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Story Publication logo February 2, 2024

'Bukele: The Man From Los Sueños' (Spanish)


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El Salvador's president became an unprecedented political phenomenon.


Bukele: El Señor de Los Sueños (Bukele: The Man From Los Sueños) is a six-episode series about how a publicist becomes a politician and convinces a society to give him unlimited power.

Episode 1: Someone like Bukele

How did a millennial who worked in his family's businesses become a central link in El Salvador's political history? In the first episode, we go to the beginnings of Nayib Bukele, the family clan and the figure of the father, his education in a bilingual school and his leap into municipal politics. We take a look back at his childhood and adolescence with one of his primary school teachers and a former schoolmate. Then we traveled to Nuevo Cuscatlán, a town on the outskirts of San Salvador that became Bukele's first laboratory. The voices of former collaborators help us understand what were the first strategies he used to transform the democracy of Central America's smallest country into an experiment that evolves in real time.

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Episode 2: Move fast, break things

Nayib Bukele advanced by leaping rungs in the world of traditional politics in El Salvador, guided by ambition and a sense of opportunity that did not recognize party loyalties. Thus, he broke with his country's historic leftist party, which had brought him to power, and in 2019 he broke with decades of bipartisanship. He used the codes of this era — image and networks — to conquer a country fed up with a system born in the post-war period, eaten away by corruption scandals. In this episode, we reconstruct how the popularity of a young leader who promised to break the status quo was forged, even if he used it for his consecration. And how the scene of his arrival to the presidency was staged, where Bukele warned his country and the world that the time had come to take "bitter medicine."

Episode 3: Time for the 'bitter' pill

As of February 9, 2020, nothing would ever be the same in El Salvador. Faced with the obstacles posed by a Legislative Assembly that was beyond his control, Nayib Bukele burst into Congress with military personnel. It was time to "take bitter medicine," as he anticipated when he assumed the presidency. A new show was starting, and the pandemic set the stage for what was to come: restrictive measures, human rights violations and the hard-line anti-gang discourse. In the 2021 legislative elections, Bukele obtained the majority of deputies he needed and, with everything in his favor, he advanced over the Judicial Branch. A former congressman, a photojournalist and former advisors and collaborators of the Salvadoran president tell us how Bukele built his first steps to control the three branches of government.

Episode 4: The gospel (of bitcoin) according to Bukele

Bukele made El Salvador the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender in a quick and opaque way, without the support of the population and with a law that left many questions. It worked as publicity for him ... outside the country. In this episode we reach El Zonte, ground zero of the Salvadoran experiment with cryptocurrencies, where a journalist who has covered this story from the beginning helps us understand the impact of this measure on the local economy. We also hear the voices of the community that cannot buy property because prices have skyrocketed, or that is evicted to build tourist projects; meanwhile, supporters of this proposal, which seeks to break with the traditional financial system, insist on the advantages of its implementation. The "pilot plan" of the Salvadoran crypto-economy has made it clear that a tax-free illusion can cost the local population dearly.

Episode 5: 'Batman' discovers the old business of violence

In March 2022, a spike in homicides knocked Nayib Bukele off planet Bitcoin. The death of 87 people in three days marked the beginning of the police state that since then has dominated the lives of Salvadorans, a regime of exception that suspends basic guarantees and adds thousands of complaints of arbitrary detentions. Torture and deaths in prisons at the same time gave way to a "safe" country and a model that today others want to copy. While journalistic investigations and documents reveal Bukele's pact with the gangs at the beginning of his administration, the sudden violence gave him an excuse to appeal to the same solution as other governments —the iron fist — but with the enthusiasm of an entrepreneur, without brakes, with publicity and blows of effect. The scorched earth policy made Bukele one of the most popular politicians in the region and ended up breaking some communities that resisted almost everything, until the government offered them a phone number and told them: Call, your complaint is anonymous.

Episode 6: The last choice

More than a decade ago, Nayib Bukele defended the alternation of power. But once in the presidential chair, he went against the Salvadoran Constitution, which prohibits reelection in six of its articles. Going over this limit, validated by the Constitutional Chamber appointed by Bukelismo, was a new starting point in the race for absolute control of El Salvador. Since 2022, the president has transformed the rules of the electoral game in a broad sense and in a profound way: from the changes in the voting system for Salvadorans abroad, to the political-geographical reorganization of the country and the reduction of the number of representatives in the Legislative Assembly. In this last episode, we review the strategies that changed the political scenario in El Salvador (and the region). The question "how do you get to the point where the promises of democracy no longer matter?" crosses borders.

Bukele: El Señor de Los Sueños is a podcast series by Central, Radio Ambulante Studios' series channel.


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Democracy and Authoritarianism

Democracy and Authoritarianism




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