El Salvador's Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez has said “a profound renewal” is needed in the country and that the principal challenge for the newly elected President is to overcome the murderous violence and bring peace for the people of the Central America nation.
Nayib Bukele, a former mayor of San Salvador, won a landslide victory in Sunday’s presidential election, winning more votes that the candidates of the two traditional parties that have dominated the country’s politics for a quarter of a century.
The supreme electoral court declared Bukele the winner on Sunday 3 February, saying with 99 per cent of the ballots counted Bukele had secured nearly 54 per cent of the votes, exceeding the 50 per cent threshold required to avoid a runoff.
"At this moment, we can announce with complete certainty that we have won the presidency of El Salvador in the first round," Bukele, aged 37, told a press conference on Sunday evening.
The Cardinal congratulated the peaceful way in which the defeated parties had accepted the election result and added that Bukele needed to work to reconcile all sectors of the country. The fight against poverty, against corruption and impunity, are the other challenges to be tackled, he said.
Bukele campaigned under the anti-corruption slogan “there’s enough money when no one steals”. He repeatedly critised the political class as corrupt and thieving.
Three out of four of the country's most recent have been investigated for embezzling millions from public coffers. Bukele himself faces an investigation for possible tax evasion.
Bukele also proposed setting up an internationally backed anti-impunity mission to combat corruption and promised voters he would create a "compact and efficient" government that used "big data" to solve problems.
Director of Caritas El Salvador, Antonio Baños pointed out that despite Bukele’s “crushing the two traditional parties” and winning by an overwhelming majority he has little support in the country’s country's Legislative Assembly, its Parliament.
“His ability to bring in meaningful reforms will depend on how successful he is in persuading other political leaders to support his programme. The future is unpredictable but the next two years will be crucial in determining whether Salvadorans can look forward to a brighter future,” said Baños.
Although the country's murder rate dropped in 2018 to 50 per 100,000 people, the lowest rate since a truce between rival gangs broke down in 2013, the country is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. Around 67,000 Salvadorans belong to gangs that terrorise their communities with blackmail, violence and murder.
Alongside the dire security situation, the new government will inherit an ailing economy, a third of El Salvador’s households live in poverty.