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El Salvador: Organizing for accountable democracy in face of a landslide electoral victory for one party rule

As Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele has consolidated control over politics in El Salvador, Communities of Faith Organizing for Action (COFOA) has not stopped organizing to hold his government accountable to meet the needs of the most vulnerable families and communities.

Bukele’s landslide victory on February 4, came as a result of his success in cracking down on gangs that have terrorized communities and extorted businesses for years. The sharp decide in violence has come at great cost to human rights, with an estimated 1-in-45 Salvadorans behind bars, including many who have been wrongfully imprisoned.

COFOA has joined other faith and civic organizations in speaking out against the State of Exception in El Salvador, human rights violations, abuse of power, and centralization of power by President Bukele. Leading up to the first round of voting last month, COFOA developed a national platform, organized candidate forums and trained more than 250 grassroots leaders to serve as poll watchers.

In January, COFOA held another large, 1,400-person demonstration in San Salvador to push President Bukele, his housing minister and the National Assembly to fix flawed property title legislation so that 350,000 families can gain legal ownership of their land.

COFOA’s grassroots leaders understand that they are part of a long struggle for social progress and democracy in El Salvador. While President Bukele has addressed the most pressing issue of violence, the government does not have a strategy to lift Salvadorans out of poverty or put the country on a path to sustainable development.

In the face of an increasingly unaccountable and authoritarian government, grassroots community organizing, with the support of the Catholic Church and other religious leaders, is a critical resource for Salvadorans to shape the future of their country. COFOA will be educating and turning out voters during the second round of voting for local mayors in March. The organization is committed to continuing its campaigns for land rights, community investment in the most neglected communities, banning mining, and creating El Salvador’s first national unemployment system.

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