El Salvador president's $5 billion worth of free passports scheme has got Americans abuzz over ‘genius’ strategy - Hindustan Times
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El Salvador president's $5 billion worth of free passports scheme has got Americans abuzz over ‘genius’ strategy

Apr 07, 2024 09:40 PM IST

After his crackdown on street gangs, Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele is looking up to prospective positive impacts of promoting relocation to his country.

If you fit the severely specific criteria, you may be eligible for a free El Salvador passport. On Sunday, the President of the Central American country, Nayib Bukele, announced via an X post that they were extending the prestigious offer of 5000 free passports to “highly skilled scientists, engineers, doctors, artists, and philosophers from abroad." Since it represented “less than 0.1%” of the country's population, the qualifying lucky achievers would also be granted “full citizen status, including voting rights”, without any overarching issue standing in the way as a major setback.

(FILES) Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a speech after casting his vote in San Salvador on February 4, 2024. El Salvador's two-year state of emergency has created a spiraling human rights crisis, Amnesty International said on March 27, 2024, calling the country's war on gangs "disproportionate". In March 2022, President Nayib Bukele launched a crackdown on gang violence, imposing a state of emergency that suspended the need for arrest warrants, among other civil liberties. (Photo by Marvin RECINOS / AFP)(AFP)
(FILES) Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a speech after casting his vote in San Salvador on February 4, 2024. El Salvador's two-year state of emergency has created a spiraling human rights crisis, Amnesty International said on March 27, 2024, calling the country's war on gangs "disproportionate". In March 2022, President Nayib Bukele launched a crackdown on gang violence, imposing a state of emergency that suspended the need for arrest warrants, among other civil liberties. (Photo by Marvin RECINOS / AFP)(AFP)

He also assured interested parties that officials would facilitate their relocation “by ensuring 0% taxes and tariffs on moving families and assets.”

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For the smallest country in Central America, with a population of less than one crore, Bukele's initiative seeks to ensure a positive impact on the future of El Salvador.

Social media reacts to El Salvador President Nayib Bukele's passport program:

Majorly positive reactions pervaded the internet upon hearing of President Bukele's scheme and its definitive address to highly qualified beneficiaries.

The Central American country's approach starkly opposes the USA's growing scene of undocumented migrants under Biden's watch. Nearly 7.3 million migrants have illegally crossed the southwest US border as of February, according to Fox News.

Netizens instantly embarked on the praise train and lauded Bukele for his “genius” framework. His comment section on X brimmed with comments like, “Now THIS is immigration done right!” and “This is the only reasonable immigration policy. Attract the best, not the dregs."

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“You would have to be one of the most forward-thinking presidents I've ever watched. Kudos Mr Bukele” wrote another X user. Twitterati was also wonderstruck to see the inclusion of Philosophers in this list. “Philosophers?! This must be a first!” came one reply.

In the same breath, another internet user echoed: “I'm impressed you see value in the arts, while our American imbecile conservative pundits dismiss the arts as a childish waste of time. Good for you, dude! This investment will pay off.”

Conservative political strategist Joey Mannarino also extolled the move, while juxtaposing it with the current American vision. “This is how you make a country great. Meanwhile, the United States of America makes it impossible for people like this to get in but rolls a carpet out for everyone who has a criminal record,” he wrote.

Another similar comment dove into an outburst: “El Salvador’s immigration laws are based on common sense, meritocracy, and designed to meet the needs of the country. The U.S. invites countries to empty out their prisons and mental institutions, and send them their worst.”

Dozens of other comments showed netizens divulging their professions publicly, weighing out if they would suitably fit in.

Is El Salvador a fitting option for migration?

While advertising for people to move to El Salvador, President Bukele previously promoted his country as “the new land of the free.” Last year, he pushed an advertisement on social media, stating several reasons why one should relocate there. Per the post, El Salvador has no fentanyl crisis, no shootings or lootings. It also reported the lowest crime rate in the Americas, and Americans wouldn't have to go through the trouble of currency conversions as the US dollar was in circulation.

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As more culturally rich enticements, his ad also promoted the country's “great coffee, great weather and great beaches”.

Bukele has indeed been hard on crime, as his crackdown model has effectively cut off organised violence, with the elimination of street gangs. A March 2024 The Japan Times report states that Bukele's administration ended the gang dominance that plagued over 80% of the country. It ultimately led to a 70% drop in the number of homicides during 2023, according to Reuters.

Other reports also highlight that people no longer fear stepping out at night. The public is again being spotted in parks, with people feeling more confident than ever travelling on busses.

However, this return to the status quo in people's day-to-day lives has come at a cost. Human rights group Amnesty International called his methods “disproportionate.” The Salvadoran President's supposed “magic formula” has replaced gang violence with state violence, according to Ana Piquer, Amnesty's Americas director. The international NGO spotlighted how prisoners faced collective trials without the right to defence. Furthermore, over 300 cases of alleged enforced disappearances were reported in state custody.

Human rights groups have also brought to light other abuses like torture and death in custody entailed within Bukele's crime crackdown. A state of emergency was declared in 2022, which permitted the police to jail suspected gang members without allowing them the right to a lawyer.

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