Massive protests in El Salvador against President Nayib Bukele

Salvadorans are protesting over the lack of food and economic aid to poor and unemployed people, the shortage of personal protection equipment for health workers, and the delay in the return of people stranded abroad

May 15, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
The residents of Altavista neighborhood in the Tonacatepeque municipality in El Salvador hung white cloths on the door and windows of their homes to protest the lack of government aid during the coronavirus lockdown on May 13. Photo:

Thousands of people participated in protests in El Salvador on May 13 by banging pots and pans and blowing the horns of their vehicles to express their dissatisfaction with President Nayib Bukele’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the capital, San Salvador, demonstrations were also carried out in the municipalities of Antiguo Cuscatlán, Nuevo Cuscatlán and La Libertad, among others.

The call for the demonstrations was given by various social movements on different social networks with hashtags such as #ElSalvadorDespierta (#ElSalvadorWakesUp), #BukeleDictador (#BukeleDictator), etc. Several people also shared the videos of the protests in their neighborhoods on social media using the same hashtags.

The protests were held to denounced the lack of food and economic aid to poor and unemployed informal workers, the precarious condition of the quarantine centers, the arrests of people who allegedly broke lockdown, the shortage of personal protection equipment for doctors and other healthcare workers, the delay in the return of thousands of Salvadorans stranded abroad, among others.

The night of May 13 was the second consecutive night of such protests in the country and these are expected to continue in the coming days.

Additionally, in the afternoon of May 13, the residents of Altavista neighborhood in the Tonacatepeque municipality, also protested against the lack of food aid in a peaceful and unique way. The residents hung white cloths on the facades of their homes as a sign of protest, alerting the authorities that they are running out of food and money to continue coping with the quarantine.

The inhabitants of the neighborhood are mostly street vendors and have lost their sources of income due to the lockdown. They denounced that they haven’t received any assistance from municipal or national government.


Deputies from El Salvador’s left party, the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN) have also voiced their criticism of Bukele’s management of the pandemic. They have criticized the lack of support to the most vulnerable populations, the disregard by the executive to the directions of medical experts, and the way in which the executive has stoked fear within the population through militarization and spreading confusing information. The FMLN deputies have been at the forefront of legislative efforts to extend special support to healthcare workers and implement economic measures to support the unemployed and poor.

Bukele has imposed harsh restrictions on citizens to curb the expansion of coronavirus in the country. He has enforced a mobility suspension law that prevents workers from laboring. In addition, in El Salvador, people are allowed to leave their house only twice a week. Many national human rights organizations pointed out quarantine measures violate the constitutional rights of a citizen.

While Bukele’s initial response to the pandemic had been celebrated for enacting harsh restrictions to protect the population, there have not been sufficient economic measures implemented to support the millions of poor in the country. The president had already faced harsh criticism internationally in the last week of April when he called for the use of force on prisoners in retaliation for a spate of homicides carried out in the country.

As of May 12, El Salvador has registered 1,112 positive COVID-19 cases, 20 deaths, and 405 recoveries.