Agents of Order

Nayib Bukele, Javier Milei, and the Flourishing of South American Democracy

If you didn’t know better you might think Nayib Bukele, the recently re-elected President of El Salvador, was a typical Latin American despot. He won his reelection with 90% of the vote, numbers comparable with any number of totally rigged elections in totalitarian systems. What is amazing about Bukele, however, is that he won in a free and open election. It almost seems impossible that a politician in a democratic system could have such a high percentage of his country vote for him. But he did. How did he accomplish this?

There are many factors that fed into Bukele’s victory. Chief among them is the near miracle of taking El Salvador in five years from being one of the most violent and dangerous countries in the world to being one of the safest. Bukele has been so successful that Ecuador, Honduras, Columbia, Chile and other South American nations are attempting to follow El Salvador’s example.

Something similar is happening in Argentina, though it has more to do with the economy than with crime. In his first month as President Javier Milei (who won the election with around 11% of the votes) has managed to balance the government budget, something that hasn’t been done since 2012. The inflation rate has already dropped from 211% in 2023 (the final year of the previous government) to 20.6% in January 2024 (Milei’s first full month in office).

Why are these men so popular? Mainstream press would lead you to believe that both are part of a menacing rise in the popularity of far-right authoritarianism (nearly every internet search return attaches the label “far right” to each man), despite the fact that Bukele originally came out of the major leftist political party in El Salvador and Milei is a libertarian. The continuing inability of legacy press to suppress information that counters the aims of globalist elites probably accounts for the hyperbolic rhetoric about these two. These elites spend a lot of money to keep men like Bukele and Milei from winning and are understandably distressed at their inability to stop them from doing so.

The reason for the rise of such leaders appears to be very simple: El Salvador, Argentina, and many other nations in the world are tired of living in chaos and disorder. They are tired of unchecked crime and shattered economies. So tired, in fact, that they are willing simply to ignore the manipulative tactics of the elites who are trying to keep their nations in such sorry states. Entire nations are waking up to the fact that they don’t have to live with anarchy. Enough is enough.

In The Hungarian Way of Strategy by the political strategist Balázs Orbán (no relation to Viktor Orbán, the current Prime Minister of Hungary) there is a wonderful discussion of a 14th-century painting by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, which was an allegory on the differences between good and bad government. The portion of the painting depicting good government is described by Orbán like this:

The city grows, teachers instruct children in schools, and the shops and market stalls are full of goods to sell. A fair is being held in the street of the city. In the countryside, meanwhile we see the cycle of agricultural labor, as all diligently fulfill their appointed duties.

Orbán continues:

In this allegorical picture we can clearly grasp the central aim of government strategy, for while the allegory is, of course, stylized and idyllic, it nonetheless clearly illustrates the most important strategic goal toward which a country should strive: the attainment and maintenance of political stability and the guarantee of physical security for the population. These are the conditions under which the economy can flourish, cultural institutions can be built, and the citizens of the community can establish dynamic networks of relationships. It is important that, in addition to security, some form of social order develops, in which all can contribute to the community according to their particular skills and abilities. The details of the fresco suggest the key importance of nurturing strong ties between citizens living in different environments and in different social classes—this is indicated by the busy traffic between the countryside and the city.

Orbán then describes the other portion of Lorenzetti’s painting:

By contrast, the most striking effect of bad government is the spirit of fear—even terror—that hangs over both city and countryside. The weak are stabbed, the rich robbed, and gangs of soldiers or mercenaries pick through the ruined city or plunder the countryside. The only flourishing industry is the manufacture of military equipment; all other businesses are closed, and the schools are empty as citizens flee the land.

Why have Bukele and Milei been elected with such large margins? The simple answer is that they recognize that the most important thing a country can seek is “the attainment and maintenance of political stability and the guarantee of physical security for the population.” 

As Bukele put it in his recent speech after reelection to the Presidency:

We have prioritized the rights of the honest people over the criminals’ rights. That is all we’ve done. And that’s what you say is a human rights violation. I ask these organizations, I ask the governments of these foreign nations, I ask these journalists, ‘Why do you want them to kill us? Why do you want to see Salvadoran blood spilled? Why aren’t you happy to see that blood doesn’t run in our country as it did before? Why? Why should we die? Why should our children die? So that you can be happy that we are respecting your false democracy, which you don’t even respect in your own country?’

When it comes to priorities for a state, order and security matter more than anything, even the specific details of the form of a nation’s government. True freedom is impossible otherwise. In a disordered and unsafe nation the only people who are free are criminals and those who profit off of disorder. In an ordered and safe nation everyone who abides by the rule of law is free. Freedom cannot exist simultaneously for both groups. 

What is so striking about El Salvador, Argentina, and other South American nations is that order, safety, and freedom for all law-abiding citizens have all been accomplished through the democratic process. Democracy is not the problem in failed states; rather, it is disorder, crime, and corruption.

The Bible does not mandate any form of government, democratic, monarchist, oligarchic, or otherwise. But it does confirm the truth presently on display throughout South America, that order and safety are non-negotiable to good and just government:

Proverbs 28:12: “When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.”

Proverbs 28:28: “When the wicked rise, people hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase.”

Proverbs 29:2: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

Unchecked wickedness and disorder will demoralize a people while it destroys their nation.

It is interesting to consider why this renaissance of democratic flourishing is occurring throughout South America, but seemingly not in America, Canada, the UK, and other similar nations. Conditions were extremely bad for a long time in these South American countries. That is certainly a major reason, but there is no necessary reason such successes could not be replicated in America. Despite the many counsels of despair (on which see here) on offer in America today (national divorce, etc.), one of the most heartening things about what is happening in South America is that all of this change has taken place democratically, even with massive efforts to paint these leaders as fascist dictators. That should be encouraging. The forces set against order, safety, and true freedom may seem invincible, but they aren’t. Similar forces in Cold War East Germany seemed invincible until a single misstatement in a press conference brought the Berlin Wall down, leading soon to the end of East Germany as a separate nation. Corrupt authoritarians often appear much stronger than they really are.

The global elites who once controlled mainstream discourse stand to lose massive amounts of money, influence, and power if dismantled, so they will no doubt fight tenaciously, but Bukele, Milei, and others have shown that these elites can be successfully resisted. The fact that the underhanded activities of these elites are increasingly coming to public light is also an encouraging sign (in, for example, the Twitter files, the work of men like Aaron Kheriaty, Jay Bhattacharya, Michael Shellenberger, Mike Benz, and others). Instead of following the counsel of despair, how about more of this?

Why, then, are men Nayib Bukele and Jaier Milei so popular right now? The primary answer is that they are agents of order. They are also agents of freedom. But the only genuine freedom, as Edmund Burke once put it, “is a liberty connected with order: that not only exists along with order and virtue but which cannot exist at all without them.” Or as Montesquieu said before Burke: “Liberty . . . presupposes a government so ordered that no citizen need fear another.” Our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are showing us how true this is.