Activists are raising the alarm about a new mega prison in El Salvador. American right-wing media personalities are celebrating it.

Daily Wire's Michael Knowles: "We in the United States need to follow the lead of the government of El Salvador”

In recent weeks, right-wing media figures have showered praise on a new mega prison in El Salvador championed by authoritarian President Nayib Bukele. Right-wing media personalities like Michael Knowles, Candace Owens, and Charlie Kirk have all endorsed Bukele’s extreme anti-gang policies and the new facility, and suggested the United States should follow suit.

Coined the Terrorism Confinement Center by the Bukele regime, the prison is now “one of Latin America’s largest prisons, more than doubling the country’s incarceration capacity,” and government officials have begun transferring tens of thousands of “suspected gang members” there. Nearly 2 percent of El Salvador’s adult population is now incarcerated, according to the Reuters report. Activists have condemned the construction of the new prison. Since his election, Bukele has consolidated his grip on power in the name of fighting gangs in the country, declaring a “state of emergency” and undermining judicial independence, which Amnesty International says has led to “massive human rights violations.” 

In the right-wing media, a different tone of praise and celebration has been struck among a number of influential conservative pundits claiming Bukele has solved the problem of gang violence and that the United States ought to follow El Salvador’s lead.

In a February 27 segment on his Daily Wire show, Michael Knowles (who has been in the news cycle for saying “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely” last week at CPAC)  excitedly called Bukele’s hard line approach to crime a “a miracle political program.” Knowles continued, “We need to learn from El Salvador, never thought I would say that sentence, but we in the United States need to follow the lead of the government of El Salvador.”

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Citation From the February 27, 2023, edition of The Daily Wire's The Michael Knowles Show

On March 3, Knowles mentioned El Salvador’s prison system for a second time, referring to Bukele as “my man over in El Salvador,” and praising “another great propaganda video” from his government.

Knowles asked himself, “Is this authoritarian? I guess. As I’ve said before, I don’t really know what that word means. As far as I can tell, the word authoritarian is just the word to describe one’s political opponents.” He adds: “So, sure, call it authoritarian. This is my kind of authority, baby.” 

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Citation From the March 3, 2023 edition of The Daily Wire's The Michael Knowles Show

In his speech at CPAC, Knowles took the opportunity again to praise Bukele’s regime, saying, “El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, cut the nation’s murder rate in half in just one year. How did he do it? Well, he built a big prison and put all the criminals in it,” to much applause from the audience. He added, “If one of the weakest countries on Earth can do it, why can’t we? I think we can.” 

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Citation From the March 4, 2023, speech from CPAC

Knowles’ Daily Wire colleague Candace Owens also celebrated Bukele’s new prison system, devoting her entire episode title to it on March 2. After showing footage from inside the prison, Owens adds, “You would think that America should look at this and applaud it and say, ‘We need this,’ because crimes are getting so insane in America.”

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Citation From the March 2, 2023, edition of The Daily Wire's Candace Owens 

On February 28th, Fox News’s Jesse Watters announced, “America has a serious crime problem,” followed by a violent clip featuring gun violence in St. Louis, Missouri. Watters claimed that “it feels like nothing” is being done to address this issue. He quickly added, “But now what? People don’t feel safe, and they’re demanding action, and the president’s taking action. The president of El Salvador.” Watters also added that “instead of defunding the police, president Bukele is giving the cops more money.”

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Citation From the February 28, 2023, edition of Fox News' Jesse Watters Primetime

Radio host and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk also praised Bukele for his agenda: “You lock up a couple thousand people so millions can be safe on the streets.”

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Citation From the March 1, 2023, edition of Real America's Voice's The Charlie Kirk Show

Kirk later added “Here’s a thought crime for you, our prison population is probably not big enough.”

A number of blogs and journal publications popular on the right have also taken to celebrating this new prison system. The New York Young Republicans Club’s Gavin Wax wrote a blog that was published in both Newsweek and Newsmax, calling El Salvador “a blueprint for restoring law and order.” 

Headline for by Gavin Wax: We Need An American Bukele | Opinion

Ben Zeisloft of the Daily Wire expressed similar approving views of Bukele and his new law enforcement plan. In one story, Zeisloft shares one of the president’s many propaganda videos of “soldiers battling gang violence.” In another, Zeisloft highlighted Michael Knowles’ reaction to a similar video put out by El Salvador’s regime. Additionally, conservative writer Rod Dreher has written twice about Bukele’s strategy, claiming, “Fact is, prisons work.” In a separate story arguing that the United States needs to follow in El Salvador’s footsteps, Drehere wrote:

Mark my words: we are going to need a politician like that to de-wokify the US Government and, to the extent that it is legally possible, American society.

Bukele praise is not new or reserved for the recently opened mega-prison. In June 2021, the Fox Nation show Tucker Carlson Originals did an episode titled “Hunting MS-13” that featured a softball interview with the Salvadoran president. Carlson applauded Bukele’s efforts and called the supposed solution to crime rates “obvious.”