Among the colourful houses of Comunidad Iberia, an impoverished neighbourhood of San Salvador, the dark glass cube of the Urban Centre for Welfare and Opportunities (or Cubo in its Spanish acronym) is an eye-catching piece of urban architecture. Inside local children take art classes, read in the library and play online games. Outside, a mural depicting Armando Bukele, the father of El Salvador’s president, extols Salvadorans to “live with love and responsibility”.
Futuristic and faintly ominous, the Cubo is a fitting tribute to Nayib Bukele’s presidency. Since coming to power in June 2019, the 40-year-old former publicist has adopted bitcoin as legal tender, used his social-media accounts to generate an approval rating that is the envy of presidents worldwide, and introduced authoritarian measures to undermine the country’s political opposition and civil society.
On Tuesday, speaking for the first time at the UN general assembly, he took a selfie on the podium and told the audience that “a couple of images on Instagram…