Two members of opposition FMLN party murdered in El Salvador weeks before election amidst President Bukele’s “hate campaign”

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On the evening of January 31, gunmen opened fire on a group of supporters of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The group, traveling in a pickup truck covered with FMLN signs, was returning from a day of campaigning for the upcoming February 28 mayoral and legislative elections in San Salvador. Two veterans of the armed conflict, Gloria Rogel del Cid and Juan de Dios Tejada, died and at least two more injured.

Rather than condemning the attacks, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele quickly took to Twitter to  insult and attack the FMLN, insinuating that the assault was planned by the party against their own people to gain public sympathy ahead of the elections.

During a press conference on Sunday, FMLN Secretary General Óscar Ortiz called on Attorney General Raul Melara and head of the National Civilian Police to conduct a transparent and thorough investigation. Meanwhile, the Political Commission of the Legislative Assembly called on “the international community to keep its eyes on El Salvador, also calling on the United Nations to “monitor peace and other rights.”

The president’s response was a reflection of what FMLN leaders describe as a “discourse of hate” perpetrated by President Bukele, who, since deploying the National Civilian Police and the Armed Forces to surround and enter the Legislative Assembly last February in an attempt to strongarm legislators into approving additional security funds, has publicly and repeatedly incited violence against members of the Legislative Assembly and his political opponents, from urging the public to exercise their “constitutional right to popular insurrection” to stating during a meeting at the Inter-American Development Bank that people in El Salvador were justified in their supposed desire to “burn all politicians alive.”

Bukele and representatives of his Nuevas Ideas party, which will compete in the February 28 elections for the first time, have also made unsubstantiated accusations that officials from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal are conspiring to commit fraud against them. As an indication of the types of action Bukele foments among his base, Nuevas Ideas members have gone far as to lock election officials inside their headquarters over disputed candidate qualifications. 

Statement from Samantha Pineda, Program Director at the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES):

“It is heartbreaking and terrifying to see a return to this type of overt political violence in El Salvador, which had largely ended after the Peace Accords were signed in 1992, but it’s not necessarily a surprise. Social movements and international solidarity organizations have been warning that behind the president’s discourse of hate is a Machiavellian strategy to legitimize violent state repression and the consolidation of power.

“In December, President Bukele visited El Mozote, the site of one of the largest massacres in Latin America to date, to call the Peace Accords a ‘farce.’ In truth, his goals are to destroy many of the most important achievements of the accords, like democratic elections, political freedoms and limits on the role of the military in society.

“The similarities between the strategies used by Bukele and those used by Trump to incite violence and undermine democratic institutions are chilling. But time and time again, the organized movements in El Salvador - unions, students, feminists, campesines, FMLN members - are taking to the streets, to social media and to the press to make clear that they see exactly what Bukele is trying to do and will resist any attempt to return to authoritarian rule.”

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Media Contact: Alexis Stoumbelis, [email protected], +1 202-521-2510 ext. 205
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