He was elected less than a year ago, but Nayib Bukele is already a different kind of mayor for San Salvador, and people are noticing. At the end of last year, mayor Bukele was named by Forbes magazine's Mexico edition as one of the 25 most influential people in Central America for 2015. The thirty-four year old businessman turned politician was easily elected in 2015, carried on a wave of popular support by the young people in the city. Although Bukele ran as a candidate of the FMLN, he distanced himself from the party in a campaign focused on his own charisma and ideas and not based on party affiliation.
Since coming into office, he has not disappointed. Under Bukele's guidance, the city government has focused on a series of projects aimed at quality of life in San Salvador. The city's new infrastructure initiatives are performed under the slogan: one thing done every day. Some of those projects include:
- San Salvador without potholes. Municipal crews are seen throughout the city patching its notoriously hole-filled streets.
- Mercado Cuscatlan, This modern new market has spots for 700 informal vendors who currently clog the streets and sidewalks in the historic center of the city.
- San Salvador illuminated. Under Bukele, the municipal government is deploying LED street lighting throughout the city to improve safety and security.
- Sivar, A smartphone app to report streets needing repair, trash needing pickup, and other city issues.
This weekend Bukele signed a commitment with the Minister of Health for the city to donate the land for the construction of a new public hospital to replace the dilapidated Hospital Rosales. (The National Assembly needs to approve borrowing the necessary funds before construction could begin).
Bukele has also shown himself adept at other touches. For example, during the August festivals in San Salvador, city sanitation workers and their families were able to ride the carnival rides for free. In June, Bukele showed up with city youth for Go Skateboarding Day, and announced a plan to build a skateboarding park. He is donating his salary to provide scholarships for poor students.
As a result of what he has been accomplishing, Bukele now has the highest approval rating of any politician in El Salvador. A recent CID-Gallup poll showed that 73% of the Salvadorans polled had a favorable view of the mayor, compared to only 9% having an unfavorable view. The next closest politician was Oscar Ortiz, the current vice president and former mayor of Santa Tecla, with a 50% favorable rating.
The area for quality of life in the capital city where Bukele has less influence is crime and violence. Policing in El Salvador is handled at the level of the national government, and the National Civilian Police (PNC) do not report to the country's mayors.