Armed soldiers and police officers followed president Nayib Bukele of El Salvador on Sunday afternoon as he stormed the nation’s parliament.
The president requested that opposition lawmakers vote to approve his proposal to secure a $109 million loan that he said would be used to better equip military personnel and law enforcement officers in their mission of tackling gang violence out of control in the country.
Tensions over the loan which is intended to fund the third phase three of the so-called Territorial Control Program had been on the rise between the president and opposition lawmakers. The plan includes additional resources to provide improved tools for the El Salvador police and army to fight crime.
El Salvador’s murder rate is one of the highest in the world.
According to statistics from the National Civil Police of El Salvador, the country’s average daily killings dropped from 9.2 in May 2019— the month before Bukele took office— to 3.8 on January 20. The Government says the reduced number of deaths is a direct result of the Territorial Control Program.
At the time of his election, Bukele was seen by many as an insurgent, populist candidate who campaigned on slogans attacking those who would come before him, such as “there is enough money when no one steals” and “return what was stolen,” referring to the alleged loss of funds during former presidents Francisco Flores and Antonio Saca’s administration.
Lawmakers had previously failed to reach an agreement on Bukele’s plan due to concerns about the size of the loan and the president’s justification for some of the costs he had included in the loan request.
After storming the parliament, Bukele said a prayer from a seat normally occupied by the president of the parliament, Mario Ponce. Before leaving the building, Bukele gave lawmakers one week to approve his loan proposal.