Who is Norma Torres, the congresswoman who defeated Nayib Bukele in the United States elections

Norma Torres, Democratic Congresswoman, Representative from California’s 35th Congressional District. REUTERS/File Photo (POOL/)

Norm Torres he officially declared his victory at the polls on the afternoon of November 9, one day after the midterm elections in the United States. This woman, of Guatemalan origin, easily won her re-election as a representative in the federal Congress for the California’s 35th Congressional District, east of Los Angeles, but it was not an easy race. Torres had to face two opponents: Mike Cargilea Trumpist Republican with an anti-immigrant line, and another politician, one who exercises his power far from California, the Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele.

Torres is currently one of the most influential voices in Washington on Central American issues. In 2021 alone, the congresswoman led at least six initiatives related to the region, including three bills, one to limit military aid to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras on the condition that they improve their initiatives against corruptionand another to investigate the possible effects on the US economy after the adoption that El Salvador made of Bitcoin as legal currency.

The congresswoman also led, in December 2021, an initiative to demand that the State Department request explanations from the Guatemalan government of the president Alexander Giammattei for using US military equipment to surveil and repress opponents, anti-corruption investigators, indigenous Mayan communities, and even to harass the US embassy in Guatemala City.

Faced with this last initiative, the Guatemalan government responded with murmurs and indirections, but always avoided direct confrontation with the congresswoman. Nayib Bukele, already famous for his bravado on social networks, did attack Torres in public, and went further, according to the congresswoman: skipping all legal and diplomatic forms, the Salvadoran tried to influence the legislative electoral race for the 35th district of California.

Bukele used, against Torres, the same manual of attacks that he has used at home against critical journalists, opposition politicians or judges and prosecutors who investigated him and his family: massively reproduced cyber bullying by troll accounts managed by the Salvadoran government and by deputies and government officials. In the case of Torres, in addition, Bukele sent his consuls to be part of the harassment, according to Californian politics, he denounced in a statement that he published regarding his victory.

Infobae tried to contact the Salvadoran Foreign Ministry to receive comments on these accusations. There was no answer.

“I was subjected to multiple threats, lies and harassment, both in person and online. Many of the virtual attacks were orchestrated by the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, who was helped in this effort by his cabinet, members of his political party, and even consuls general in the United States,” Torres denounced in his statement. .

Harassment, according to an American researcher who spoke with Infobae under condition of anonymity for not being authorized to do so in public, it began after an exchange on Twitter between Bukele and the congresswoman, which culminated in an express request by the Salvadoran not to vote for Torres. “Bukele is vindictive and personal. Anyone who messes with him in public can expect this kind of reaction,” the agent said.

“I hope that all my Salvadoran, Mexican, Honduran, Guatemalan, Dominican, Venezuelan and all Latin American brothers in District 35 of California DO NOT VOTE by @NormaJTorres. He does not work for you, but to keep our countries underdeveloped,” Bukele tweeted on April 2, 2021.

Already then, in 2021, Torres had asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate Bukele’s interference in the US elections. “Campaigning against a United States congressman is something that has not happened and is something that should be investigated, because it is illegal to interfere in a federal election… it is a crime,” the congresswoman said at the time. Judging by what was later published, after her re-election on November 8, the FBI did little: “Frankly, I am disappointed in the lack of action by our judicial system to investigate this interference in our elections.”

The president and his trolls against the congresswoman

The attacks by Bukele and his officials on Norma Torres, which began directly in April 2021, never stopped. In fact, they had begun earlier, in February of that year, after the congresswoman and her Democratic colleague Albio Sires, from New Jersey, sent a letter to the Salvadoran president asking him “not to promote divisions in his country for political gain.” ”.

The congressmen sent the letter to San Salvador days after two members of an opposition party were assassinated in the framework of the 2021 electoral campaign for the legislative elections that ultimately gave a supermajority to Bukele’s party and its allies. Salvadoran police arrested two people for the killings, one of them a low-level official in the health ministry. Torres’s letter was echoed internationally because he endorsed the doubts about the possible complicity of the Salvadoran government in the cover-up of the crimes.

Then, in April, Torres was more direct in calling out Bukele and other Central American leaders for forcing thousands of their citizens to migrate to the United States in miserable conditions. The congresswoman published on Twitter the photo of the Salvadoran migrant Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande, on the border with Mexico. “President @nayibbukele, I will make it clearer. This is the result of narcissistic dictators like you, interested in being ‘cool’ while people flee by the thousands and die by the hundreds,” Torres wrote to accompany the photo.

Bukele responded with a falsehood: he said in a tweet that the photo was of Ecuadorian migrants, when investigations by several US media, including The New York Times, had established the Salvadoran nationality of the deceased.

From then on the attacks increased. In social networks, one of the accounts that attacked Torres the most was that of a false news platform called Civil society, mounted with public money from the presidential house during the government of former president Mauricio Funes and then resumed in the presidency of Bukele. The person who manages this account, according to an American researcher who has collected information on cyber attacks attributed to bukelism, is Karim Bukelethe president’s brother and whom the Salvadoran prosecutor’s office investigated for several corruption crimes in 2020.

They also attacked Torres Federico Anliker and his cousin Salvador Anliker. The first is president of the commission that manages the ports and airports of El Salvador and the second was minister of agriculture, but had to leave the government through the back door after the State Department named him an anti-democratic and corrupt actor in 2021 in the so-called Engel List.

Christian Guevara
Christian Guevara, head of Nayib Bukele’s deputies in the Salvadoran congress, was one of those who attacked US congresswoman Norma Torres. Guevara has been on the so-called Engel List of the State Department in Washington as an anti-democratic and corrupt actor.

The last to attack Torres was Christian Guevara, the head of the bukelista caucus in the Salvadoran congress. Last October, just over a month before the midterm elections in the United States, Guevara said that Torres “is not in favor of democracy in Latin America,” and attributed to him, without evidence, having supported John Orlando Hernandezthe former Honduran president tried in New York for drug trafficking, and having participated in the release of the nephews of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, who were also imprisoned in the United States for drug trafficking crimes.

Torres, in fact, was one of the first congresswomen who publicly pressured the Biden administration to carry out Hernandez’s extradition to the United States. “I ask that at the end of his term, on January 27, 2022, President Hernández be immediately charged based on the evidence that already exists, and that the Department of Justice work with the Department of State to initiate the extradition process for bring him to justice in the United States,” Torres demanded in a statement.

Deputy Guevara did not refer, when attacking Congresswoman Torres, to other links of former President Hernández, these have been proven by journalistic investigations: those that link him to Nayib Bukele. Among others, the Honduran and Salvadoran shared a financier, a man named Lenir Perez, who according to police intelligence sources in Honduras financed at least one political campaign for Hernández and, according to official Salvadoran reports, gave a million dollars to the GANA party, with which Bukele competed for the presidency of El Salvador. In exchange, Pérez received million-dollar contracts to manage cargo terminals in the main airports of both countries, but, while in Honduras the new government of Xiomara Castro suspended that agreement, Bukele’s maintains the deal in his country.

Guevara, the head of the bukelista caucus, has also been named an anti-democratic and corrupt actor in the Engel List American. In his attack on Torres, the deputy says that he was put on the list for “defending the lives of Salvadorans from gangs.” In reality, Guevara was one of the promoters of the appointment of the lawyer Rudolph Delgado as attorney general of the country; Delgado has shielded the leaders of the MS13 gang from being extradited to the United States for crimes of terrorism and homicide. Guevara was sanctioned by the State Department for promoting a law that, with the excuse of fighting gangs, allows journalists who investigate the pacts of the Bukele government with those criminal organizations to be imprisoned. The deputy has also been accused of selling supplies at a premium to the government through one of his companies.

Guevara’s attacks on Torres were massively reproduced by the false news system related to Bukele’s presidential house.

Charge Bukele.  Mike Cargile, Republican candidate defeated by Congresswoman Norma Torres in the US legislative elections.  Cargile received support from circles close to Nayib Bukele.
Mike Cargile, Republican candidate defeated by Congresswoman Norma Torres in the US legislative elections. Cargile received support from circles close to Nayib Bukele.

According to the Californian congresswoman, Bukele and his people openly supported Mike Cargile, the anti-immigrant and xenophobic Republican who competed for representation in the 35th district of California.

Cargile is an enthusiastic Trump player. On his Facebook pages and other social networks, he declares himself a follower of the postulates of the movement known as QAnon, promoter of conspiracy theories in favor of Trump and the hoax that the Republican lost the 2020 presidential elections because they were stolen from him. Cargile is also a confessed xenophobe that publishes memes in which Muslims are equated with terrorists or one in which it is said that “two anchor babies – in reference to children of migrants – are not the same as an American baby.”

Cargile is also a keen bukelista. On January 16 of this year, he attended a proselytizing event for the Salvadoran ruling party in Los Angeles, where he praised Bukele for being “a leader who understands how leadership works.” Then, on September 15, El Salvador’s independence day, he made a Twitter thread full of flattery for the Salvadoran president.

Cargile is not Bukele’s only anti-immigrant reference: one of the few journalists he grants interviews to is Tucker Carlson, of the Fox News network, known in the United States for his open support of Trumpism and his diatribes against migrants, including Salvadorans.

In the end, neither the adherence to Trump nor the interference of bukelismo in the race for the 35th district of California did Cargile much good. Norma Torres, the woman of Guatemalan origin whom Bukele and his officials attacked, ended up winning the polls by more than 12 percentage points. That is not good news for Bukele’s agenda in Washington.

Bookmark of the Central American presidents

The brawl that bukelism promoted on social networks against Norma Torres is just one example of a deeper political phenomenon: the discredit of the Salvadoran in the corridors of US politics. Although he began his mandate traveling to Washington, hand in hand with the then US ambassador in San Salvador, with the air of a young leader and fighter against corruption that he sold during the campaign for the presidency, Bukele’s credits ran out Quick. In that debacle he has not played a minor role Bitcointhe cryptocurrency on which the president set up a public financing project that did not work for him.

On November 9, a few hours after the intermediate legislative, the price of Bitcoin fell to a minimum below USD17,000 per coin. Since September 2021, Bukele has invested just over USD107 million of public funds, without any supervision, in the cryptocurrency. If you were to auction that off at the current price, El Salvador will have lost just under $65 million.

Norma Torres was one of those who warned about the risks of Bitcoin and promoted a law to force the United States government to study whether Salvadoran public policy could have consequences for American financial security.

On April 4, 2022, a year after receiving the first attacks from bukelismo, Torres introduced the bill called Accountability of Cryptocurrencies in El Salvador (ACES in English), which requires US agencies to carry out an analysis on “the risks in cybersecurity, economic stability and democratic governance in El Salvador” and “create a plan to mitigate potential risks to the US financial system ”.

Communicated towers.  In a statement in which she announced her victory in the legislative elections, Congresswoman Norma Torres accused Nayib Bukele of political interference.
In a statement announcing her victory in the legislative elections, Congresswoman Norma Torres accused Nayib Bukele of political interference.

Later, in July of this year, Torres promoted reforms to the law that regulates the budget of the Department of Defense to put locks on military cooperation with Central America. The amendments contemplate the creation of a fund to support human rights defenders who are persecuted in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In addition, the law requires more exhaustive monitoring of the use that these governments make of military equipment donated by Washington.

In November 2021, Infobae visited Torres in his office in Congress in the US capital. The congresswoman’s team was about to send a letter asking the State Department to demand explanations from the government of Alejandro Giammattei in Guatemala about the use of US military equipment during an emergency regime in which government forces supported the burning of an indigenous village in the northeast of the country, among other repressive actions. Giammattei never answered, but the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO in English) published in November 2022 an extensive report in which it claims the Pentagon for its inefficiency in supervising the equipment delivered to Central American countries.

With actions like this, Norma Torres became one of the most visible faces on Central American issues on Capitol Hill in Washington, and one of the most influential voices in the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department on the region.

In the House of Representatives, Torres is a member of the adjudication committee and president of the Central American caucus. Her voice has served as a counterweight to Biden administration officials who promote less confrontational approaches with authoritarian Central American governments, such as those of Bukele and Giammattei.

On November 8, the US-Guatemalan representative from California’s 35th electoral district comfortably won her re-election over Mike Cargile, the Republican Trumpist, and, incidentally, over Nayib Bukele, the Central American president who tried to influence those elections.

Keep reading:

This is how Nayib Bukele rewards the judges who help him persecute the opposition in El Salvador

The dark security cabinet of Nayib Bukele, plagued by allegations of corruption, torture and money laundering

Nayib Bukele’s obsession with bitcoin blocks the IMF’s credit for El Salvadorr