SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said Thursday he would run for re-election, despite the country’s constitution prohibiting presidents from having consecutive terms.
“I’m announcing to the Salvadoran people that I’ve decided to run as a candidate for president of the republic,” Bukele said in an Independence Day speech livestreamed on public television and social media.
Bukele’s current term is set to end in 2024.
“Developed countries have re-election,” Bukele said on Thursday. “And thanks to the new configuration of the democratic institution of our country, now El Salvador will too.”
Although the constitution forbids a president from being re-elected immediately after a term in office, the Supreme Court, composed of judges appointed by lawmakers of Bukele’s party, ruled in 2021 that a second consecutive term was permissible.
That move was slammed by the United States and drew fears of a return to authoritarianism in El Salvador.
Shortly after the ruling, the US State Department said it marked a decline in democratic governance that damaged its relationship with the Central American country.
Bukele has enjoyed high approval ratings since he took office in 2019. According to a poll carried out last month by CID Gallup, 85% approve of his presidency and 95% of his governance in security matters.
The 41-year-old, who has adopted bitcoin as legal tender, has in recent months led a crackdown against gangs, using emergency powers that the Congress on Wednesday extended for a sixth time.
Critics say many innocent people have been arrested without cause. In May, police sources told Reuters they had been forced to meet daily arrest quotas.
“Some in the international community … they criticize the capture of gang members, as if they wanted us to be doing badly again,” Bukele said Thursday. “This is the only way for El Salvador. We already proved it; this is not a campaign promise.”
(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Additional reporting by Sarah Morland; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Bradley Perrett)