In another alarming step towards authoritarianism in El Salvador, Luis Alexander Rivas Samayoa, who goes by the username ‘@_elcomisionado_‘ was arrested on August 21 after posting a tweet that was highly critical of the security arrangements of president Nayib Bukele’s brothers and mother.
He also published a photo showing the security detail.
The tweet refers to the “tremendous” security setup enjoyed by the Bukele family and suggests that this doesn’t point to El Salvador being “the safest country in the world.”
Samayoa also complained that “You can no longer bathe in peace on the beach” due to the large numbers of bodyguards — or “sons of bitches” — showing up.
As a result of the tweet, authorities have accused Samayoa of ‘contempt’ which forbids certain criticism of public officials and can carry prison sentences of up to three years. However, as his defense has pointed out, the individuals he criticized are not officials in the El Salvador government.
Nevertheless, the president’s brother Karim is deeply involved in the workings of the administration despite not being an official. Indeed, one former party official told the New Yorker, “It wasn’t a meeting unless Karim was there.” Karim often acts as an advocate for the policies of the Bukele regime, such as when he joined a Twitter space with his brother Nayib to discuss the adoption of bitcoin.
Samayoa was initially to be released on $10,000 bail, after being held for 12 days instead of the usual three due to the ‘state of exception’ declared by the government. Then, as soon as he was released, he was arrested again and officials announced a second case against him, though the charges haven’t been specified.
Having a second case leveled against him means that he must be kept in detention, and can’t be released on bail.
There have been other politically motivated arrests of critics in El Salvador including the arrest of Mario Gomez last year for criticizing El Salvador’s Bitcoin implementation. Mario said that this “shows the way that the exception regime works against dissidents. They can just arrest you and find anything they can charge you with.”
These arrests have come hot on the heels of tens of thousands of others in El Salvador with the declaration of a ‘state of exception’ effectively instituting martial law.