In a poll measuring attitudes toward key political figures and government institutions, Ecuadorians have an almost two-to-one preference for El Salvador’s right-wing, tough-on-crime President Nayib Bukele over Ecuadorian leaders. Bukele’s attraction? He has thrown tens-of-thousands of crime gang members into prison, lowering his country’s crime rate by more than 50%.
Bukele, also famous for making Bitcoin legal tender in El Salvador, has been criticized by the United Nations and human rights organizations for violating legal due process and prisoner rights for rounding up suspected gang members by his country’s armed forces.
In the poll conducted by Click Research, Bukele received a positive rating by 58.6% compared to Ecuadorians Rafael Correa with 32.3%, Jaime Nebot with 24%, Guillermo Lasso with 24% and Leonidas Iza with 23%.
In poll comments, Click said that Bukele popularity was based almost entirely on his anti-crime measures. “Crime is the number one issue among Ecuadorians, rising above economic and corruption issues during the past 18 months,” Click said in a statement. “Our survey indicates that voters would support a leader who vigorously attacks crime no matter the methods.”
In Click’s survey of Ecuadorian institutions, Ecuadorians gave the armed forces their highest favorable rating at 53% followed by the police at 39%, the presidency at 22% and the courts at 10%. Ecuador’s National Assembly came in last at 7.5%.
“The results of the poll are alarming on the one hand but understandable on the other,” says University of Guayaquil history professor and political analyst Carlos Fernandez. “It confirms other recent polling data and it shows how strongly people feel about combating crime. It also shows that they are willing to accept extreme methods of doing it,” he says. “Bukele is known for violating standard legal process and human rights conventions to accomplish his goal of reducing crime and ending gang warfare. He is also known for negotiating with gang leaders for their help in rounding up members of opposing gangs. In his calculation, the end certainly justifies the means.”
Fernandez added that Ecuadorians are in the mood to elect candidates with the strongest anti-crime proposals. “We are seeing this in the campaign for next month’s sectional elections but I think it will be more evident in the next presidential election. It is very possible that a very conservative candidate, in the mold of a Bukele or Bolsonaro, could emerge if they promise a draconian response to crime and criminal gangs.”
Click said support for Bukele had little to do with his Bitcoin advocacy. “Those interviewed showed little interest in Bukele’s efforts to introduce crypto-currency into the ecoonmy.”