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The Lawfare Podcast: El Salvador’s President Cracks Down on Gangs—and Democracy

Since March 2022, El Salvador has been under a state of exception as its President Nayib Bukele seeks to crack down on the country’s powerful gangs. Bukele, who once described himself on Twitter as the “world’s coolest dictator,” has engaged in a prolonged attack on El Salvador’s democratic institutions. And the crackdown has resulted in a range of human rights abuses. At the same time, Bukele really does seem to have been successful in curbing gang violence, and his popularity is sky high. 

To understand the situation in El Salvador, Lawfare Senior Editor Quinta Jurecic spoke with Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez, a PhD candidate in Political Science at Harvard University who has written about Bukele on Lawfare. They discussed why Bukele’s crackdown on the gangs seems to be working, why it might fall apart in the long term, and what Bukele’s rise means for democracy in El Salvador and around the world.