Polls close in El Salvador with incumbent Bukele set for victory

Polls close in El Salvador with incumbent Bukele set for victory

/ 07:45 AM February 05, 2024


Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a speech after casting his vote in San Salvador on February 4, 2024. (Photo by Marvin RECINOS / AFP)

San Salvador, El Salvador — Polls closed in El Salvador after 10 hours of voting Sunday with incumbent President Nayib Bukele’s victory all but confirmed thanks to his no-holds-barred war on gangs that has slashed homicide rates in a violence-weary nation.

Voting without fear for the first time in many years under a state of emergency imposed for the crackdown, Salvadorans young and old waited patiently — many gleefully — in queues watched over by tens of thousands of police and soldiers countrywide.


Bukele, 42, holds approval ratings hovering around 90 percent, polls as Latin America’s most popular leader and is expected to expand his hold over the legislative assembly.


But his reelection is controversial, having been made possible by a loyalist Supreme Court ruling allowing him to bypass a constitutional ban on successive terms.

El Salvador’s fearsome gangs took some 120,000 civilian lives in three decades, according to the government, which says criminal groups controlled 80 percent of the country when Bukele took power in 2019.

His government has rounded up more than 75,000 gangsters — real and suspected — since a state of emergency came into effect in March 2022.

Thousands are held in a brand-new prison — plugged as the largest in the Americas — which the president had built in a matter of months.

And last year, the country that was once one of the most dangerous in the world saw the murder rate plummet to its lowest level in three decades — far below the global average.

“Things were ugly before,” said Sandra Burgos, 68, who recently opened a small bookstore in La Campanera — a once notoriously violent neighborhood of San Salvador which in the time of gang rule was divided into numerous no-go areas.


“Now we are fine. We can move around… before it was not possible.”

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TAGS: El Salvador, Nayib Bukele

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