Nayib Bukele: From a Critic of Venezuela to a Partner of its Allies

The president of El Salvador has been criticized for the way his speech changed in relation to countries like Russia or China, strategic partners of regimes like the Venezuelan and the Nicaraguan. Will Nayib Bukele be the new friend of Maduro and Ortega?


Foto: El Salvador Presidency

LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez

In November 2019, the Government of El Salvador, headed by President Nayib Bukele, made a move that very few countries expected: he declared "a diplomatic war" against the president of Venezuela and his government, which he considered illegitimate.

In a decision that surprised most nations in the region, Bukele ordered the expulsion of five Venezuelan diplomats residing in his country, in addition to recognizing Juan Guaidó as the then interim president of the South American state.

“More respect Mr. Nicolás Maduro speaks of a democratically elected president, unlike him. Contrary to you, 9 out of 10 people approve of my government. And in El Salvador, without being on seas of oil, a roll of toilet paper does not cost us a month's salary," was Bukele's response to Maduro's attacks, after the expulsion of diplomatic officials from Salvadoran soil.

He said the same about the president of Nicaragua in January of the same year, shortly before winning the presidential elections on February 3. In a Twitter post, Bukele mentioned among a list of three alleged dictators in America Ortega and the former president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández; of course, he also mentioned Maduro again.

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However, Bukele's attitude was no different towards some of the political and commercial allies of the Latin American governments that he criticized so much, as he demonstrated in a speech he gave at the Heritage Foundation on March 13, 2019.

The then president-elect of El Salvador directly attacked China, assuring that the Asian country "is not a democracy", and that in case of having friendly relations it would be to have mutual "respect" and not to talk about "money". or investment”.

"They develop projects that are not feasible, they leave countries with a huge debt that cannot be paid and they use that as financial leverage," added Bukele.

So why has Nayib Bukele's thinking changed so suddenly in recent months, showing support for world powers like Russia and China, allies of Venezuela and Nicaragua?

Although the president of the Salvadorans has not shown any intention of wanting to change his speech towards the countries he called "dictatorial" in Latin America, the way in which he has begun to speak positively of the European and Asian powers is surprising. even initiating deals with said States.

Likewise, it has begun to use a disruptive discourse with the United States, which El Salvador has considered for almost its entire history as the most important partner, not only in the region but in the world.

The constant problems that have arisen in recent months with the government of Joe Biden due to some "authoritarian" attitudes of Bukele exposed by the US authorities (such as the unjustified departure of Attorney General Raúl Melara with the help of the Legislative Assembly) have the fact that the politician begins to show a defiant attitude that threatens diplomatic relations between the two.

"Historically, we have been a unipolar country, we have only looked towards the United States, but it is also important for El Salvador to look towards other places, one of those places is Turkey," Bukele said on January 20, when he visited the Eurasian country, who is also considered another of Venezuela's strategic allies.

However, the turn that has surprised me the most is the one he had with China, which he even considers as a friend, even after the statements he gave in March 2018. On December 30 of last year, Bukele took advantage of his account on Twitter to mention his most recent achievement: obtaining a millionaire budget granted by the Asian giant to be able to build a soccer stadium that can receive at least 50 thousand spectators.

This situation led him, in addition to thanking China and bragging about his most recent friendship, to criticize the US government, in a style similar to that of Nicaragua or even Venezuela. "Who is your friend? The one that gives you a stadium, a library, a convention center, a dock, and a water treatment plant; or the one that puts you on lists, sanctions you, and finances your opponents?” Bukele wrote on the social network.

For her part, the Chinese ambassador to El Salvador, Ou Jianhong, has reflected on the new good relations between the two countries, calling the Nayib government a reflection of gallantry. “Today is the third day of the spring festival of the year of the tiger […] that symbolizes courage, strength, and success […] today also marks the third anniversary of the victory of President Nayib Bukele in the presidential elections,” he said. Ou last February 3.

As for Russia, Bukele has done everything possible to begin to have a better relationship with that country, accepting some offers from the Kremlin, such as aid in financial, scientific, and educational terms, in addition to the arrival of several batches of Sputnik V, the vaccine against COVID-19 developed 100% on Russian soil.

In this way, Nayib Bukele has started a race to try to minimize diplomatic friction with important allies of the Latin American left, even reaching a level of friendship with said countries. However, the most relevant characteristic among all these new friends of Bukele is, perhaps, the authoritarianism of all of them (Turkey, Russia, and China), the same authoritarianism that many have criticized the "Millennial president".

Is this the beginning of a new autocratic government in the continent, a simple whim due to Biden's criticism of El Salvador, or a rapprochement with great world powers to broaden the panorama on the international scene?

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