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On Sunday, Nayib Bukele, the 37-year-old former mayor of San Salvador, won a first-round victory in El Salvador's presidential election, handily vanquishing candidates from the country's two major parties. Bukele, who was expelled from the left-wing FMLN party in 2017 following an internal dispute and ran as the candidate of the center-right GANA party, made history as the first third-party candidate to win the presidency since the end of El Salvador's civil war in 1992.

El Salvador's President-elect Nayib Bukele and his wife, Gabriela Rodriguez de Bukele, in San Salvador, Feb. 3. Photo: Alfredo Zuniga/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Why it matters: El Salvador is a longtime ally and free-trade partner of the U.S., but recent relations have been tense owing to the outgoing government's close ties with Venezuela and its decision last August to drop diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of China. Moreover, El Salvador is 1 of 3 countries, along with Guatemala and Honduras, that together make up Central America's Northern Triangle, which has been a chief source of migrants to the U.S.–Mexico border, prompting the ire of the Trump administration.

Details: While Bukele had led his chief rivals in polls — businessman Carlos Calleja of the conservative ARENA party and former Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez of the FMLN Party — his haul of nearly 54% of the first-round votes avoids a runoff that would have occurred on March 10.

  • Voters were disenchanted by the failure of leaders from ARENA and FMLN to curb crime and corruption over the past 25 years, which created an opening for Bukele to emerge as a fresh, new face.
  • During the campaign, Bukele called Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro a "dictator" and criticized renewed ties with China, but did not make any major proposals around migration. All this suggests that he may take a more cooperative stance toward Washington.

What to watch: El Salvador's population of 6.3 million has been beset in recent years by high crime, stagnant growth and corruption scandals that have shaken faith in government. Bukele leaned heavily on his strong social media presence, including 1.4 million Facebook followers, coupled with tough rhetoric on fighting corruption to win a historic victory. But his campaign was light on details, and it remains to be seen how he will put his governing plans into practice.

Daniel P. Erikson is managing director at Blue Star Strategies and a senior fellow at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

Go deeper

34 mins ago - Health

First known U.S. case of the Omicron variant identified in California

PhotoL Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.

Supreme Court appears likely to roll back abortion rights

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to weaken abortion rights and perhaps to let states ban the procedure altogether.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to throw out the framework established in Roe v. Wade, but it wasn't clear whether a majority of the justices were inclined to overturn the court's precedents entirely.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

How to meme a painting

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

How can a physical artwork become an NFT? One new company has just spent $12.9 million on a Banksy in an attempt to try out a new way of converting the real into the virtual.

Why it matters: The art market globally sees volume of about $60 billion per year, almost all of which is trade in physical objects. Art-world insiders including former Christie's c0-chair Loïc Gouzer are on the lookout for ways to monetize physical paintings without necessarily giving up physical ownership of them.