Brian Winter on CNN


Brian Winter on CNN: El Salvador's Dramatic Turnaround

By Fareed Zakaria

Nayib Bukele has "cleverly played on the problems that this country had in the past," says AS/COA's vice president of policy to CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

AS/COA's Vice President of Policy, Brian Winter, spoke with Fareed Zakaria from GPS on CNN about the perception and popularity of El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele at national and international levels.

Since Bukele came into power in 2019, Winter noted, there's been a significant reduction in the levels of violence in the country, including "a decline in homicides…down more than 80 percent in the last couple of years, but also declines in extortion, robberies, and other crimes," he said. "Salvadorans feel like they can go out on the street again."

The Policy vice president highlighted how Bukele's personality and fight to combat violence have helped him gain tremendous popularity in his country.

“He's 42 years old. He's a millennial…very colorful figure and speaks well...He has quite cleverly played on the many problems that this country had in the past, remembering that only 10 years ago, this was a country that had a homicide rate of over 100 per 100,000 people. And if you know those figures, those are terrible numbers. It was one of the world's most violent countries."

Winter highlighted that although the international community "can stand on the outside, very upset by these mass arrests" and other policies by Bukele, he has overwhelming support not only in his country but also in other Latin American countries. The region's "politicians...have said that they want to follow his example," especially in Ecuador and Argentina.

When it comes to how the Biden administration is dealing with Bukele, Winter expressed that "as recently as a year ago, they were quite publicly calling on him to respect the Constitution, to respect human rights. But starting in late 2023, they seemed to adopt a different posture." This shift might have to do with the importance of immigration in the 2024 U.S. elections and the decline in immigrants coming from the Central American country. The Biden administration "need(s) part because it doesn't seem like he's going anywhere."

Watch the interview: