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The Bukele Rallies

            Nayib Bukele, the Mayor of San Salvador and candidate for President of El Salvador, was in town last week to organize his 'Nuevas Ideas' (New Ideas) movement of Salvadoran émigrés in the U.S. He attended a series of fundraising activities and addressed crowds in Maryland, Virginia and New York. Even though the Salvadoran election is over 15 months from now, Mr. Bukele has already made numerous campaign visits to our region.

            Barely 36 years old (and with an uncanny resemblance to Juan Luis Guerra, the Dominican music star), Nayib appears to be a young man in a very big hurry. From a prominent Palestinian/Salvadoran family headed by his businessman father, Armando Bukele, he seems to have been something of a child prodigy starting his own business at the age of 19 and becoming Mayor of 'Nuevo Cuscatlan', on the outskirts of the capital, in 2012 at the tender age of 31.

            In 2015 Bukele ran for Mayor of San Salvador and won as a candidate for the FMLN, the traditional leftist party in El Salvador filled with ex-Comandantes and other activists left over from the civil war cadres. The prior president of the country, Mauricio Funes, and the present occupant of that office, the 73 year old Salvador Sanchez Ceren, both came up through the ranks of the FMLN.

            Bukele is a man of progressive ideas and a modern outlook. He sports a sophisticated and educated wife, Gabriela Rodriguez de Bukele, who joins her husband in public service and as an active campaign participant. Bukele appears very attached to his attractive and intelligent wife and they often appear together. Mrs. Bukele is also busy on her own with a variety of municipal projects dealing with infant health, elementary education and youth violence. She is also, on occasion, a surrogate for him at events.

            I attended the 'Nuevas Ideas' sponsored rally at the Cococabana Night Club in Langley Park on Friday, November 17th. The venue was packed from beginning to end with roughly 600 blue collar, working class Salvadorans who waited 90 minutes to hear from Bukele and stayed for over 3 hours clapping, shreiking, laughing and heckling the stage. Nayib seemed very comfortable with his audience and surprisingly humble. It was an adoring crowd mostly young and heavily female. He has tapped into the Salvadoran Diaspora worldwide not only for votes, but for fundraising as well.

            And therein lies Mr. Bukele's strategy to win. He's running as a populist phenomenon supported by a younger, post-civil war generation. His base is in the capital and the largely liberal and leftist communities of Salvadorans living abroad. He figures it will be a 3 way race and he'll need in excess of 1.5 million votes which is about what the current President received He believes very strongly he can increase his possibilities if he organizes a large group of voters from outside the country. This has never worked before (it is only recently that Salvadorans living outside the country have had the right to vote) and there is some skepticism as to whether he can do it now, but there is no doubt he is heavily invested in this strategy, thus the repeated visits to extra-territorial Salvadoran communities.  

            He's criticized the current FMLN leadership including the President in harsh terms as corrupt and out of touch. Expelled from the party on October 10th of this year, he has embarked on a long shot, insurgent campaign splitting the left and throwing the FMLN into turmoil. Though enemies have compared him to Trump, the better analogy is Bernie Sanders. He is a renegade rebel attacking the government and the FMLN from the left.

            His rallies, including the one I attended, repeat revolutionary slogans such as 'El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido' (The People United Will Never Be Defeated) and others that lend a fervor to the events that seems quaintly out of place - relics of a prior era. His rhetoric is filled with specific promises that sound eerily familiar, as if we were listening to a Democratic Ward heeler espouse his platform. Eloquent elaborations of what needs to be done in the long term. Proposals that seem impractical or utopian at best. He regularly and openly speaks of his campaign as a movement and tells his followers that if he were to be assassinated another leader would come along, and another... but what seems clear is that he feels his task is to save El Salvador from the situation it is in.

            Regardless of the rhetorical flourishes or the USA like promises it is obvious that Bukele has tapped into a deep well spring of political energy. He is a charismatic leader who dazzles his audiences and has created a large and dedicated following. He has become a symbol of hope for the future and given voice to the dream of a powerful, prosperous El Salvador. And whereas his achievements as Mayor engender controversy and mixed reviews, he has a clear, solid record and has aggressively staked out his ideals and intentions for the capital city and wants to test them out on the entire country.

            Young, well educated, politically ambitious, progressive and from a wealthy family, Bukele's journey reminds us more of a Kennedy-esque crusade than a typical Central American political campaign. What remains to be seen is if he can convert this into a successful government program or whether he will survive the fractured, violence prone 'pulgarcito' of Central America to fulfill those promises!

  • Published in Politics

Mr. Macri Comes to Washington

Argentina's President Mauricio Macri came to Washington DC for his first visit under the Trump regime on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017. The whirlwind visit lasted barely 36 hours and began with a meeting on Thursday, April 27th with the American President. Later that same day he appeared at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to address an overflowing crowd eager to hear about his government's vaunted reforms and plans for growth and prosperity (see Link that follows for a transcript of the event).

            Suave, soft spoken and earnest, Macri related how he is opening up the Argentine economy while retaining the approval of a majority of his countrymen for the reforms taking place. He was clear and emphatic in his rejection of the so-called 'populism' of the past 15 years that, in his view, kept his country isolated and mired in conflict and corruption. Macri has slashed taxes on agricultural exports, paid off international bond holders and negotiated new loans and assistance from the large multi-lateral lending agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), World Bank and FMI among others. With Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the IDB, seated in the front row Macri described initial agreements on infrastructure development and improvements totaling hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. He stated his goal of limiting inflation to single digits, eliminating corruption and creating good paying, productive jobs for his people.

            Macri joked about his time as head of Boca Juniors Soccer Club, claiming it was an even more difficult position than his term as Mayor of Buenos Aires. He was clear, succinct and diplomatic when asked about his 'wonderful' meeting at the White House with his old friend from another life and added some thoughtful insights into the situation Venezuela faces today and the reaction of MERCOSUR and the OAS to the situation. Interviewed by the always tactful and knowledgeable Mack McClarty, Chief of Staff under the Clinton administration, it was a remarkable 45 minutes. CSIS made special mention of the popularity of the event which attracted an impressive audience. According to Mr. Macri it was an example of how Argentina has once again become an outward looking, sophisticated, welcoming society ready to do business with the United States. In the tense, divided atmosphere of Washington DC, it was almost refreshing to hear Mr. Macri's optimism and faith in democracy.

https://www.csis.org/analysis/argentina-turning-point-address-president-mauricio-macri-argentina-english

Open house at The Ronald Reagan National Airport Terminal

PROJECT DESCRIPTION:  Secure National Hall
Construction of  two new Security Screening Check Points (SSCP’s) to facilitate the removal of the existing Security Screening Check Points located at each Concourse within the existing Airport.  The new Security Screening Check Points are additions to the existing Airport that will be constructed over the existing arrivals roadway.  The two check points are located immediately adjacent to the existing cross over bridges from the metro on the north and south sides of the terminal.  Each new SSCP (North and South) consists of new steel structure  on auger cast and micro pile foundations with roughly 50,000 square feet of finished space for passenger queuing lines and the new TSA screening stations.  The work entails full architectural fit out and finishes, MEP and Special Systems required for a complete and operational screening check point.  The Project also consist of extensive renovations and building modifications to the existing Terminal building to align with the new adjoining SSCP’s 
 
EVENT LOCATION:
United Way Worldwide • Mary E. Gates Learning Center
701 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
 
DATE:
February 16, 2017
 
TIME:
3:00pm – 6:00pm
 
TO REGISTER:
Please register on eventbrite
www.eventbrite.com/e/dca-secure-national-hall-informational-open-house-tickets-31481966409

  • Published in Politics
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