Inside the growing cult of El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele, Latin America’s Political Star

Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times on 

MEXICO CITY — In Peru, there is talk of building a monument in his honor.

In Honduras and Ecuador, leaders have copied his draconian security policies, his tough-on-crime rhetoric — and even his fashion choices.

In Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia and Guatemala, citizens have taken to the streets calling on their own governments to embrace his extreme strategies for combating violence.

Latin America has a new hero on the right: the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele.

The brash young autocrat has won legions of fans throughout the region for a sweeping crackdown on gangs that has dramatically lowered violent crime. That his “mano dura” policies draw scorn from human rights and democracy advocates seems to only feed his cult-like status as a renegade willing to get things done, whatever the cost.

“He is a role model,” said Diego Uceda Guerra-García, the mayor of a district in Lima, Peru, who has called for stiffer laws and longer prison sentences, and who hopes to build a public park in Bukele’s name. “He has put an end to the scourge. In countries like ours where there is a lot of ignorance and a lot of underdevelopment, sometimes we have to be a bit heavy-handed. Half-measures do not work.”


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