Aug 13 • 3M

The 'world's coolest dictator' and his American fanboys

'I'm just saying that there's a lot of ways that the government can, and does, hide bodies.'


Appears in this episode

Jonathan M. Katz
Michael Paarlberg
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In his non-apology apology for his just-revealed years of genocidal racism, Richard Hanania made a brief allusion to a foreign leader few Americans have heard of, but who has become hugely popular on the far right.

Nayib Bukele has been president of El Salvador since 2019. Just 42 years old, Bukele has been referred to as the “first millennial authoritarian”; in a Twitter bio he called himself “the coolest dictator in the world.” Bukele is famous for two things: making Bitcoin one of his country’s national currencies (a move that blew up in his face) and taking credit for reducing his country’s once-soaring murder rate through draconian policing. Authoritarians and police statists far and wide dream of their countries replicating what our buddy Hanania called “the Bukele miracle.”

But there are some big questions: Is this “miracle” real? Has the Salvadoran gang problem been solved, did Bukele solve it, and how? And why are America Firsters (and eugenicists) so into a Central American president of Palestinian descent, anyway?

To find out, I called Michael Paarlberg, a professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, and former senior Latin America policy adviser for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign who has spent years researching in and writing about El Salvador. We talk about Salvadoran history and politics, Hanania’s alleged “small-l liberalism,” and the outsized role of U.S. imperialism—and the LAPD!—in the gang situation in that country.

You can listen to the subscriber-only conversation by clicking the play button above, or read the transcript below.

Bukele and friends / Victor Peña

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The transcript of our conversation starts below.

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