every single seat in the National Assembly.
With a mandate that most politicians around the world would only dream of, Bukele is poised to continue charting a revolutionary course in a nation that less than a decade ago had a murder rate among the highest in the world. Today it is among the lowest.
And just how did Bukele achieve this transformational change? By arresting gang members by the thousands and swiftly destroying their grip on the nation’s way of life.
“Salvadorans have given the example to the entire world that any problem can be solved if there is the will to do it,” Bukele told a massive crowd of supporters on Sunday night. It’s hard to argue with him.
But what might be the most enduring effect of Bukele’s stunning success in preserving domestic security is its effect on the rest of Latin America. As the 42-year-old Bukele enjoys envious approval ratings, the rest of the region is looking to his example as it attempts to shake the control and influence that drug cartels and gangs like MS-13 have enjoyed for years.
For decades, Central and South America have been plagued by corruption and organized crime that has turned parts of the region into perpetual war zones and claimed thousands of lives. It is without question a primary driver for illegal immigration to the United States from that region.
But if the countries in that region were to provide people with a safe place to live, earn an income, and raise a family, the need for that migration north would be significantly diminished as the prospects of prosperity at home increase. El Salvador’s neighbors are taking note.
Xiomara Castro, the president of Honduras, has channeled Bukele’s policies in a similar crackdown on organized crime, even announcing the construction of a new maximum security prison on an island to house gang members.
On Sunday, she was among the first world leaders to congratulate Bukele on his reelection.
“Your firm commitment to the security of the El Salvadoran people was forcefully affirmed at the polls,” she posted on X. “With great respect and consideration I wish you success in your new mandate.”
As other Central and South American leaders look to find electoral success, Bukele’s enduring legacy could be the security of the entire continent. And quite poetically, on the day of his electoral triumph, not a single person was killed in El Salvador.