The Joe Biden Government’s decision to reject a request for a meeting with the President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, shows the new direction taken by the foreign policy of the Democrat towards Central America, whose majority of countries suffer a strong crisis of human rights, corruption and the rise of authoritarianism.
The new Administration has expressed its “differences” with the decisions made by Bukele, a president who enjoys enormous popularity in his country, but who tries to control the institutions, while publicly attacking the media and critical voices. Washington has also demanded a “change of course” from the Daniel Ortega regime in Nicaragua, given what it has described as the “intensification of repression” in that country since 2018 plunged into a deep political crisis. “The Biden Administration is committed to supporting the Nicaraguan people and their demand for democracy,” the State Department said in a statement released Monday.
Bukele made an unannounced trip to Washington last week to meet with officials from the Biden Administration, the AP news agency reported on Monday, citing sources linked to the US government. No official agreed to meet with the president. Bukele denied requesting meetings with Biden administration officials and said it was a private trip. “Anyone who believes that a president is going to travel to another country to sit down and ask for meetings, has to check well if he has his own brain”, said the Central American on Twitter, his favorite social network to communicate with his followers and through which he informs about his presidential decisions.
The Salvadoran government maintains a $ 450,000 contract with the lobbying firm Sonoran Policy Group to gain support within the US legislative system against the change in Biden’s foreign policy, reports AP. “The fact that he invests a huge fortune in buying access in Washington and trying to make up his image reveals the precarious situation of his Government with the current Administration and with the United States Congress,” José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas, explains to EL PAÍS Human Rights Watch and a voice critical of Bukele’s actions.
The Salvadoran president had embraced the immigration policy of former President Donald Trump, who came to refer to El Salvador as a “shit country”, and said that his government was committed to reducing irregular migration to the United States, within the so-called agreements of ” safe third country ”, which allowed the deportation of asylum seekers to these countries and which have been suspended by the Biden Administration. In fact, the Salvadoran president described the Trump administration as “our ally” and at the farewell ceremony of the US ambassador to El Salvador, Ronald Johnson, in mid-January He said that he “very much doubted” that he would have an “equal friendship” with the replacement of the diplomat.or, whom he even decorated with an order created for the occasion.
The fact that no United States government official agreed to meet with Bukele “is a very strong message, because it shows Bukele that things have changed, that his conduct internally from the point of view of human rights, corruption and their lack of respect for the rule of law has consequences in the bilateral relationship with Washington ”, explains Vivanco. “While Trump lasted, Bukele reached a clear understanding with Washington. Trump’s ambassador in San Salvador was like the head of the bar that gave Bukele oxygen support, a circumstance that has changed, because Biden has made it very clear that bilateral relations should be based on the fight against corruption, respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law ”, he adds.
The rudeness of the Salvadoran leader comes a month after two Democratic congressmen asked him in a letter not to fuel divisions in El Salvador, after an attack on a caravan of supporters of the opposition FMLN, which left two dead. Instead of condemning the attack, Bukele attacked opponents and the voices that criticize his way of governing and who blamed him for sowing hatred in the population. “They are so desperate not to lose their privileges and corruption,” said the president hours after the event. In the letter, signed by Congressmen Albio Sires and Norma J. Torres, both legislators warned of the consequences that Bukele’s “scathing messages of misinformation, division and fear” can have and asked him “as president of El Salvador to use the power of his office not to fuel divisions for the sake of political gain, such as did former President Trump, but to convey messages of peace and unity. “
Concern about Nicaraguan drift
The Biden Administration has also shown concern about the situation in Nicaragua, a country that has suffered a deep political crisis since 2018, when President Daniel Ortega unleashed a brutal repression against the demonstrations demanding the end of his mandate and the holding of free elections. In a statement published on Monday, the State Department stated that “the United States is deeply concerned about the increasing repression of the government of President Ortega” and cites measures such as the so-called “Foreign Agents Law”, one of four regulations approved by Parliament. of Nicaragua to silence dissent. These have forced two prominent organizations to close their operations due to the controls and restrictions they impose on the organizations that promote respect for human rights and freedom of expression and the press in the Central American country.
“These events further asphyxiate Nicaraguan civil society and move the country away from free and fair elections. Ortega is leading Nicaragua towards dictatorship. This will further isolate his regime from the global community, ”the letter warns. “The Biden Administration is committed to supporting the Nicaraguan people and their demand for democracy. We are focused on empowering civil society and improving respect for human rights. We urge President Ortega to change course now, ”the State Department demands in the document.
The United States has increased pressure on the Ortega regime by imposing sanctions on the president’s close circle, including his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, his children, close operators, and members of the National Assembly and the justice system, both bodies controlled by the ex-Sandinista guerrilla fighter. “I don’t see any possibility that the current Administration, committed to human rights and democracy, is going to modify the policy towards Nicaragua, a dictatorship led by a couple clinging to power at any price, with direct responsibilities in massive human rights violations. “says Vivanco, who believes that a new era in relations between the United States and Central America is beginning, with a government that” for the first time, “he says, is interested in developing a foreign policy towards the region” guided by respect for public liberties and democratic values ”.