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El Salvador: a desired lie

The Bukele family executes a multimillion-dollar expenditure on armies of developers dedicated to multiplying official propaganda on social networks and shutting down dissonant voices.

With the term “a desired lie”, Umberto Eco was referring to what was happening within a growing multitude that is not interested in knowing the truth, but in listening to what their ears want to hear, reading what their minds would like to be true and attending spaces in which everyone has an opinion of what they believe. There is a need to reinforce personal beliefs over any evidence to the contrary.

To the cult members, evidence can be shown, even taken to the stratosphere to verify the planet’s roundness. Upon landing, they will return to their co-religionists to reaffirm their conviction that the Earth is flat.

Sing with me that old bolero: “I’m already living on your lies / I know your affection is not sincere / I know you lie when kissing, and you lie when saying “I love you” / I resign myself because I know I pay for my wickedness of yesterday / I was always led astray / That’s why I love you so much / But if you give my living happiness with your pretended love / Lie to me for an eternity that makes me your wickedness happy.”

With two guitars and a pair of maracas, trios or soloists used to sing those verses in the streets of downtown San Salvador, whose lyrics everyone knew from the readings of the Cancionero Picot. Half a century before the famous Italian semiologist and philosopher wrote it, the knowledge about this pathological reality of the desired lie was already popular in the world. Of course, it is not the same that Lucho Gatica recites it there in South America in one of his boleros, or that an academic intellectual in Europe writes it.

Why do we like lies?

The academic Carolina Escobar Sarti, in her article Miénteme más: marca de fábrica, reflected a few years ago in the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre: “Don’t we accept lies that come equally from lovers, rulers, or certain religious leaders because their wickedness makes us happy? Isn’t there a persistent masochism in this?

Let us take a look at the data, since today it is fashionable to say that “data kills story”. The Bukele family that governs in El Salvador executes a multimillionaire expense — within Salvadoran borders and in the rest of the world — to face reality in the virtual world. For this purpose, it has armies of servers —never a better name— dedicated to multiplying the versions that hour after hour they write in a central propaganda command.

This information was published in November 2022 by the Reuters Agency of Great Britain. The journalist Sarah Kinosian released the results of a deep and extensive investigation, according to which hundreds of people work in Salvadoran government facilities producing false notes to praise the ruler and insult and attack his critics.

For a monthly salary of six hundred dollars, these employees dedicate their workday to adding fictitious followers of the ruler through the praise of his false policies and works of fiction. Propaganda flows 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But these employees, in addition to keeping the propaganda machine running, also perform tasks such as “reporting and filing complaints against the publications of these critics with the purpose of having the platforms shut down their accounts,” according to the Reuters report.

Many of these tasks are carried out in government offices and are directly supervised by government officials, including a minister who is not related to the communications or press team of the presidential palace, or the state media, according to the researcher. Likewise, Kinosian revealed that there are troll farms whose only function is to create thousands of fake X accounts to support Bukele and his party Nuevas Ideas.

The document states that Nayib Bukele’s strategy consists of “flooding with propaganda, demonizing the institutions in charge of discrediting that propaganda — the free press and civil society—…”, imposing the agenda, repressing dissidence, and establishing an atmosphere of permanent terror.

Imminent contagion

Upon learning of the British agency’s publication, the U.S. administration expressed its concern about the danger of contagion of these strategies and that they would be “used by other actors in other regions”. That is exactly what has happened with Daniel Noboa in Ecuador and Javier Milei in Argentina, who have followed the same route and script inch by inch.

Their success is due, in part, to the permanent use of the most modern communication resources that penetrate deeply and cover all spaces, including the analogical ones. Another element has to do with the people’s conviction that it is preferable to repeat the official propaganda rather than expose themselves to the brutal repression of the regime’s agents who are absolutely unscrupulous and count on the acquiescence and support of the President, when they do not act in direct obedience to his express orders of assassination and disappearance. These are the ones oppressed by state terror.

And although many know that in Bukele’s kingdom the promised airports, satellites, nuclear plants, and high-speed trains are not real, many also know that their salaries depend on the tyrant’s persistence in power. They are, for the most part, people who choose faith over morality, convinced that believing in God is enough to cleanse the soul.

However, it also operates a mechanism of pathetic defense of self-esteem. Nobody is interested in assuming the error after having fanatically defended: “I am proudly Nayiber!”, less if they are a proud university student. And that the only governmental university agonizes strangled by Bukele’s hands. In March, the administrators of the University of El Salvador (UES) had to fire all the assistant professors without notice, and they will no longer be able to pay their electricity, internet, or water bills.

I bring to account the ordeal and agony of the University of El Salvador because it was there that Bukele made the only public appearance as a presidential candidate in 2019, in which he presented an unforgettable list of offerings. He promised to increase the budget of the UES until it became the university with the largest financial resources in Central America. Nominally, the annual budget of the UES is 130 million dollars, but for the last three years, it has only received around 70 million dollars. That represents US$102 million less than half what Daniel Ortega’s government gives annually to UNAN. Honduras budgets 560 million each year for its university and Costa Rica allocates 18 times more resources annually.

Universities are supposed to bring together the most powerful minds and the most critical spirits of a society. Nonetheless, from the UES, not a single criticism of the regime that murders education, science, technology, and culture is heard. Like decades ago, in the streets of downtown San Salvador, this university goes through life singing “Lie to me for an eternity, your wickedness makes me happy”. Infamous university.

*Text originally published in El Independiente, El Salvador.



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