El Salvador President Nayib Bukele clapped back at one U.S. lawmaker after she sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, highlighting human rights violations in the Central American country, as well as other concerns ahead of an election.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., along with Reps Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; Jim McGovern, D-Mass.; Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz.; and Jesús G. “Chuy” García, D-Ill., sent the letter on Tuesday, calling on the Secretary to “send an unequivocal message on the importance of respecting constitutional and democratic norms to the Salvadoran government, both publicly and privately.”
“We are writing to express our significant concerns regarding democratic backsliding and an increase in reports of human rights violations in El Salvador,” the U.S. lawmakers wrote. “These concerns are especially pressing with elections planned for early next month, in which the incumbent President Nayib Bukele is running for an unconstitutional second term.”
Bukele saw the letter, which was shared by Omar on the social media platform X and responded.
“We are HONORED to receive your attacks, just days before OUR election,” he wrote on X. “I would be very worried if we had your support.”
In another tweet, Bukele took one more dig at the U.S.
“I think the United States should have free and fair elections,” the Salvadoran president wrote.
The Congressional members accused Bukele of providing a framework in the State of Exception in March 2022 that resulted in the arrests of tens of thousands without due process. Included in those arrested were U.S. citizens.
The lawmakers also accused Bukele of overseeing the militarized harassment of the country’s legislature which eroded away judicial independence.
As an election approaches, the lawmakers continued, Bukele’s actions have restricted multiparty democracy and has extended to the arrest warrants of political opponents like Salvadoran Ambassador to the U.S., Ruben Zamora.
Omar and the other Democratic lawmakers also mentioned the numerous human rights violations reported in the State Department’s 2022 Country Reports.
Included in the report are accusations against El Salvador since the State of Exception was put in place, including unlawful or arbitrary killings; forced disappearances; torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship and threats to enforce criminal laws to limit expression; government corruption; significant barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services; and crimes involving violence against the LGBTQ community.
Blinken is also advised in the letter that the upcoming election in El Salvadore breaks the country’s constitutional norms with Bukele seeking reelection. El Salvador’s constitution prohibits consecutive presidential terms, but Bukele is able to run because of a judge’s appointment by lawmakers from his party after the removal of previous supreme court officials.
“It is not the place of the United States government to determine who is eligible to run for President in a foreign country, nor to pick winners,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are nevertheless alarmed that some of the State Department’s public messaging on the elections has been overly credulous toward President Bukele’s re-election bid, and his governance.”
The Democratic lawmakers then asked Blinken to “forcefully denounce the excess of the State of Exception, including human rights violations,” and consider other mechanisms that can allow for greater direct funding to vetted Salvadoran civil society and non-governmental parties in the country, rather than sending funds through intermediary or third-party partners, among other things.