The Bukele Model: Will It Spread?

Issue Date July 2024
Volume 35
Issue 3
Page Numbers 84–98
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project MUSE
external View Citation

Read the full essay here.

Decades of mano dura — or “iron fist” — experiments in Latin America suggest that hard-on-crime policies are likely to fail. Yet in El Salvador, a crackdown launched by President Nayib Bukele in 2022 successfully dismantled the country’s gangs, turning “the Bukele model” into one of the most influential political brands in the region. This essay argues that this crackdown succeeded not only because of its intensity, but also because of the (unintended) consequences of a pact between the gangs and the Bukele government. As ongoing crackdowns in Honduras and Ecuador suggest, efforts to emulate the Bukele model are likely to fail — and come at a high cost for democracy, security, and human rights. 

About the Authors

Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez

Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez is a doctoral candidate in government at Harvard University.

View all work by Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez

Alberto Vergara

Alberto Vergara is professor of political and social sciences at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima.

View all work by Alberto Vergara

Image Credit: Casa Presidencial El Salvador