El Salvador’s challenges and concerns: What Concerns Salvadorans the most going into 2024?

By Eddie Galdamez  | Updated on Nov 14th, 2023
El Salvador challenges and concernsDowntown San Salvador.

El Salvador’s challenges and concerns – It is November 2023, and with presidential and legislative elections less than three months away, El Salvador’s politics and politicians are about to take center stage extensively.

The spotlight has been and will continue to be on President Bukele’s possible re-election and the democratic direction of the country; however, this political landscape is not a primary concern for most Salvadorans.

El Salvador’s challenges and concerns going into 2024 are associated with the economy; problems such as the high cost of living, unemployment, lack of opportunities, and poverty are what Salvadorans are concerned with the most. Security and democracy erosion are also a concern, but they rank lower.

Before 2020, security was the principal concern for Salvadorans, and the economy was always second; however, things have changed.

According to a May 2023 survey by the IUDOP, 63.9% of Salvadorans think the economy is the main problem facing El Salvador in 2023; only 12% answered that it was delinquency or security.

Main Problem Facing El Salvador

The Economy, El Salvador’s Principal Concern

Heading into 2024, the primary preoccupation for Salvadorans is the economy. The pressing issues at the forefront of concern are the soaring cost of living and insufficient wages, causing significant apprehension among Salvadoran families.

An excellent indicator of how a country’s economy is doing is the inflation rate, which ended 2022 at 7.32. The inflation rate dropped to 2.66 at the end of October; however, it continues to affect the country’s economy.

Due to inflation, everything is more expensive in El Salvador, and with the highest minimum wage being $365.00, this cost increase is a massive economic burden for many families. It is worse for those who work informally or live in rural areas, as salaries tend to be lower.

An example of high inflation affecting families’ economies is the cost of the essential food basket per family, which in urban areas reached $257.61 in September 2023, an increment of 29.3% from January 2021.

Today’s economic challenges Salvadorans face are nothing new; they have been around for years. However, they are more in the spotlight now due to the country’s improved security.

These economic challenges are hitting the Salvadoran population; many families have already stopped buying certain foods because of the high prices, and some have obtained new debts to survive.

As in previous years, Salvadorans are concerned and want to improve economically. They want to improve their business or open a new venture; also, they want to find work or obtain better employment.

Ultimately, Salvadorans want to provide a better life for themselves and their family, pay off debts, and get out of poverty or at least struggle less financially.

A significant number of Salvadorans have left the country in search of improved financial opportunities, driven by the inadequacy of low wages, which is not enough to support their families.

Unless the current administration does something to alleviate the economic problems, it will continue to be the primary concern and the most challenging issue Salvadorans will have to deal with this year.

El Salvador’s improved security

Before 2020, security was the primary concern for most Salvadorans; for years, El Salvador was listed as one of the most violent countries in the world, and for good reasons.

The rate of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants was consistently over 20. However, that rate has declined drastically under the Bukele administration, and now security is a secondary concern for Salvadorans.

Security is still a concern, but not as much as before; this issue, which cost the lives of over 100,000 people since 1992, is not easy to ignore.

However, going into 2024, the country’s delinquency is down, and the criminal gangs that used to terrorize communities for years are not visible anymore.

How the country has achieved this level of security is up for debate. Some argue that it is because of the Government security measures and the controversial state of exception. Yet others articulate that it is because of a secret pact between the Government and criminal groups.

Both arguments have solid points, but no one can deny that El Salvador’s security has improved since Bukele became president; the homicide rate is down, and the country has experienced over 450 days with zero homicides during his administration. These stats are incredible!

El Salvador’s Democracy Erosion Concern

Concerns about El Salvador’s democratic decline worry some Salvadorans, who perceive Nayib Bukele as an autocratic leader seeking to consolidate power and get re-elected to a second consecutive presidential term.

They argue that due to Bukele’s actions, El Salvador is undergoing a democracy deterioration. According to them, this deterioration is evident in the country’s political instability, threats to judicial independence, and constraints on press freedom, among other issues.

Some of the antidemocratic actions taken by legislators and the executive that worries some Salvadorans are the removal of the attorney general and magistrates of the constitutional judicial court in May 2021.

Also, the implementation of the State of Exception security measure is problematic. Yes, it has helped reduce violent crimes in El Salvador; however, it has resulted in the arrest of innocent people, according to human rights organizations.

Lastly, there’s the concern of Nayib Bukele pursuing a second consecutive term as president, a move considered unconstitutional, according to legal experts.

Despite widespread concerns about the erosion of democracy in El Salvador under President Nayib Bukele, he retains consistently high approval ratings. According to surveys, he is poised to secure an easy victory for a second presidential term.

El Salvador’s challenges and concerns

Dating back to 1994, El Salvador has always had security and economic challenges. The good news for Salvadorans going into 2024 is that the security issue has almost disappeared; however, the economic challenges in the country have worsened.

Overcoming the Challenges Salvadorans have will not be easy; as a matter of fact, they might get worse. The world’s economic problems, the Russia/Ukraine war, and the Israel conflict will continue to affect El Salvador’s economy.