This article is adapted from AQ’s print issue on piracy in Latin America
El Salvador votes for a president on Feb. 3, with a possible runoff in March. How has the campaign reflected changes in the country since the last election in 2014?
The two-party political system is broken. For the first time since the end of the war (in 1992), a candidate not running from the rightist ARENA or the leftist FMLN is ahead in the polls. That candidate is 37-year-old Nayib Bukele, whose basic offer is precisely to put an end to the two-party system. His position confirms the exhaustion of the postwar polarization, since neither side has been able to significantly enhance people’s lives or stop corruption.
What do you expect will pose the biggest challenge to the new president?
The biggest challenges will be balancing the finances of a poor and highly indebted country with urgent social needs, leading the integration of Central America into the global economy, and finding a political solution to the structural causes that permit organized crime (mainly gangs).
As a journalist, what will you be watching closely in 2019?
Central America is going through a critical transition period, with governments in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua lacking legitimacy. The development of these crises, along with the election results in El Salvador, may open a new political period in the region.
Add to that the new Mexican president’s plans for North American investment in development in Central America to curtail the emigration; 2019 is a key year for this region.
O’Boyle is a senior editor for AQ. Follow him on Twitter @BrenOBoyle