On the path to a millennial dictatorship?*

Katya Salazar**

On April 5, 1992, then Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori informed the nation of his decision to dissolve the Congress of the Republic because it stood in the way of his plans to tackle the economic crisis, drug trafficking, and terrorism that were plaguing the country, an event remembered as the “self-coup” or “Fujimorazo.” He took over the Judiciary, the Public Prosecution Service, and the Constitutional Court for the same reasons. Under the scenario he presented that night to the Peruvian people, these institutions, made up of the “same lazy and corrupt people as always,” were holding back the country’s development and pacification, and thus needed to be reformed. Two years earlier, Fujimori had won the election thanks to a majority that viewed him as someone who could bring about change. He won as the “outsider,” the enemy of the establishment and the traditional political parties, the hard-liner who came to bring order to the country, a man of the people who understood their needs and could provide solutions.

Images of that self-coup from nearly 30 years ago in Peru came to mind when last February 9 we saw the Salvadoran Armed Forces forcibly enter the Legislative Assembly by order of the President, invoking Article 87 of the Constitution which recognizes the people’s right to “insurrection.” Nayib Bukele, the “millennial” leader who had come to give Salvadoran politics a breath of fresh air, who enjoys taking selfies and governs by Tweet, wanted to show his country’s Legislative Assembly that he intended to follow through on his threats if it kept refusing to approve a loan for his anti-violence plan. Many of us feared we were witnessing a repeat of the Fujimorazo and breathed a sigh of relief when the president, after entering the Legislative Assembly and praying, reported that he had asked God what to do and that He had told him to be patient, that is, to suspend his plans to close Congress.

This bold act of intimidation, never before seen in El Salvador, was met with unanimous international condemnation and led some to call it Bukele’s initial step on the path to becoming the region’s first “millennial dictator.”

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