Conservative businessman Nayib Bukeon Saturday took office as president of El Salvador, tasked with turning around grinding poverty and rampant gang violence that are sending thousands fleeing to the US.
Bukele was sworn in by the speaker of the National Assembly in a square in downtown San Salvador, as a large, boisterous crowd applauded and shouted “We did it!”
The telegenic Bukele, 37, was elected in February to succeed president Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a leftist former guerrilla who maintained close relations with his Nicaraguan and Venezuelan counterparts.
Bukele has said he would seek closer ties with the US, home to 2.5 million Salvadorans.
“I will be the president of all Salvadorans,” Bukele pledged. “Our country is like a sick child, we all have to take care of it.”
Some analysts have called Bukele a millennial president: above all because he is at ease on social media, but also because he often adopts a casual appearance, ditching a tie and wearing his hair in a ponytail.
Critics say Bukele, former mayor of the capital, San Salvador, is light on policy and substance.
He has said a priority of his five-year term is cracking down on gangs that recruit young people into their ranks, while profiting off drug trafficking and extortion.
The son of a Muslim imam and a Christian, Bukele describes himself as believing in God rather than an adherent to a religion, an apparent effort to steer clear of any anti-Muslim sentiment.
Delegations from 83 countries attended Bukele’s swearing-in.
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