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El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele.(MARVIN RECINOS / AFP/Getty Images)
El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele. Photo: Marvin Recinos/Getty Images

Biden rejects meeting with Nayib Bukele

The Salvadoran president traveled to the United States last week and failed in his attempt to meet with representatives from President Joe Biden's government.

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Last week, the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, made a sudden visit to the United States even after an official publicly declared to Salvadoran media that the Biden administration would have "differences" with the Central American president.

Bukele's surprise trip in the context of the health emergency posed a problem for U.S. officials, since the state is avoiding face-to-face meetings due to the coronavirus, not to mention the short notice of the visit. The press assured that Bukele requested meetings with senior State Department officials, but his request was denied.

Legislative and municipal elections will be held in El Salvador on Feb. 28, so many presume Bukele's meeting with Biden's government had a clear electoral intention.

Although he has a high approval rating for his iron fist and control of violence in El Salvador, Bukele is in the international spotlight thanks to two violent events that occurred in recent days: the Jan. 31 attack against militants of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) in downtown San Salvador during an electoral campaign caravan, and the assault on an emergency team of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the early morning of the same day.

Both Bukele and his opponents used the confusing incidents, which remain under investigation, to launch mutual accusations of inciting political violence. The president accused the FMLN of having orchestrated the attack, but would later retract the accusation, saying it was a crossfire between armed sides. Nevertheless, the seed had already been sown.

Congressmen René Portillo Cuadra, from ARENA, and Cristina Cornejo, from the FMLN, made statements regarding the president's intention to meet in the United States with Biden's government.

"We have found out that the president made a visit to the United States despite not being invited, and that there were indications that he would not be received until there is a change of attitude from (his government). We must remember that the president belongs to all Salvadorans," said Cornejo.

"President Bukele has made a visit to Washington in the last hours without being invited to the United States. None of the congressmen, none of the cabinet members of the Biden administration has received him, precisely because he is labeled as a president who promotes hatred, who promotes division, disrespect for institutions and the rule of law, disrespects journalists and the opposition and that has earned him no acceptance in political circles in Washington," said Portillo.

Although the Biden administration has made clear it will try to reverse many of the Trump policies towards El Salvador, there's still concern regarding Bukele's respect for the rule of law and democracy. The U.S. government also plans to include Bukele in its $4 billion plan to address the root causes of migration from Central America.

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