Armed soldiers and police officers accompanied El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele as he stormed the nation’s parliament on Sunday afternoon.
The president demanded that opposition lawmakers vote to approve his plan to secure a $109 million loan that he says would be used to better equip military personnel and law enforcement officers in their job of tackling out-of-control gang violence in the country.
Tensions had been on the rise between the president and opposition lawmakers over the loan, which is intended to finance the third phase three of the so-called Territorial Control Plan. This plan includes additional resources to provide the police and army with better tools to combat crime in El Salvador.
El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
According to figures from El Salvador’s National Civil Police, the average daily killings in the country fell from 9.2 in May 2019 — the month before Bukele took office — to 3.8 in January 2020. The government says that the decreased death count is a direct result of the Territorial Control Plan.
At the time of his election, Bukele was seen by many as an outsider, populist candidate, who campaigned on slogans criticizing those who’d come before him, such as “there’s enough money when nobody steals” and “return what was stolen,” referring to the alleged disappearance of funds during the administrations of former presidents Francisco Flores and Antonio Saca.
Lawmakers had previously failed to reach an agreement on Bukele’s proposal because of concerns about the size of the loan and the president’s justification of some of the expenses that he had included in the application for the loan.
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.