It's Effective. It's Popular. It's Brutal.
You must have balls of steel Loan. Excellent article again.
The parallels with Colombia during Alvaro Uribe's tenure are palpaple. Many congratulate Uribe for bringing down crime and turning Colombia from a no-go area to a thriving new focus for adventurous tourists. His policies did have significant popular support and did reduce crime somewhat (though this was exaggerated on both counts, in my view). But moreover, it came at a terrible cost that was borne by the most disadvantaged and marginalized sectors of the population. These sectors are naturally the least politically powerful, least able to get their voices heard in the public square, and least represented politically. Human rights violations during Uribe's time in office were horrendous and widespread. The false positives scandal is one of the more well-known and well-publicized examples, but is really just the tip of the iceberg. I think the experience of Colombia under Uribe shows how in the long-run these mano dura policies ultimately fail because they create a new set of problems of their own. Ireland also provides an interesting parallel: Internment in the northeast of Ireland in 1971, for example, may well have brought down violence that year, but the following year was the bloodiest of the entire period of the Troubles. I fear that something similar might happen here in the aftermath of this crackdown, though of course I hope not.
I think a better solution for both Colombia and El Salvador would have been some kind of peace and reconciliation process with transitional justice including some amnesty, social programs to alleviate the root causes of the maras, and a forum for both maras and victims to have their experiences heard and better understood by the wider populous. Something similar happened in Colombia with the FARC (though this has had its set of failures) and I see no reason why it couldn't be tried with less politically-motivated groups such as the Maras. AMLO and even Vicente Fox have suggested something similar in Mexico with the Cartels though I don't think AMLO really followed through with this once in office.
Also, I think we need to be skeptical of some of these polls showing such high support. 90% seems very high given that presumably many people have had family members who are involved with the Maras, and indeed many presumably have family members who have been wrongly caught up in all this. In a poor and highly unequal country like El Salvador, it wouldn't surprise me if the more well-off and more right-leaning sectors of the population are overrepresented in these polls. And I would be also be interested to hear who it is what organizations are conducting them and whether they have vested interest, political bias, et cetera.
Anyway, thanks for an interesting and informative read,
Thanks for the insightful article. historically and as you mention this sort of mass incarceration becomes more a tool for the persecution of ruling parties enemies and less about law and order...given there’s now a vacuum where the gangs existed one wonders who will move to fill that presumably profitable space
I could almost see ~similar support in the USA, for a war on the homeless. Building tiny home communities, like we have started here in Austin, would be cheaper, but TX loves punishing 'the other'
Mexico, where my brother was murdered, needs a Bukele.
Excellent article. I've been tracking Bukele to some extent due to my own work on crypto, and have connections at El Faro who had to leave the country. As you point out, the line quickly can move from bludgeoning suspected gang members to incarcerating anyone who the popular dictator doesn't dig
I do not think you can over emphasize the destruction the United States created in deporting MS-13 and Barrio-18 gang members to El Salvador and even Honduras and Guatemala. These were seasoned gang members involved in numerous battles and wars with Los Angeles's most ruthless gangs in the 1980's. Central America was a playground to them after the streets of Los Angeles. The gangs faced no organized crime fighting resistance and the countries were there for them exploit and terrorize in any way they wanted.
The tragedy of the El Salvadoran Civil War and the triumph of the land barons and other recipients of the corruption in El Salvador supported by the United States prevented any implementation of needed land reform and reform of a very corrupt economic system. If Bukele is too succeed in the long term this reform becomes necessary. Certainly Bukele's popularity represents another possibility for Central and South America to escape the predatory foreign affair actions of the United States and truly become an independent country. I would not be surprised if Bukele guides El Salvador to become a member of BRICS. and add another S to Brazil, Russia, India China and South Africa.
Very detailed and impressive your article Ioan, they Bukele's way, la mano dura, mucho dura, make us in front of big dilemma as you clear explain, which is the trade-off, this a price to pay to get streets and shops and life really safe. A strategy that works, its the true, really, with prices to pay. Events to study more and use to confrontation with other countries.
I wonder if you would do a colab with me about an evangelical preacher who died this year in Mexico...an adventure story where the fallen hero resembles Indiana Jones. My original research adds depth to the stunning story not found in any published accounts. You are much more established that I am as a writer; I would be grateful for your help getting the information out. You'll get an email request to collaborate. You may edit anything you like.
balanced and objective article..
I'm not sure of ALL the facts, but i see (in media) homeless (crazy) blamed for 'smash & grabs' inner cities being abandoned by retailers, residents afraid to visit downtown's, public parks & zero (defunded/slow downs) police responses.
When the extent of Hurricane Katrina's damage became apparent, 1st thing that came to mind was the Work Projects Administration, that supplied paid jobs to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States, while building up the public infrastructure of the US, such as parks, schools, and roads. IMAGINE
He is! It is this, far more than any of his Leftism, that has the cross-and-crown historic ruling elite in such a huff. It is also this that has put the mezcal-chugging PTers and purple-haired anarchists of Mexico's hard Left in such a huff. 😉
I have followed your work for a long time and quoted you periodically on my shortwave radio show. I would like to compare notes more and meet for coffee sometime when I'm in the D.F. Please reach out to me on Telegram or my website, GospelGunslingers.com.
Neoliberalism is real, and I have come to hate it, but I do not believe it was the philosophy of Admiral Faller, who summed up his policy with this quote, "If you give a hand, sometimes you don't have to give the fist." I do believe that Bukele is a real, protestant, evangelical Christian. Convincing me was not easy, as I have investigated dozens of supposed "revivals" and found them to mostly be artificial, inauthentic religious exercises. Bukele has made a point to not alienate more moderate (or opposed) members of his constituency with shallow and saccharine declarations of his faith, preferring to let his results speak for themselves. It is known that his four siblings all attended evangelical universities, some are in the ministry. What I consider Bukele's "big declaration" of his faith was when, on a day of prayer about a year into his presidency, he tweeted about 20 Bible verses. Nothing from the Koran; no maxims of saints. Just the Bible, pure and simple, and those verses that pertained to his policy. His father was the head of all Islam in El Salvador, as I understand, and Islam is the official faith of the vast majority of the Palestinian population and diaspora. Benny Hinn, the world-renowned evangelist, is another notable exception. The Palestinian liberation movement worldwide is communist and thus has found allies in the 🇨🇴FARC, 🇲🇽EZLN, and 🇭🇳FMLN "resistances" and even on the state level in Maduro's🇻🇪Venezuela and Kirchnerist🇦🇷Argentina. I was very concerned when Bukele came to power that he would continue in this vein. He has done the opposite. Admiral Faller was right. Bukele has overcome my jaded state and persistent pessimism. I admit that I am pleasantly surprised.
I thought US Admiral Craig Faller had gone crazy when he laid out the plan to turn El Salvador around and Bukele was president-elect. The success of the venture has been astonishing. It will take a while for the world to believe it is really true. Bukele made his Christianity clear publicly around the first anniversary of his presidency (a fact that was already suggested when evangelist Dante Gebel led the crowd in a sincere prayer of national repentance at Bukele's inauguration). The sea-change in El Salvador is spiritual. Some observers will be convinced of its veracity when it stands the test of time. Others will resist admitting to the bitter end that Christianity has prevailed over lawlessness, the Satanism so obvious in the cartel/mara culture, and the deliberate sowing of this barbarous scourge...a scourge that was cultivated intentionally in the US prison system and exported on purpose by the only aggressive deportation campaign of the Clinton presidency.