Over the past few years, El Salvador has been in and out of the international spotlight due to ongoing problems with gang-related violence. This disturbing trend undermined the early years of President Salvador Sanchez Cerén, a former guerrilla soldier who was elected in 2014 and oversaw a number of well-received social-welfare initiatives and educational reforms.
But a worse blow was yet to come. In 2016 ex-president Mauricio Funes fled to Nicaragua after prosecutors began investigating him on suspicion of personal enrichment while in office. The corruption scandal has cast a shadow over the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) and Cerén's presidency.
The victory of ARENA (Nationalist Republican Alliance) in the 2018 legislative elections in which only 42% of the electorate voted (in El Salvador voting is obligatory) spoke more about general disillusionment with what many now view as corruption on both the left and the right. If anyone came out of the elections a winner it was rising star Nayib Bukele, whose name was scrawled across some spoiled ballots in support of a presidential bid ('Nayib 19'). A former FMLN politician who was kicked out of the party by political rivals in 2017, Bukele gained broad support for his populist policies as mayor of San Salvador and is expected to form a new party – the New Ideas Movement – and run for office in the 2019 presidential elections.