After Trump’s felony convictions, Republicans visit El Salvador and gush over an authoritarian

A bunch of MAGA Republicans appeared in El Salvador over the weekend in yet another demonstration of the conservative movement’s allegiance to authoritarians around the globe.

Several Republicans, including Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Donald Trump Jr. and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, traveled to El Salvador to cheer the second inauguration of Nayib Bukele, the country’s authoritarian president.

Bukele, who has branded himself as the “coolest dictator in the world,” has become known for extrajudicial violence against suspected gang members and for using military force to pressure lawmakers to bend to his will. He also has become known for suppressing women’s rights and banning school discussions about gender, which has endeared him to American conservatives.

Because El Salvador is a strategic ally of the U.S., the Biden administration sent a single representative — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — to the inauguration. On X, Mayorkas gave a fairly boilerplate statement in which he vowed to continue cooperating on economic and security matters.

Republicans, however, were fawning in their praise, signaling support not just for partnership with the U.S., but also for Bukele’s particular style of illiberal leadership.

This struck me as noteworthy amid the right-wing rage over Donald Trump’s felony convictions in New York.

Gaetz, who has baselessly called the judge in Trump’s case “corrupt,” praised Bukele over the weekend — saying the leader, among other things, “throws out the corrupt judges.” Gaetz went on to call Bukele an “inspiration to the Western World.”

Republicans, however, were fawning in their praise, signaling support not just for partnership with the U.S., but also for Bukele’s particular style of illiberal leadership.

Trump Jr. claimed that“we need more like” Bukele and congratulated him for “winning a second term without even having to try to imprison his political opponents!” He also praised Javier Milei, Argentina’s far-right strongman, who was in attendance.

And Lee, meanwhile, took a thinly veiled swipe at President Joe Biden, saying Bukele had “made no attempt” to lock up his opponent.

This is all pitiful, disturbing and quite ironic. Biden had nothing to do with Trump’s guilty verdict. And praising Bukele for not locking up political opponents is certainly a choice, considering we’re talking about a man known for a spate of mass incarcerations that has drawn condemnation from human rights groups.

But it seems clear why members of today’s MAGA-fueled GOP are drawn to Bukele: He’s every bit the strongman they see in Trump — but with more freedom to repress people in his own country, particularly perceived opponents.

For that reason, the sight of these Republicans hyping up Bukele should sound alarm bells for Americans. This display of authoritarian affection comes right as conservatives have been openly discussing the need for Trump to mete out punishment against liberals — including executions — after his felony convictions.

As I see it, this was a clear endorsement of Bukele’s violent and vindictive style of leadership.

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