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El Salvador likely to begin reopening economy

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El Salvador likely to begin reopening economy

People gather to receive aid in El Salvador
Photo: Reuters/Jose Cabezas

El Salvador’s economy is set to reopen today following President Nayib Bukele’s strict two-week extension of COVID-19 restrictions.

Congress had initially passed a May emergency bill intended to accelerate the national easing timeline, but Bukele threatened to veto the legislation and pushed for an extension until June 6, citing the need for an additional lockdown phase to truly mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic. The discord was the latest row between the executive and legislative branches over the terms of El Salvador’s COVID-19 strategy, which has included some of the toughest lockdown measures in the Americas.

The reopening—albeit delayed—will bring much-needed impetus to the nation’s stuttering economy, which was abruptly checked by the lockdown’s early implementation and faces a 2020 contraction of approximately 5.4%. Despite Bukele’s prudence, the national easing could spark additional waves of contagion in the coming weeks. Expect tensions to persist between leadership and lawmakers, as further squabbles over the national COVID-19 response will likely solidify Bukele’s reputation for authoritarian tendencies. Further instances of executive overreach (such as Bukele’s brief military occupation of Congress in February) could aggravate the nation’s constitutional crisis beyond repair.

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