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El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele on gang violence, corruption and China

El Salvador’s president discusses challenges facing his country, expulsion of Venezuelan diplomats, and China ties.

Nayib Bukele became Latin America’s youngest leader after he comfortably won El Salvador‘s general election in February.

The 38-year-old president of El Salvador enjoys a nearly 90 percent approval rating, but there are challenges ahead.

With one of the highest murder rates in the world, perhaps the main challenge for Central America’s smallest country is gang-related violence.

Slow growth has kept El Salvador’s social and economic development stagnant, and corruption cost the government millions of dollars.

And ever since a 12-year civil war ended in 1992, hundreds of thousands of Salvadorians have been fleeing the country every year seeking a safe place to live and better opportunities.

“We are dealing with a lot of crises. El Salvador has changed a lot in the last six month. W For example crime, which is probably our worst crisis, we have lowered crime by 60 percent. The homicide rate has dropped by 60 percent … October was the safest month since the war … and we’ve been fighting corruption very very strongly. And hope in the country is very high,” Bukele said in an interview it Al Jazeera.

He explained that a new international body to fight corruption has already been set up and will start investigating cases soon.

“This commission will investigate anyone, including me … it’s a real commission … it’s not a joke. It’s going to be an example for the region,” he said.

Bukele seems determined to turn things around. With just a few months in office, he has travelled extensively from North America to the Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

In Mexico, he secured investments on social programmes that aim to reduce migration to North America.

In China, he signed deals that will improve roads and facilities across El Salvador. And in Qatar, Bukele looked for opportunities in the energy sector and attended meetings with other world leaders at the Doha Forum.

Asked about his approach towards China, he says: “You cannot ignore China … I don’t want to get at odds with any superpower, I just want the best for our country. That’s a pragmatic foreign policy.

“For us, foreign policy is not a matter of changing the world as it is, but more about how well can we serve our country in this huge economy so we can help our people.”

President Nayib Bukele talks to Al Jazeera about corruption, the relationship with China and Venezuela, and how young leaders are now changing the way things are being done.