Killing Literary Dissent in El Salvador

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryThe Salvadoran government made it official; some books by the Salvadoran author Michelle Recinos will not be allowed at the International Book Fair in Guatemala City in Guatemala. No reason given. The Salvadoran embassy in Guatemala put a lot of pressure on the book fair officials to not have Recinos’ works at the fair. However, if anyone was to read her works, it becomes obvious that the books are attacking the current Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele. Her works, Liver of Substance and Barbers on Strike, talk about people being picked up by the Salvadoran military or police for being suspected members of some of El Salvador’s notorious gangs. The problem is in so many ways rule of law has been suspended in El Salvador, and then her works talk about people mysteriously dying in prison, the nameless graves that are being discovered throughout the country, and the fact that Bukele himself is flouting the Salvadoran constitution by again running for president (the constitution allows for only one term).

Some unnamed sources have accused Recinos’ family of being gang members. I do not care if her entire family and all her relatives are members of the Irish Republican Army or Al Qaeda, there can be no excuse for banning books at an international book fair. Banning books is one of the first signs that dissent itself is under attack, and is a fundamental violation of any and all human rights. It is a basic human right that should never be taken away by any state of emergency or any person who is setting up one-man rule. A person’s ideas and opinion is one of the most fundamental building blocks for a democratic, healthy and open society. When this is taken away then democracy is dead and all those who express their views are in serious danger of brutal repression by the state. I find it sad that despite being an obvious act of censorship by the Salvadoran government, the book fair officials banned Recinos’ works and the author will not be allowed to speak at the fair.

What could be more repressive than this? We may be seeing El Salvador descending back into dictatorial rule. Of course, it all begins with a popular cause like fighting the gangs who are entrenched in Salvadoran society. Yes, crime rates have plummeted, and it is without question now safer for the average Salvadoran to be able to walk the streets of El Salvador. This has of course made Bukele wildly popular and he stands a good chance of winning in the next election even though the constitution makes it very clear that he cannot run again. He has become a cause celebre among conservatives in both Central America and the United States. The red flag of going against the constitution and banning books should be another indication that a darker and more sinister effect is taking hold of El Salvador. In trying to fight the country’s endemic crime and the gangs who terrorize the country, the people may be losing their fundamental constitutional rights which includes freedom of speech. So I ask the question, what price salvation?

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