Move over, Trump? Meet the president taking Twitter use to new levels

New Salvadoran President Nayib Bukel
New Salvadoran President Nayib Bukel Copyright REUTERS/Jose Cabezas/File Photo
Copyright REUTERS/Jose Cabezas/File Photo
By Natalia OelsnerViola Stefanello
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Twitter has been central in getting underdog candidate Nayib Buele elected President of El Salvador. Now, the leader is taking some of his first actions in office via Twitter, including letting officials go.


"Sometimes you have to take bitter medicine," tweeted the new president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, after firing his first official on Twitter, one day after taking office on June 1. 

It was just the beginning.

In less than a week, the so-called "millennial president" has ordered the dismissal of thirty public officials linked to the Farabundo Martí Front (FMLN) and former president Salvador Sánchez Cerén. 

And it all happened on Twitter, where the 37-year-old former mayor of San Salvador gave officials the axe with a cryptic final word: "medicine".

The new members of his government have complied with the orders immediately, responding on Twitter in the same way. 

"Right away, President", answered, for instance, El Salvador's minister of housing, Michelle Sol.

Despite dismissing more people than his predecessor Sánchez Céren throughout his government, the president has also considered hiring new people. 

It was the case, for example, of José Rafael Mena Castaneda, a talented student in architecture who, a few months ago, almost left school because of economic problems. His desire to continue studying led him to launch a project making full-scale cardboard buses. 

When Bukele read his story in a local media, he "ordered" his presidential commissioner of strategic projects to give the young man a job interview.

Only a few hours later, he announced that José Rafael had been hired to modernise El Salvador's schools.

The president's recruitments have also involved more important positions. Zelma Escalante was appointed national deputy director of public security for the National Civil Police of El Salvador - on Twitter, of course.

'I'm officially the world's coolest president'

This is what the youngest president in the recent history posted on his account after Mexican YouTuber JacoboWong published a video discussing the wave of dismissals of the Salvadoran president, titled "el presidente más cool del mundo" ("The world's coolest president").

In a funny nod to the video, in which the YouTuber confessed to his followers he hadn't bothered showering that day, Bukele published a tweet "ordering" the Mexican "to bathe before making videos" about him.

"Officially I'm the coolest president in the world," he said later, sharing the YouTuber's video. The tweet now already counts more than 32,000 "likes" and was shared more than 4,000 times.

Fun times or abuse of power?

Twitter users were taken by surprise and not all for the same reasons. Many see Bukele's posts as signs of transparency and say they're happy to see that the new president is taking action and doing something for El Salvador, a country that suffers from endemic violence, poverty and corruption.

Others are less amused. According to them, the "war" that Bukele is waging against the FMLN is an abuse of power — considering local media have revealed that the new government also employs several of Bukele's relatives

Jaime García Oriani, El Salvador political analyst, believes Bukele could face other problems if he does not follow the legal process of dismissals the country has.

"Here the law protects the public official, you can't just throw them out like that," he says in an interview with Euronews. 


The FMLN itself has published a tweet on its official account, saying that "after the mass firings, the FMLN has put together a team of lawyers. We are studying the cases, preparing a defence and beginning the process between lawyers and affected officials, all in compliance with privacy from case to case", they wrote.

However, Garcia Oriani thinks this could be a political strategy.

According to El Salvador law, if a dismissal is not justified, the officials can "request protection" and could be reinstated. 

This would generate disgust in the population and could be used "as a campaign" to paint his opponents as "the same old politicians" who hold on tight to positions of power.

"It's a show he's putting on to show he's going to be different from the previous government," he says.


According to the analyst, the use that the young president has been making of social networks "generates sympathy in those people who feel betrayed by the FMLN".

The new president of Twitter?

Since the beginning of his campaign, Twitter has been Bukele's favourite means of communication - and he sure knows how to use it. 

As "millennial president" did not participate in debates or give interviews, social networks began his main political weapon to fight against corruption and, above all, against the bipartisan system that has been dominating the country in recent decades.

"He knows it's the platform he's strongest on, and he is using it to make the government feel closer to the people," says Oriani.

Although his strategy could be compared to that of US President Donald Trump, he is still a long way from becoming "the president of Twitter": after all, Donald Trump has almost 70 million followers, while Bukele only has 739,000.


Still, no-one can say he's not trying. After all, an order has already been launched: "I order everyone to like this tweet and therefore make me president of Twitter," he wrote to his followers.

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