Bloomberg — El Salvador President Nayib Bukele used his speech in front of world leaders for an impassioned defense of his tough-on-crime security policy, and said his country would still be mired in violent chaos if he followed the advice of outsiders.
“If we had listened to them we would have continued losing thousands of Salvadorans to terrorists,” Bukele told the General Assembly on Tuesday. “Thank God we ignored them.”
The Central American nation has jailed more than 70,000 alleged gang members over the last year and a half, giving it by far the world’s largest prison population per capita. The policies have contributed to Bukele’s sky-high approval ratings at home, and have been imitated by other politicians across Latin America.
Human rights organizations have criticized the lack of due process and transparency. Bukele, 42, said his policies have been under systematic attack from “intellectuals, journalists, politicians and organizations from all over the place.”
Bukele said the lower insecurity levels are helping reverse the mass migration the country registered in recent decades, and claimed that a majority of Salvadorans in the US want to return home. Millions of people fled the 1979-1992 civil war, poverty and gang violence, mostly to the US, which is home to by far the largest share of El Salvador’s diaspora.
“We are no longer the world’s capital of death, and we achieved it in record time,” he said. “Today El Salvador competes with Canada for being the safest country on the continent.”
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