On December 3rd, Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador who is also a Bitcoin promoter and self-proclaimed “world’s worst dictator”, took to his favorite platform on Twitter, announce it that 10,000 soldiers surrounded the city of Salvador in Soyapango.
According to the tweet, which was accompanied by a music video, “removal teams” of police and soldiers were tasked with clearing the area of criminals “one by one”.
The next day, Bukele tweeted another disturbing video accompanied by the news that “more than 140 terrorists” have already been arrested in Soyapango, the most populated city in El Salvador and the city of San Salvador, the capital of the country.
And the next day he report that the Soyapango operation involved the largest military operation in Salvador’s history – in a country where a 12-year civil war, which ended in 1992, killed more than 75,000 people. Most of the wartime violence was carried out by the right-wing United States military and its allied death squads.
Of course, in his excitement about mobilizing the entire army, Bukele failed to explain why the president should be excited about fighting a war against his country.
The current war is taking place under a “state of emergency” imposed in March following a spate of killings by Salvadoran gangs. This is a terrorist group created in the USA whose members were sent to El Salvador at the end of the civil war in Central America. The same groups that exist because of willful neglect, are neoliberal. The same groups that Bukele’s leadership has discussed extensively with.
But the more than 58,000 people arrested since the end of March under Bukele’s campaign include many people who are not criminals, whom the government wants to arrest – or whose arrests could be used to fulfill the demands of people in prison. As of June, two percent of Salvadorans were in prison. More than 1,600 children have been detained.
I went to San Salvador shortly after the manic arrest and talked to a Salvadoran psychiatrist who had been swept up in it, and spent six days in an overcrowded room doing a real experiment in mental torture. No more, frankly, physical suffering can happen. As of October, at least 80 Salvadorans have died in government custody since the campaign began.
The official line is that this is all happening for “security”. But there is not much “security” to be found in indefinite imprisonment without reason, or in the fear of indefinite imprisonment without reason. All the while the self-proclaimed dictator is besieging his cities and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the Bitcoin community veterinary clinic even though many people in the country are hungry.
And even the Soyapango shake-up could be an “unprecedented event”, as Bukele said. tweet, this is not the first time that the president has banned all municipalities. In April 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic escalated, Bukele told Salvador’s security minister to lock down the city of La Libertad – which means “liberty” – after seeing a Twitter video of what he determined to be a large number of people outside. .
In the case of the epidemic, too, the whole “security” thing didn’t say that the government was at fault – since shooting people for violating quarantine doesn’t do much, you know, to save lives.
As for the siege of Soyapango, it could not have been planned at an inopportune time. December 11 is the 41st anniversary of the massacre of El Mozote in 1981 in El Salvador, when the US army’s Atlacatl of the Salvadoran army killed about 1,000 people, mostly women and children. In Bukele’s view, the Salvadoran military is still a mystery – so much so that it used the military to block the ongoing investigation into the murder.
A Salvadorian friend of mine in her early 30s – we’ll call her “Fernanda” – lives in the capital. She is seven months pregnant. His grandfather lives in Soyapango. A few days after the city’s founding, I chatted via WhatsApp with Fernanda, who uses the often dangerous sense of humor she needs to survive in El Salvador. “I will be 50 years old,” he wrote, “we will be in our 100th phase of Bukele’s ‘Territorial Control’ plan, and my son will be in prison because of the emergency hahahahaha.”
In the end, if you can’t bring yourself to laugh at the antics — including the very real possibility that Bukele could develop a “tyranny” for the rest of his life — it will kill you.
Or it can kill you, as the more than 80 people in prison since March and the countless number of people who have gone missing can attest.
On December 4, the day after Bukele declared war with Soyapango, US television producer turned Bitcoiner Stacy Herbert, Bukele’s best friend, tweeted from El Salvador: “There is no better place to be than here, right here in the world of #Bitcoin.”
For many Salvadorans, of course, Bukele’s acceptance of cryptocurrency has caused unmitigated disaster. For them, “right now” is the worst possible place to be. And with Bukele ordering the military against his people, it just goes down.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect Al Jazeera’s influence.