Thousands protest in El Salvador against Bukele government

October 17, 2021

By Nelson Renteria

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Thousands of people in El Salvador took to the streets on Sunday to air a range of complaints against President Nayib Bukele, from adopting bitcoin as legal tender to firing Supreme Court judges, viewed by critics as a power grab.

At least 4,000 people, according to estimates by local media, marched through capital San Salvador with banners and signs rejecting bitcoin, which officially became legal tender in the Central American country in September, the removal of Supreme Court judges and the potential for Bukele to seek a second consecutive term.

People in the streets chanted slogans including “What does El Salvador want? Get rid of the dictator!” Near the capital’s main square, protesters set fire to a doll bearing the likeness of the 40-year-old president.

Bukele proclaimed himself “dictator” of the Central American country on his Twitter account last month, in an apparent joke amid concerns about his increasing concentration of power.

In May, a Congress dominated for the first time by Bukele’s New Ideas party voted to fire the judges on the constitutional panel of the Supreme Court, among the most senior jurists in the country, as well as the then-attorney general. Replacements seen as friendly to Bukele were swiftly voted in to replace them, which generated harsh criticism from the United States as well as top international rights groups.

Bukele’s administration then came under fire from the United States after the Supreme Court judges ruled that the president could seek a second consecutive term, which Washington saw as unconstitutional.

“We are totally losing rights because today they do not respect the laws. Here, what’s done is the will of Nayib,” said Rosa Granados, a labor union member who participated in the protests.

“If he raises his hand, all the deputies approve it and there is no law and no legal process that is respected,” she added.

Bukele, a seasoned and often provocative user of social media, dismissed the protests as a “failure” on his Twitter account.

“The march is a failure and they know it….. Nobody believes them here anymore,” he wrote.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria, writing by Cassandra Garrison, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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