Corruption Scandals Stain Bukele’s Image Ahead of Key Elections in El Salvador

Corruption Scandals Stain Bukele’s Image Ahead of Key Elections in El Salvador
El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, speaks to journalists about the coronavirus pandemic, in San Salvador, May 20, 2020 (Photo by Victor Pena for dpa via AP Images).

As COVID-19 spread around the world last spring, El Salvador joined the dozens of countries that were appealing for urgent humanitarian assistance. Hundreds of millions of dollars rapidly flowed into El Salvador’s coffers from bilateral donors, private lenders and international financial institutions, including a $389 million loan from the International Monetary Fund that was approved in April.

Flush with borrowed money and facing an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, the Salvadoran legislature approved a $2 billion emergency fund to combat the pandemic—equivalent to nearly 8 percent of the country’s GDP. But the sudden inflow of cash has also created ample opportunities for corruption. In recent months, journalists, prosecutors and opposition lawmakers have uncovered evidence of misallocated funds, bloated procurement contracts and other financial impropriety. The scandals have even implicated senior officials in President Nayib Bukele’s government, threatening to undermine his popularity ahead of key legislative elections next month.

El Salvador is not the only country to face a spike in reports of graft during the pandemic. Health care sectors around the world are especially vulnerable, partly due to the outsized role they play in the economy. In El Salvador, annual health budgets average around 7 percent of GDP.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.