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María Juana Portillo expressed her satisfaction with the current situation in her native El Salvador. Having resided in New Bedford for 15 years, she is in the process of renewing her Unique Identity Document (DUI is the acronym in Spanish). What she is most happy about is the notable improvement in public safety conditions in her homeland. Her main motivation for updating her DUI is to participate in the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for February 4, 2024. Current President Nayib Bukele, known for his controversial campaign against criminal gangs, will seek re-election.

“El Salvador is prettier today,” said Portillo, accompanied by her daughter, as they visit an improvised government office where three officials collect information from people and take photographs for the issuance of DUIs. The process is efficient and, for a $20 fee, the DUI will be delivered by mail in just over a week. The document allows Salvadorians to vote in their country’s elections, but it serves other purposes, such as facilitating real estate transactions in El Salvador and applying for a driver’s license in Massachusetts.

Luis Erazo said he emigrated to the United States due to the gang crisis in El Salvador. He noted that many of his compatriots in New Bedford were victims of these criminal groups and expresses pride in the authorities’ achievements in improving the situation.

Regarding concerns about human rights violations allegedly committed by state agents as a consequence of the emergency regime in force since March 2022, Erazo downplayed accusations that “innocent people are being held responsible for the actions of the guilty.” He quoted his father, who often said: “He who walks in honey, something sticks to him.” Luis also applied for a DUI and says he will participate in the elections next February.

“Before, few were interested in having a DUI, but now I see that many people come to renew theirs,” said Erazo. Salvadoran government officials successfully renewed approximately 60 documents over the course of three days of work.

Email reporter Gerardo Beltrán Salinas at

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