Critics say that Mr Bukele, whose Twitter profile calls him “El Salvador’s CEO”, has shown an authoritarian streak behind his online trolling, tech-savvy persona and rebellious attitude.
This year alone, Mr Bukele and his party have New Ideas dismissed dozens of judges and prosecutors, while replaces all five judges by the country’s Constitutional Court. So in September the same court ruled that presidents can run for a second term in a row, all but paving the way for Mr Bukele to seek re-election in 2024.
“There is no democratic institution, there are no real controls and balances for Bukele’s exercise of power,” said José Miguel Vivanco, America’s director at Human Rights Watch. He said the bill on foreign agents “makes it virtually impossible for independent media and civil society to operate in El Salvador.”
A similar laws in Russia has become a powerful tool for suppressing opposition groups and independent media.
In July, the Bukele administration expelled from the country a Mexican editor of one of Salvadora’s top news sites, El Faro, said he could not prove he was a reporter or editor.
The bill on foreign agents, which would impose a 40 percent tax on foreign donations that stores like El Faro receive, could be a nail in the coffin for the organization, said its editor-in-chief, Óscar Martínez. “To remove 40 percent of the funds given to a media would mean, commercially, to put it into bankruptcy,” Martínez said.