Nayib Armando Bukele

Address to the 78th Session of the United Nations General  Assembly

delivered 19 September 2023, UN HQ, New York, NY


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below translated and transcribed directly from audio]

Your Excellency, Mr. President of the General Assembly; Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government; my wife, Gabriela, and my daughter, Layla; Honorable Members of the different delegations that accompany us; friends who see us through the various platforms; ladies and gentlemen:

Ever since I first came to this Assembly, I have reminded you of the need for us to renew and reinvent ourselves. And I am not referring only to this organization or this General Assembly, but to all countries, especially those with circumstances similar to ours. I have not said it just for the sake of saying it, but because I believe it, and because in my country, El Salvador, that is what we are doing.

El Salvador, like many developing countries, has always dreamed of being great. For some countries, this dream was possible, sooner or later; but for others, like ours, it was always unthinkable. We did not think it was possible -- not even close. I even believe that none of those who are listening to this speech ever thought that they could utter or hear the name of El Salvador as a world benchmark for anything positive. But despite all the obstacles, we decided to take the risk. We did not accept the fate that others had decided for us.

Today, four years since our government took office, no one dares to deny that for the first time in our 202 years of history, the smallest country in the continent has taken the first big steps to achieve its dream of greatness.

In a very short time, El Salvador went from being the homicide capital of the world, from literally being the most dangerous country in the world to being the safest country in Latin America. It is no longer a promise, it is a reality that Salvadorans are living. And any foreigner can go and see for himself. That is why many in the world are watching what is happening in our country, especially in Latin America, but also in the United States and elsewhere. They see what is happening in El Salvador and ask, "Why can't the same thing happen in our countries?"

The answer is clear and simple. They must make their own decisions. They must reaffirm their right to use common sense, approve their own recipes, execute their own plans, and design their own systems. No country has the right to impose its ideas, or its way of doing things, especially when these ways do not even work in our countries.

In each of the decisions we have made, we have reaffirmed our legitimate right to govern ourselves, even if that would have meant being wrong. But we were not wrong. We succeeded, a resounding success. So we not only reaffirmed our right to make our own decisions, but also our right to be right.

There exists no single formula recipe that works for everyone equally. But I do believe that there is one ingredient that all recipes should include, or at least should have the right to include. That ingredient is courage. It is necessary to have the attitude, bravery, the determination to do what must be done, even when others question you, even when others criticize you.

For decades we tried everything we were told would be best for us. We were put upon to fight a civil war for a cause unrelated to our reality -- because they brought the conflict between the West and the Soviet Union to our land. More than 85,000 deaths later and a destroyed country, after all that, they told us that this was no longer the recipe and that now there was a new recipe. So they made us sign false peace agreements, which had nothing to do with peace, and which only enabled the two warring factions to share the spoils.

We tried every formula they gave us, and nothing worked. Then, under the protection of foreign powers, we handed the country over to the right. And then, again under the protection of foreign actors, we gave power to the left. This is how they kept us for 30 years post-war, where there were more deaths than in the civil war, more poverty, and more violence. Nobody did anything to change the root of the system, neither the institutions nor the laws.

Everything that happened during those years was done with the backing, financing, consent, and imposition of those who have always called themselves great defenders of human rights and democratic institutionality. Instead of giving us medicine to heal, they were giving us poison. They wanted us to continue doing the same things that were done in the past. They wanted the same people who had plundered and massacred us to continue governing us -- or at least sharing power.

But this time we said no! We rejected the poison and for the first time, we tasted our own medicine. Thank God it worked!

The first thing we did was to make sure we were on the side of God and the people, because no worthwhile transformation can be accomplished by obeying external powers. Secondly, we created our own method, a method designed for our own reality, created by those who live that reality.

Then the Salvadoran people gave us two votes of confidence. Well, it has given us several votes of confidence, but these are perhaps the two most important so far. The first was when they elected me as their President. The second was when they decided to give us, through the legislative body, governing power. We knew then that we had an obligation to the people, an obligation to make the decisions necessary to address our most pressing problem: insecurity.

The efforts we were making to improve health and the economy would serve little purpose if our people continued to be killed and judges and prosecutors let murderers go free.

There was little point in transforming education if, from inside our prisons, gangs cowardly gave orders to kill our children [on the street] and forcibly recruit our youth.

We could not invest millions of dollars in building road infrastructure -- we were doing it, but it was not going to be enough -- if Salvadorans could not walk around freely on those streets.

So we decided to purge the Public Ministry [Ministry of Justice and Public Security], the prosecutor's office, the judiciary, and the prison system. We also changed the laws to make sure that the terrorists would not get out of jail again. And that's when the international condemnations began.

Some countries, some media, and some experts started a systematic attack against every decision we made. People who never used their power and influence to demand security for our people, who were being murdered, were suddenly against our decisions to stop the "massacre." Countries that never condemned the murder of 30, 40, or even 50 Salvadorans a day suddenly demanded explanations from us as to why we changed the prosecutor, the magistrates, or the judges.

Doesn't it seem absurd that we were questioned for that? Whose responsibility is it to maintain an internal security policy in any country in the world? It is the responsibility of the government, of the Executive body through the state security forces and the penitentiary system -- but in cooperation with the Public Prosecutor's Office, with the Attorney General's office, with the Judicial body. It was an indispensable condition that everyone should work together and be aligned with the same side for the plan to work. If we had left the same general prosecutor as before, if we had left the magistrates of the previous chamber, if we had left the judges, who many protected and who even issued convictions when we removed them, we would still be the murder capital of the world. If we had listened to them, we would still be losing thousands of Salvadorans to terrorists.

Thank God we did not listen to them!

Each of the decisions we have made brought us to this moment.

Today El Salvador competes with Canada for being the safest country on the entire continent. Not only are we the Latin American country with the fewest homicides per capita, but we have also reduced all crimes to a minimum. People can now walk the very streets which, for a long time, were forbidden by gangs. Businesses no longer pay extortion. And children can now go out to play in the parks without fear of being recruited or killed. These are things that some of you may take for granted -- going to play in the park, or going out to the streets; but in our country, they did not exist.

We were criticized and condemned for every decision we made at that time. Intellectuals, journalists, politicians, and organizations everywhere engaged in a debate about what we were doing. Today, I am here to tell you that this debate is over. The decisions we made were the right ones. We are no longer the death capital of the world, and we achieved this in record time. Today, we are a benchmark for safety, and no one can [reasonably] doubt it.

The results are there; they are irrefutable. In El Salvador, we did the right thing for El Salvador. And now that we enjoy this level of security, we have been able to open our country to the whole world.

This year alone, we received thousands of athletes in the Central American and Caribbean Games.

We are the world epicenter of Surfing.

And we just signed an agreement with Google to digitalize the state and services such as education and health.

We have more and more tourism, internal and external.

More and more people want to come to know us and invest in El Salvador.

Many Salvadorans abroad, who spent years without being able to return to their homeland, are now coming and investing in the country and have plans to return. According to a study done last year, in 2022, by the International Organization of Migration of the United Nations, more than 60% of Salvadorans residing in the United States intend to return to El Salvador. We know that there is a long way to go, but we are on our way to achieving our goal of reversing the massive exodus of Salvadorans as a result of all the wrong policies of the past and the civil war, and to achieving our dream of having reverse migration, that is, more Salvadorans returning than leaving. The same studies here at the United Nations are already predicting it.

In a few months, we will also be part of the Miss Universe pageant, a pageant that will put us again in the eyes of the world and will attract even more tourism and more investment.

In addition to all this, we are building more and better relations with allied countries that want to help us build our country, to build our dreams. And I am not saying all this to brag, although I do feel proud of everything we have achieved. I am saying it because this is an example of what all countries can achieve when they begin to assert their sovereignty.

Look at us!

From being recognized for violence, today we are recognized for our landscapes, for our waves, and above all for our courage. Today the world can see our full potential. We have a country full of wonders to offer. Those who visit us can have breakfast on the beach, surf world-class waves in a sea that has the ideal temperature all year round, have lunch in the mountains, and taste the best coffee in the world [in the company of] our superb volcanoes and beautiful scenic lakes. And they can dine in the capital with all the modernity and comfort -- and now with the security -- that many first-world cities wish they had. And they can do all that in a single day.

But the best part is that you will find in our people friendly, hard-working folk who are always looking to do something new. When you come to visit our country, you will realize that we Salvadorans are proud to be Salvadorans, something that was not the case a few years ago.

El Salvador is being reborn because we dared to challenge ourselves and decided that nothing -- and no one -- would tell us what to do. We are still a long way from where we want to be, but we will continue to work hard and make our own decisions to achieve the greatness we long for.

We believe that the world also needs to be reborn but that will be the decision of each people.

We in El Salvador are setting an example. We are charting a path in case someone else wants to follow.

Thank you very much, and may God bless all the nations of the world.

Text Note: Translated and transcribed via outsourced professional translator and lightly edited for clarity and rhetorical force by Michael E. Eidenmuller

For added perspective see also U.S. Gov reports on Human Rights and Religious Freedom in El Salvador

Page Created: 9/26/23

U.S. Copyright Status: Text = Permission request pending























































































Top 100 American Speeches

Online Speech Bank

Movie Speeches

© Copyright 2001-Present. 
American Rhetoric.