Accessibility links

Breaking News

Salvadorans March Against Bukele’s Economic, Judicial Policies

An effigy of President Nayib Bukele is set on fire by demonstrators during an anti-government protest in San Salvador, El Salvador, Oct. 17, 2021.

Thousands of protesters marched in San Salvador Sunday against President Nayib Bukele’s government, including the move to make bitcoin legal tender in the country.

Demonstrators, including feminist groups, human rights organizations, environmentalists and members of political parties, shouted slogans and carried signs reading, “Bitcoin is fraud,” “No to dictatorship,” “Democracy is not up for negotiation, it is defended” and “Enough authoritarianism.”

“People are starting to get tired of this authoritarian government, [it’s] anti-democratic,” Ricardo Navarro, head of the environmentalist NGO Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology, told AFP.

“He is already taking us down a cliff with his bad ideas that are already affecting the economy with this bitcoin.”

El Salvador, which has used the U.S. dollar for two decades, became the first country in the world last month to legalize bitcoin as a national currency, which the government says will help revitalize its struggling economy.

Authorities are hoping the use of the digital cryptocurrency could help the country retain the more than $400 million worth of financial fees lost when Salvadorans send remittances home from abroad. Such payments make up some 22% of the country’s gross domestic product, or GDP.

Members of the political opposition said their protest participation Sunday was also about other policies from Bukele and his congressional allies.

“He attacked judicial independence,” Medardo Gonzalez, former leader of the Farabundo Marti Front for Liberation party, told AFP, referring to the recent legislative vote to remove judges over 60 or who have served more than 30 years.

“That is only something a dictatorial government would do, and we don’t want that in El Salvador,” Gonzalez said.

And head of the Salvadoran Trade Union Front Wilfredo Berrios told AFP he had come to the protest to march against water privatization, as Congress debates a law that would guarantee water access for the whole population and ban any private takeover.

Uukele downplayed the discontent, even saying protesters had harassed bystanders who didn’t participate in the march.

“In just 12 seconds, they censor the freedom of expression of a senior, push a person using a mobility aid, and try to censor a media outlet,” Bukele tweeted, alongside a video showing marchers jostling in the streets.

"This is our opposition.”