PROES: 100 days of miscalculations and setbacks of the new government

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Nayib Bukele speaks in front of an American flag at the US Embassy in El Salvador

At 100 days in office, President Nayib Bukele has embroiled Salvadoran politics--and not only because of his populist rhetoric. Many in El Salvador’s social movement increasingly see parallels between the emerging trends of his administration and those of other neoconservative and authoritarian governments in the region. The following document from Professionals for the transformation of El Salvador (PROES) identifies 100 actions and statements from the new president that have caused the most concern (translated from the original Spanish by CISPES).

(September 8, 2019)

At 100 days of the new administration: unemployment and the price of various goods and services has increased; the state is weakened; various social programs have been terminated; and foreign policy, at the service of the United States, has damaged national sovereignty. Below we present 100 setbacks and miscalculations of the government.

Inauguration speech
1. In his inauguration speech, the president announced that “we would have to take a little bitter medicine” and “suffer a bit.”
2. He also said that “no one will stand between God and his people to change El Salvador,” meaning the administration will try to subordinate other branches of the government.

Violation of labor rights
3. Dissolution of five state secretariats without approval from the legislature and without having carried out evaluations involving finances, job positions, or the relocation of personnel, as required by Article 3 of the Law of Civil Service.
4. Dismissal of at least 1,000 public employees without evaluation of their hiring processes or performance and without modification of the wage law.
5. Dismissal of pregnant women and/or women on maternity leave, people with disabilities, and people with chronic diseases. Of the total number of people dismissed from the five dissolved secretariats, 80% are women.
6. Persecution and threats to fire thousands of public employees for allegedly belonging to the previous government party. This is a violation of Article 246 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits discrimination at work on the grounds of “religious or political ideas.”
7. Announcement from the Secretary of Commerce and Investment regarding a reform to make the working day more “flexible” so that employees would work 44 hours/week in four days; further, if employees work on Friday and Saturday at another company those hours (because of being placed under separate contract) would be paid at the regular rate, instead of the overtime rate, which is higher.
8. No vote to approve the international convention against violence and harassment in the workplace, approved at the International Labor Organization (ILO) conference on June 21. This violence is occurring in the Salvadoran state. The National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP) agrees with the government to reject the convention.
9. Presidential veto of the temporary decree for voluntary retirement of approximately 1,000 teachers, on the basis that there is no money to pay them; this is incorrect since the funds would only need to be placed in the 2020 budget, the year in which the decree would apply.
10. Two Ecos Familiares (family health centers) were closed: the Santa Gertrudis, in the municipality of San Martín, and the Amate Blanco, in the municipality El Porvenir.
11. Dismissal of 35 women from the Ciudad Mujer (Women’s City) program in Usulután.
12. Increase in fee-based contract work, which does not grant benefits or guarantee job stability, in various state agencies, especially the Ministry of Health.

Increase in the cost of living
13. Increase in electric energy and fuel prices.
14. Announcement from the Minister of Economy and President Bukele that the national water authority (ANDA) would cut subsidies for energy, gas, and water.
15. Announcement from the Minister of Health regarding privatization of public hospital services.
16. Increase in the price of domestic gas: $0.09/20-lb cylinder, $0.12/25-lb cylinder, and $0.16 /350lb cylinder.

Poor public administration
17. Presidential request that World Bank experts tell the country what to do, after having said the government plan (the Cuscatlán Plan) was in place.
18. No General Government Plan, as required by Article 167 of the Constitution. Likewise, the administration has not formed the Development, Protection, and Social Inclusion Plan, as established in Articles 11 and 12 of the Law on Development and Social Protection of El Salvador.
19. Unfilled cabinet posts. The majority of filled posts have been given to men: 71% of the ministries and vice ministries are occupied by men and 29% by women.
20. Assignment of childhood and youth issues to new figures in the cabinet, violating the form of management defined in the laws of creation of autonomous institutions such as the National Council of Childhood and Adolescence (CONNA) and the National Institute of Youth (INJUVE), when appointing intermediary persons to whom both autonomous bodies must report directly.
21. Appointment of a pro-employer unionist to Minister of Labor.
22. Appointment of an official fired for sexually harassing the president of the National Lottery in 2010 to President of the Development Bank of El Salvador (BANDESAL).
23. Appointments given to two hospital directors accused of sexual harassment.
24. Appointment of a veterinary medicine professional to director of the women's hospital.
25. Appointment of a lawyer who has been a military defender linked to the El Mozote massacre to Deputy Minister of Defense
26. Appointment of Godofredo Miranda to Deputy Director of Specialized Areas of the National Civil Police (PNC); as Deputy Head of the Criminal Investigation Division of the PNC, Miranda failed to inspect the scene of a crime committed against his niece Katia Miranda in 1999. Facing the protest of various social sectors, President Bukele ordered his removal four hours later.
27. Appointment given to a commissioner tasked with covering up the murderer of agent Carla Ayalaas as Director of the PNC. The Human Rights Institute at the University of Central America (IDHUCA) questioned the appointment because the person named had directed the Subdirectorate of Operational Areas, which is composed of elite units such as the Political Reaction Group (GRP) and Special Reaction Forces (FES); police officers from these units were previously prosecuted for extrajudicial executions, which are considered "serious human rights violations” internationally.
28. Appointment of officials not qualified for their positions but linked to President Bukele’s family, business, or friend circles: eg, Ministers of Public Works and Agriculture, Presidents of Port Executive Commission (CEPA) and the International Center for Fairs and Conventions (CIFCO), President of the National Commission for Micro and Small Businesses (CONAMYPE), Commissioner for Youth, and others.
29. Appointment of a manager from President Bukele’s motorcycle importing company who does not have engineering knowledge to Minister of Public Works.
30. Appointment of ministers to ministries that do not exist: eg, “Local Development and Housing.”
31. Appointment of an unqualified dental professional (who later resigned) to Deputy Minister of Public Works.
32. Resignation of four officials during the first 30 days of government: Director of Migration, President of the Executive Hydroelectric Commission of the Lempa River (CEL), Director of the San Miguel Hospital, and Vice Minister of Transportation.
33. Announcement of the transfer of a unit that does not exist, the “Victim Reparation Directorate,” to the Ministry of Security. What does exist is the unit for "comprehensive care for victims of crime," which since 2011 has operated in the Ministry of Security.
34. Transfer of the Ciudad Mujer program to a nonexistent ministry, that of “Local Development.”
35. Closure of the Misión Milagro (Miracle Mission) program, as of June 1 and not reinstated, as President Bukele promised. This cooperative program supported by Cuba guarantees the right to visual health for people with limited resources.
36. War hero decoration given to a general accused of being linked to the murder of the Jesuits, for which there is an international arrest warrant.
37. Concealment of crime statistics, including extortion, theft, vehicle theft, robbery, etc, all of which the previous government updated monthly.
38. Police search of a nine-year-old child in Santa Ana, as a result of violent security measures promoted by the government.
39. Denial of a US visa to President Bukele’s press secretary, who apparently is not liked in the United States.
40. Refusal to declare a state of emergency due to an increase in Dengue cases.
41. The Directorate of Sexual Diversity, which operated in the Ministry of Social Inclusion [which was dissolved] and was transferred to the Ministry of Culture, is nonfunctioning; this subverts Executive Decree 56, which was established to eliminate discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in public administration.
42. The Directorate for Older Adults, who worked in the Ministry of Social Inclusion [which was dissolved], was not relocated to any of the state offices, leaving the population that this entity serves in limbo.
43. The National Council for the Care of Older Adults Programs (CONAIPAM) remains inactive, as President Bukele has not yet defined which of the seven state institutions it comprises should act as coordinator; the Secretariat of Social Inclusion, dissolved by President Bukele, acted as coordinator in the last government.
44. Inability to begin installation of the Veterans Institute or execute its $53 million budget due to ignorance of the directive by army veterans and the FMLN, resulting in sabotage of autonomous decision-making in this sector, as provided by law.
45. Arbitrary dismissal of the legally elected board of directors of the Union of Workers at the Salvadoran Social Security Institute (STISSS) by the Minister of Labor and transfer of administrative credentials to Ricardo Monge.
46. ​​Delay in executing a $170 million loan to strengthen primary health care, as well as the hospital network, the construction of a new secondary care hospital in Nejapa, and the construction of the new Rosales National Hospital, which was designed and approved as a modern, fully equipped primary care hospital.
47. Disregard for the progress achieved by the Health Reform and National Integrated Health System laws, which established the Ministry of Health as the governing body over that system, creating a National Directorate of Preventive Health directed from the Presidential House.
48. No appointment by President Bukele of a director for the Salvadoran Institute of Teacher Welfare (ISBM), which oversees health care for teachers in the country.
49. Persecution and harassment of labor, including Ministry of Labor supervision of media that are critical of the new government.
50. Crisis in the supply of drinking water in municipalities in the northern area of ​​greater San Salvador for 30 consecutive days as a result of intervention in the Las Pavas water treatment plant without a contingency plan. The president of ANDA finally announced the partial abandonment of the repair work in that plant due to lack of resources, with the promise of ending in a year.
51. Violation of human rights of marginalized populations due to the suppression or dissolution of several secretariats, including those serving the LGBTIQ population, native peoples, older adults, victims of Mozote, people with disabilities, and others.
52. Closure of the Jóvenes con Todo (Youth with Everything) program, affecting more than 30,000 young people nationwide.
53. Promotion of the privatization of higher education by redirecting funds from the Jóvenes con Todo program toward 250 scholarships for two- or three-year careers in each of the country's private universities, without grant recipients having to demonstrate real need for government assistance.
54. Termination of the literacy program initiated during the FMLN administration, which had reduced illiteracy from 14% to 6%.
55. Abandonment of reparation programs for surviving victims of the El Mozote community in Morazán.
56. Increase in suspected cases and confirmed deaths due to Dengue throughout the country.

Setbacks in matters of security
57. Hard-line return to iron-fist policies and an empowered police sector via the Territorial Control Plan, which sees repression, instead of service to communities, as the only solution. Community service is the raison d’etre of community police.
58. Empowerment of a recalcitrant sector of police commanders and a change in police image, in order that security be taken up by the Armed Forces.
59. The National Academy of Public Security (ANSP) is being taken over by 25 officers and is expected to double, replacing civilian headquarters and militarizing the institution without taking into account the capacity and teaching experience installed.
60. Backward steps by the ANSP in suspending the Technical Police Sciences and the plan to turn it into a Higher Education Institution, with bachelor's degrees, masters, and doctorates, similar to other police bodies in Latin America.

False accusations
61. Accusation against the FMLN of financing gangs, without evidence presented to the Attorney General's Office. The FMLN sued the Prosecutor.
62. Accusation of acts of corruption against the FMLN to the Minister of Security and the Director of Police, without evidence presented to the Prosecutor's Office. Later, both defamed officials were appointed advisers to the current director of the PNC.

Interference in other branches of the state
63. “Warning” by President Bukele to the Judicial Branch to not rule in favor of the fired employees who sued.
64. Requirement from President Bukele to the Legislative Assembly to approve a $91 million security loan that does not exist. The Minister of Finance said that he would request authorization from the Legislative Assembly to present a loan proposal for $200 million to the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI).
65. Failed presidential order to destroy the Integrated System of Transport in the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador (SITRAMSS) after the Constitutional Chamber ruled that only the segregated lane could be bid on.
66. Negotiation between President Bukele and the Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General to install an International Commission against Impunity (CICIES) without authorization from the Legislative Assembly, only to demonstrate a desire to fight corruption (when in fact Bukele himself hasn’t paid the debt he owes the Ministry of Finance nor presented his statements of probity during his term as mayor).

Errant opinions
67. Use of the term “passionate feminicide,” instead of just “feminicide,” to refer to the murder of a woman.
68. Confusion on the part of President Bukele about the concepts of permanent employment and underemployment. He called underemployed people unemployed and also described as unemployed those who work in the fields and have a low income.
69. Denial of poverty data inherited from the previous government and endorsed by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. President Bukele said the real data should concern multidimensional poverty, which, according to him, has increased in recent years. However, that indicator has been measured since 2016 and shows a decrease of 34% in 2016 to 28.8% in 2018.
70. Claim by President Bukele that in 2015 there were 20 homicides/day (there were actually 18) and omission of homicide data inherited by his government, which was 9 homicides/day between January and May 2019.
71. Statement by President Bukele that "we are not fulfilling the role of the Banana Republic," when El Salvador has never been a banana country. The Salvadoran economy was for many years based on coffee and cotton agro-export and since the end of the war has been a service economy.

Foreign policy errors
72. Foreign policy fully aligned with the United States government.
73. Defeat of the Salvadoran state in the election of the United Nations (UN) Security Council.
74. Absence of the president in the transfer of the Pro Tempore Presidency of the Central American Integration System (SICA) to El Salvador, despite being at the dinner offered by the President of Guatemala.
75. Offensive speech against the Mexican people, about whom President Bukele said there have been 200 years of problems.
76. Ignorance of the legitimate government of Venezuela headed by Nicolás Maduro, recognized by the UN, in the OAS General Assembly.
77. Silence from the government over violations, including child imprisonment, of the rights of Salvadoran migrants in the United States.
78. Tensing of relations with Nicaragua and Honduras, countries with which El Salvador shares important integration spaces (eg, SICA, the Central American Parliament [PARLACEN], and others) and strategic commercial relations. Honduras is El Salvador’s third-closest business partner after Guatemala and the United States.
79. Appointment of a foreign citizen who does not come to work to Advisory Minister at the Austrian Embassy, although Chancellor Hill Tinoco promised to professionalize the foreign service.
80. Handover of control of the Monsignor Arnulfo Romero airport to the US government.
81. Authorization to install a US patrol in El Salvador dedicated to preventing migration to the United States.
82. Protection of former Guatemalan prosecutor Thelma Aldana, against whom an international arrest warrant has been filed for several corruption crimes in Guatemala, causing an interference of justice with the neighboring country. Aldana is an advisor to Vice President Félix Ulloa on the design/installation of the CICIES.

Lies as government policy
83. The president lied about the interest rate on the sale of bonds, which was 7.12%, saying it was the lowest rate in the last 30 years, when in 2012 bonds were placed at 5.87% and in 2014 at 6.37%
84. The Minister of Labor lied in saying that, during the previous government, El Salvador was convicted by 198 ILO countries for violation of labor rights.
85. The Minister of Labor lied in saying that the previous authorities left the ministry bankrupt. In June, when the new government took power, the Ministry of Labor had spent 45% of its budget ($7.4 of $16.4 million), leaving $9 million for the second half of the year (55% of the budget).
86. President Bukele lied in saying that the individuals responsible for raping two passengers on a bus in the Congo were arrested and ordered to a maximum security prison. Those captured in the operation were only charged with resisting arrest and subsequently released.
87. Announcement of the creation of a bridge in 40 days: construction has not begun.
88. Announcement of the construction of the Pacific train, described in the Cuscatlán Plan: construction has not begun.
89. False announcement to put an end to the Chaparral dam construction project.
90. False announcement that physical education would be introduced in schools; it had never been removed.
91. President Bukele's lie declaring that the political debt paid by the FMLN to the state would be invested in social programs. That money goes to other parties, such as GANA, which increased voting in the presidential elections of February 2019.
92. Electoral deception and clientelism, in addition to corruption, by allowing agricultural packages purchased with public resources to be delivered by deputies and mayors of ARENA, GANA, or members of New Ideas.
93. President Bukele did not extradite Mauricio Funes, as he said he would; that promise is meaningless because neither is Funes a fugitive from justice nor is the president able to make an extradition.
94. President Bukele has not fulfilled his promise to be transparent in public administration. In fact, his administration’s actions demonstrate exactly the opposite as it eliminated the Secretariat of Transparency and its officials refuse to declare their assets.
95. Most of the officials of the current government have not submitted their equity declarations to the probity unit, although it is a legal requirement.
96. President Bukele, far from promoting transparency in his government, has done the opposite, by classifying the budget of the State Intelligence Agency (OIE), which had been public.
97. Taking credit for work and actions that were financed and negotiated by the previous government, such as financing for the Rosales Hospital, the San Miguel bypass, Mexico's support to generate employment in the countryside and to curb migration, purchase of medicines for hospitals, financing for the construction of a health training center for personnel throughout the Central America region, among others.
98. Concealment of the alarming data on missing persons, which for the month of August alone included 197 complaints, an average of seven missing persons daily.
99. The Minister of Agriculture said that the seeds for the 2019 agricultural packages are of poor quality in order to justify buying the seeds from a foreign company next year.
100. President Bukele lied in stating that his administration inherited a bankrupt country, when ECLAC, the IMF, and the World Bank positively rated the economy and its growth.

PROES is an organization that brings together a broad spectrum of professionals from El Salvador to promote academic development, research, and defense of the rights and interests of professional people to actively contribute to the country's transformation from a leftist perspective. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, or email them at [email protected].

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