The Salvadoran leader says that the country used to be the "world's murder capital," but that things have now changed due to a tough-on-crime policy.
In 2015, El Salvador was the "most violent nation in the Western Hemisphere," according to InSight Crime. The homicide rate at the time was 103 per 100,000 residents with 6,650 in total. Much of the violence was due to gang violence in the country.
Two prominent gangs that have played a large part in the country's violent crime have been the MS13 and Barrio 18. When Bekele ran for the election, one of his main campaign points was to combat the criminal violence that was affecting the nation.
Since taking office, according to the Wall Street Journal, a strategy Bukele implemented in 2022 of arresting suspected gang members en masse has brought the homicide rate down by 92 percent since 2015. It has put about 68,000 people from the country in prison, more than one percent of the population.
The policy has brought some criticism from human rights groups such as Amnesty International. The group says the process has led to "arbitrary detentions." Erika Guevara-Rosas, a director of the group said the country's "authorities are committing widespread and flagrant violations of human rights."
Nine out of every 10 Salvadorans now support Bukele, and the number of illegal immigrants from the country crossing the US-Mexico border has dropped 44 percent, per the Wall Street Journal.
Reports show that the homicide rate so far in 2023, if continued to the end of this year, would be 2.3 per every 100,000 residents in the country—lower than anywhere else in Latin America.
The Wall Street Journal reported that other leaders in Latin America have wanted to copy Bukele's tactics. "It’s simple, just copy him. Do what Bukele’s doing," said Cynthia Viteri. Viteri served as the mayor of the violet Ecuadorean city, Guayaquil, until May.
Bukele's popularity in El Salvador is widespread in impoverished and wealthy neighborhoods.
Parents in impoverished neighborhoods have said that their children can go play outside without having to ask for permission like they used to.
"I would vote for Bukele 10 more times,” Edwin Avalos, a restaurant owner, said. “Two years ago, I wouldn’t have opened a business here." Prior to the policies from Bukele, he had to pay $6,000 every year because of gang-led extortion.