El Salvador's President Accuses Biden Administration of Corruption -- and Drops Private Text Messages When Challenged

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Apparently, the Biden administration’s relationship with El Salvador is on rocky ground. If you know anything about the history involved, those on the ideological left do not like Nayib Bukele, who is halfway through his first five-year term.

For example, here’s Amnesty International painting him as some kind of horrific dictator. Yet, when you drill down into their arguments, they appear to be that 1) he doesn’t support abortion, 2) he criticizes the press openly, and 3) that his party won a majority and has used that power to constitute their policies.

Since he took office, the right to express an opinion, to freedom of association or even for women to make decisions regarding their own bodies have been, at best, ignored and, at worst, purposefully pushed aside.

They list no actual examples of the right to express an opinion being violated on a legal level, only noting that Bukele has publicly criticized the press corps in the country.

First, Bukele effectively declared open season on independent journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, and anybody who dared criticise him or his administration’s policies. The campaign begun online, where he badmouthed and dismissed their work. He branded activists as “criminals”, “seeking the death of more people” during the toughest months of the COVID-19 pandemic and of being “front organizations” fof the “political opposition”.

How is that any different than Jen Psaki and Anthony Fauci insisting that Fox News is killing people? The answer is that it’s not, but there’s this weird thing the American government and its ideological allies do where they freak out on other countries for doing the same things they do.

Anyway, the point is not that Bukele is pure as the wind-driven snow. Rather, I’m just pointing out that context matters. He took over a country drenched in corruption, carrying the world’s highest homicide rate and a narco-dependent economy. If Bukele has stepped over the line compared to what we would accept in the United States, it’s still important to remember that not every country can operate exactly as we do and produce positive results for its people. Afghanistan’s collapse and the literal slave markets in Libya are stark reminders that naive idealism isn’t a governing strategy in certain parts of the world.

Regardless, now that I’ve given the teeth gnashers plenty of material, let’s talk about Bukele’s fight with the Biden administration this weekend. The El Salvadoran president had previously accused the US government of funding left-wing communists in the country.

After that happened, the White House lashed out publicly on Twitter.

Bukele then responded by sharing private text messages that showed the US Ambassador to El Salvador asking for the release of a man named Neto Muyshondt. Musyshondt was previously arrested on charges related to using government funds to pay off gang members and drug trafficking.

For some reason, the United States is really interested in Muyshondt being released.

Here’s where I’m confused. Let’s say that Bukele is actually ignoring a court order (though, this article claims there’s a provision to legally keep Muyshondt in jail based on an increased financial guarantee). Why is the United States concerning itself with a man accused of trafficking cocaine and who was caught on video paying off violent gang members? Why should we care whether he’s released or not? Of all the people to be going to bat for, why is Ambassador Manes doing so for Neto Muyshondt?

Those are questions that are just hanging out there in a big way. What has the US government got itself wrapped up in here? Let’s also note that Bukele, whatever the complaints against him, has actually dramatically decreased the murder rate in El Salvador, and until the pandemic hit, their GDP was rising as well.

I say that to say that the US position here doesn’t make any sense. We work with less than perfect leaders in countries all over the world, including actual dictators. But it’s El Salvador that we want to try to bully over a guy who appears to be legitimately in jail for working with the narcos? Notice that the US has not questioned the validity of charges against Muyshondt. So what exactly is going on here?